Old Mangini Had a Farm
Oct 30, 2014 08:53PM
● By Russ Carroll
Lou with Chad Godoy, Agricultural Commissioner for CC County.
By Russell Carroll,
photos by Susan Wood
Lou Mangini and his brother, Eugene, own the iconic farm at the corner of Pleasant Hill Road and Taylor Boulevard. Once a year, they host “Farm Day” for the Pleasant Hill Elementary 3rd grade classes. This year’s event was held on Friday, October 10. At the request of Lou Mangini, the Community Focus was there to cover the event. This year there were a few 4th graders mixed in with the 3rd grade classes for a total of about 120 kids.
With the help of several volunteers, Lou and his team set up several tables, with each station offering a twenty-minute presentation on different aspects of farming, crops, and the impact farming has on our everyday lives. They have a station where kids get to see how butter is made with milk straight from a cow. Then, they get to try the butter on a cracker. Another shows what bees do and the vital role they play in our lives. Another shows what cotton looks like from the blossom and all the different products that cotton produces. At one station, each kid gets to learn how to plant flowers and they get to plant some of their own to take home. A final station teaches the kids about pruning trees and bushes. The volunteer explains, “It’s like getting a haircut.”
I asked one of the teachers, Renee Bryan, what she thought of it all. “To get 20 kids this age to stand still, listen and be quiet is just amazing. But they do it! The kids are just fascinated by it all.” Another teacher, Maryann Croy, said, “The kids love coming here every year. I think part of it is because the farm is right here in Pleasant Hill. Lou is a neighbor!
Lou serves each kid a hot dog, chips, and a drink for lunch. A highlight for the kids at the end of the day is getting to pick a pumpkin and take it home. I asked Lou what his favorite part of the day is, and he laughed and said, “The smiles on the kids’ faces!” It was a great visit: well organized, presented, and received. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Later in the weekend, I got the chance to sit down alone with Lou and ask him some questions. What a treat this experience turned out to be.
Me: Lou, how long have you lived here on the farm?
Lou: I was born here in 1923.
Me: How long had your family been here?
Lou: My dad bought the place a few years before I was born. At first it was just a barn. He separated it in two: half for the horses and half for the family.
Me: Was it a farm at that time?
Lou: Mostly orchard. We had to clear it and then start planting crops. We cleared it with a team of horses and a plow.
Me: What was the area like then?
Lou: Well, the only road that existed then was what Pleasant Hill Road is now. It was a narrow gravel road and was the only road between Lafayette and Martinez. Both of those cities were each about 5 miles away. Not much traffic. If we saw 4-5 cars in one day we knew something was going on somewhere. Our favorite part of the day was when the mailman delivered. He didn’t come every day. Only when we had mail.
Me: When you weren’t working on the farm, what did you do?
Lou: We hunted a lot. We would just walk down the road out there and shoot ducks.
Me: What is your favorite memory of being a kid on the farm?
Lou: Driving around in an old model T. I must have been 14 years old or so and just loved driving that car.
Me: How much land do you and your brother have here?
Lou: Started out with about 32 acres and is now down to about 17.
Me: What crops do you grow here?
Lou: We got corn, tomatoes, squash, peppers and a few other things.
Me: Have you given any thought to retiring?
Lou: Retire? I can’t retire. I am a farmer. As long as my health stays good, I will be farming here.
Me: OK, Lou. Last question and it’s the big one. Here you are on 17 acres of flat land which is probably one of the most desirable pieces of land for development in Contra Costa County. I am certain you have been approached time and time again to sell it. Why haven’t you?
Lou: Well, because then I have to find a new place to live.
With simple logic like that, it’s hard to argue with Lou Mangini. He is in good spirits and apparently good health as well. He enjoys laughing and has a keen sense of humor. Oh, by the way, he has been known to enjoy a beverage! I can only hope that I am in as good as shape when I am 92. Lou Mangini is a true Pleasant Hill treasure.