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New crop of food entrepreneurs shines in California

Mandy Johnston is a cheesemaker for Pedrozo Dairy, and her first batch won a gold medal at the 2007 California State Fair.

Ah, to be young and have a world of opportunity before you - that's where Mandy Johnston is right now. After beginning her career in writing and public relations, she decided to go back to her roots, returning to her family farm in Glenn County.

That decision a year ago has paid off handsomely. Johnston is a cheesemaker for Pedrozo Dairy, and her first batch won a gold medal at the 2007 California State Fair. She takes milk from the family dairy and makes nine different types of cheeses, which are sold to Northern California restaurants and to retail stores including Whole Foods.

Mandy even offers a blog on the company Web site, which is called the Dairy Princess Diaries, referring to her reign as a dairy princess in 1999. Her chronicles of life as a young female cheesemaker have proven to be extremely popular and important for business.

"It's funny to watch my statistics grow," she said. "I've had at least one person from every state at least check it out, and it's funny because I can connect with a lot of people that kind of do the same thing that I never had any idea that we're part of this blogging community now."

Not too far away, another success story is rising from the rice fields in Yuba County. Mike Bosworth helps his family maintain a long farming tradition, although he has brought new ideas to the operation.

Mike's business, Next Generation Foods, involves his and several other locally grown foods, which he sells and delivers directly to his customers, including the surprisingly excellent dining complex at the University of California, Davis.

He says his company is an effort to find creative ways to maintain his family heritage.

"We've been here on this ranch since 1946 and some of my family has been farming the same piece of land since the 1870s in Shasta County," he said. "It's something that we take a lot of pride in and we're really excited when we get a chance to continue that tradition and pass it on to the next generation. I think creative marketing and innovation is the way to do that."

For more information, visit www.realfarmsteadcheese.com and www.nextgenfoods.com.

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