PATTERSON -- Like most days of early summer, Friday found the Fantozzi kids picking apricots on their family's farm at dawn.
"They usually start around 5:30 or 6," Denise Fantozzi said of her children. Michelle, 20, and Thomas, 18, handled the chore Friday, packing up between 20 and 30 boxes of apricots to sell at the family's fruit stand at 1825 Walnut Ave. in Patterson.
Though the farm does its main business selling apricots commercially, the fruit stand is a popular stop for area residents.
"We've had it open since the 1980s," said Paul Fantozzi, Denise's husband. "We have people who come back to us every year."
Getting up at the crack of dawn to pick apricots might not seem like the most enjoyable way to spend summer vacation. And Denise Fantozzi said there were a few times when her children were teenagers that they were less than thrilled about the responsibility.
"It's not the most fun job in the world," she said. "But for the most part, they've been very good about picking."
The children staff the stand when it's busy, but most of the time it's run on the honor system, Paul Fantozzi said. They aren't paid hourly wages, but as college students, "They get paid indirectly," he said, laughing.
Denise Fantozzi said the kids started picking apricots for the stand when they were about 6 years old, "or as soon as they could reach them."
It's not all hard work on the family farm over the break from school, though.
"We're pretty busy for about a month and a half," Denise Fantozzi said. "We're pretty much done with the apricots in mid-July."
So the kids get some time off then, right?
"No, then they'll probably look for another job for the rest of the summer."
Bee photographer Debbie Noda contributed to this report.
Bee staff writer Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343.