Students lend a hand to family businesses

Senior Ian McIsaac drives his Polaris out to check on his family’s walnut orchard.

By Tarin McMorrow,                                                                                      Staff–

Some people are close to their families–they live with them and spend time with them–while others take it a step further and work with them, getting to know family members on a whole different level.

Senior Lydia Chong’s family owns Common Grounds, a coffee shop located in the Oakshade Town Center of South Davis. The Chong’s left Michigan for California around seven years ago to be with a family member; it was shortly after this move that the family acquired Common Grounds. Chong spends the majority of her shifts helping her father with various tasks within the shop in addition to some separate assignments that take place off property.

“I help a lot with our catering at UC Davis, so I just help take the stuff there, set it up, bring it back to the car afterwards, things like that,” Chong said.

Sophomore Makena Wahl shares some common experiences with Chong, as she works at Davis Creamery, a store her family recently purchased this past summer. They bought the store from family friends, so it has been a somewhat seamless transition, with much of the staff remaining the same.

As a 15-year-old, it is Wahl’s first job and she’s excited to partake by helping behind the counter as well as being the organizer behind the Creamery’s Farmer’s Market visits. She enjoys seeing people she knows regularly coming in and out of the store in addition to meeting new people.

“I like working in the store, I just like talking to people, so it’s nice to see little kids come in, and also, it’s made me closer with my family I think, because we all have a part in it, it’s nice to be able to work together  in one thing,” Wahl said.

Wahl has two younger brothers who will work the store when they get to be a little older. Wahl thinks that it will be nice for them to grow up around the business.

Da Vinci senior Connor Judd has spent the past few summers working at his parents’ Biotech Company, which produces Fetal Bovine Serum, a component used in cell culture research and pharmaceuticals. Their biggest customers hail from universities, research institutions and farmer companies.

“Biotech has the potential to improve people’s lives and change the way that we do things because biotech research is a field that allows medical advancement and allows precedents to be set in medical research,” Judd said.

Although Judd only really began working a few years ago, he has been part of the process since the company’s founding and even helped his father build the Cleanroom from scratch when he was much younger.

Judd is grateful for the opportunities he’s gotten as a result of working with the company. “It’s a good way to help out in the community, we do a lot of business with UC Davis and there’s a cool dynamic there because the medical program at UCD is such an important part of our community but not a lot of people my age are directly involved with it, so it gives me a window into that world,” Judd said.

Although a large part of the process has been based around family, with his father being the CEO, his mother the Quality Manager and his older sister the accountant and bookkeeper, Judd is unsure on whether he will join them by continuing to work in the business as an adult. 

“I do enjoy biotechnology and that whole concept so I might go into that field, I intend to study medicine and if it takes me in that direction then that’s how it goes,” Judd said.

Senior Ian McIsaac works with his father’s business in Agricultural Industries, a farm business and management company that aids farmers in running their individual businesses. In addition, they have the McIsaac Farm, a family farm with 85 acres of walnut trees onsite. The McIsaacs also have crops in Capay, as well as a shared Family Ranch up in Mendocino County which has been in business the longest–45 years.

McIsaac has spent the past five summers working four to eight hours a day at the orchard in Davis. McIsaac co-manages while his father is the head manager of the farm. However, specifics of the job vary year-to-year.

Some of his regular jobs have included operating farm equipment, irrigating, planting, tying trees and putting in stakes. This work has taught him how to get a job done and how to function with different people. When it comes to farming, it is all a learning process for the family, so sometimes experimentation is a necessary part of the procedure. With around 8,000 trees, McIsaac had taken a couple hours to tie a few hundred when his father discovered a better system and had him retie them all again.

“There’s a lot of work that goes between when you first plant and the first production . .  . It’s basically like trees are my kids and I have to somehow raise them to grow,” McIsaac said. It takes about five years for walnut trees to produce the first time. 

Just within the past year, McIsaac has taken an interest in agricultural engineering through school and he now uses his knowledge of welding somewhat regularly to fix and build equipment for the farm.

McIsaac plans on using this acquired knowledge in his future work.

“It’s definitely my backbone, I can branch out from there to figure out what I want to do but I always have the farm to rely on,” McIsaac said.

“There’s highs and lows in the business, there are good things and bad things, tough things to deal with . . . I’m glad I moved out here, for me it’s a lot better, I definitely wouldn’t be the same person without the farm,” he said.

Working alongside family members has left students with valuable knowledge about industry as well as cherished memories and grateful hearts.

“Since my parents do own it, I’m learning about the actual business aspects of the store, not just how a store works, I get to see every aspect of it,” Wahl said.

“It’s not as stressful as most jobs because your family owns the business, you know how it works, I know what my family goes through,” Chong said.

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