Western innovator: Daughters invigorate farm

Tim Hearden/Capital Press Katie Bianchi, right, talks with her sister, Becky Klinesteker, in their family's walnut orchard in Los Molinos, Calif. Bianchi recently left a job handling marketing for an olive oil company to run her family's new shop.

Plans developed to create tasting room for flavored walnuts

By TIM HEARDEN

Capital Press

LOS MOLINOS, Calif. -- Katie Bianchi always had a fascination with business.

She played with a toy cash register as a child, and when she loaned money to her brothers and sisters, she would write the amount on a slip of paper and charge them a few pennies interest, her mother said.

Now the 25-year-old Bianchi is in business for real.

The 2009 graduate of California Polytechnic University-San Luis Obispo recently left a job handling marketing for an olive oil company to run the new shop for her family's Bianchi Orchards.

The shop will feature the family's flavored walnuts, seasonal gift baskets and other goodies. Eventually they would like to put in a vineyard and start making wines, too, Katie Bianchi said.

"Hopefully, you're going to see us keep growing," she said. "That's our goal."

Bianchi Orchards is a family-run operation. Ray and Anne Bianchi started the farm 36 years ago, and all of their five children -- Katie is the youngest -- are involved in the farm's operation.

Katie Bianchi and her sister, Becky Klinesteker, have worked together to convert part of a side house on the property into a shop. They worked with their father to put in a bar and refinish the floor, and their next step is landscaping, Katie Bianchi said.

Their mother has done well at farmers' markets selling the farm's Chandler walnuts glazed with honey, cinnamon and caramel, so they envisioned setting up a walnut tasting room much like those at wineries. They've already had a few guests, although their official opening will be in early June.

The room features display tables with other area commodities such as honey, dried plums and olive oils from nearby farms.

"Katie and I have always wanted to have a little store, and we love working with Mom and Dad," Klinesteker said. "We're actually in about our third year of developing it."

The sisters' eventual goal is to move the store to a building on nearby Highway 99, the major connector for Red Bluff and Chico, Calif.

With Klinesteker and her husband, Colin, expecting twins, much of the task of getting the store off the ground in the next few months will fall to Katie Bianchi, who will put her degree in agricultural business to the test -- again. Bianchi spent a couple of years handling sales and marketing for the Corning, Calif.-based Lucero Olive Oil, where she helped put on an open house in December that drew more than 1,000 guests.

Upon returning to work for the family full time, Katie Bianchi redesigned the family farm's website, which features rotating pictures as well as a history of the farm, its products and upcoming events.

Anne Bianchi said everything that the family does is fun.

"We're so excited," she said. "I did a little presentation recently and said my husband and I are in the best years of our lives working with our girls. And Katie is a go-getter."

Katie Anne Bianchi

Age: 25

Residence: Los Molinos, Calif.

Occupation: Marketing director, Bianchi Orchards

Family: Parents Ray and Anne Bianchi; brothers Robbie and Eddie Bianchi; sisters Julie Bianchi and Becky Klinesteker

Website: www.bianchiorchards.com

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