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Rodin Farms fruit stand relocation negotiations due
Labor of love
A smile that has greeted many for 30-plus years, Antoinette Rodin of Rodin Farms Fruit Stand now relies on Stanislaus County to properly compensate her family for a costly move of the farm stand as a result of the incoming North County Corridor Bypass which will take away her shop frontage. Photo Contributed

Her presence is one which is well known throughout the community of Oakdale, as well as Riverbank. Her last name can be found on just about any silent auction table at fundraisers and functions throughout the region.

Now, however, Antoinette Rodin and her family need the community help that they have so selflessly given for over three decades. As the owner and operator of Rodin Farms Fruit Stand, at the southwest corner of Claribel and Oakdale roads in Riverbank, the longtime staple is facing what many consider an undesirable effect of valley growth. They have to make way for more traffic and a new road.

As a result of a unanimous vote at a Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors meeting in December of 2023, five acres of the family’s 120-acre family farm will be acquired through eminent domain. The acquisition comes by way of plans for execution of the North County Corridor Bypass, a roadway system which has been in the works and planning phases for the last several years.

Not one to be public about family business, Rodin shared the family has been working with the county since December of 2022. Their hope, to come to a resolution best for all involved.

The portion of the family farm which will be largely affected is the parcel where the Rodin Farms Fruit Stand sits currently.

“If I stay where I’m at, the road would be six feet away from me,” Rodin said of the current plan in place for the bypass. “Most of my customers have kids and have strollers. It’s going to be a high-speed turn lane. That’s not safe for my customers.”

And while many might suspect that the family is trying to halt the project, that would not be the case. While it is less than ideal and will create work, it is the cost and compensation by the county which has Rodin most concerned.

“We understand that this is part of the process. We never fought to change anything,” she shared. “We’re fighting for compensation, because the amount to build a new fruit stand, because I’m grandfathered in from like ‘96 or ‘97. So, to now bring it up to code, plus all the other expenses to clear trees, etcetera, it’s going to cost a million dollars.”

Rodin added that she does have a couple of bids for work but isn’t even sure what might be required in a new location.

“They may say ‘okay you can carry your permit with you’ but they haven’t told me that yet,” she continued. “They don’t have any straight answers for anything.”

As of the December county board meeting, it was shared that the family had been offered a little over $500,000 for the land and relocation of the stand. It was additionally noted that they can be reimbursed for shut off and restart of utilities, as well as reimbursed for lost revenue from the closure when properly presented with comparable history.

“The well alone is $130,000,” Rodin said of the agriculture/commercial well which will be affected by the takeover. “And they have to give me access roads to get in. As of right now, they don’t want to give me access roads.”

These are all viable concerns for someone who has built a livelihood as well as a Central Valley destination point for local families and visitors alike.

Speaking to the impact the farm stand has had, not just on the community but the local economy as well, was Todd Aaronson, CEO of Visit Modesto, who was one of many to speak out during the Public Comment portion at the December meeting.

Aaronson noted that thousands visit the farm stand each year as part of the Almond Blossom Cruise. Making such an impact during the annual event, he said, that one tour bus company rerouted its tour to include Rodin Farms due to popularity.

“I strongly suggest you reconsider this decision in the best interest of the public good,” Aaronson stated to county supervisors.

Following countless stories from community members of childhood memories and the pumpkin patch, tree farm and purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables to feed their families, Rodin’s attorney Tyler Kelly asked the county to postpone the eminent domain decision for further discussion.

Stanislaus County Public Works Director David Leamon was addressed by the board, giving the plea consideration.

Leamon indicated that was not a possibility, stating, “The decision needs to be made. We are running out of time.”

So, while relocation of the bypass is off the table and the vote for eminent domain is now in place, it boils down to money.

“You have to understand,” Rodin said of the less than ideal $540,000 offer by the county, “this is for the well, that has to be moved, a 2400-foot pipeline, the trees, the property, the business.”

Rodin and her attorney are scheduled to meet with the county to counter offer and present estimates in early February. Her concern is that the total amount will not be enough to keep the family farm stand going. This is an expense the family did not anticipate during the course of over 30 years of operating in their corner location.

As a longtime community member now raising four boys who are fourth generation farmers, Rodin’s future seemingly hangs in the balance of the negotiations.

“People have it in their minds that for different reasons we can just move it back,” she said. “We can’t. I’m not a big box corporation. That’s all we are is a fruit stand, we’re just a small family fruit stand.”

They’re a small family fruit stand, however, that has supported schools, fundraisers and students across the Central Valley throughout their time doing business. A small family fruit stand, which community members noted at the meeting, has created memories one can’t make at a parking lot Christmas tree lot or in the produce section of their local market.

Reflecting back to the December meeting, Rodin shared she was so overwhelmed by the love and community support it quite literally left her so emotional that she couldn’t speak.

“The one little boy, he was five,” she remembered of one speaker. “He made his parents bring him to the fruit stand the next day, because he thought it was going to be gone. He was so worried.”

Similar memories and experiences were shared by many taking the podium at the county board session.

“I have the best customers. I had customers I didn’t even know just show up,” Rodin continued.

As if there were any question, close to an hour and a half of the over three-hour meeting was taken up by the community as well as the Board of Supervisors members speaking up on behalf of Rodin Farms.

Supervisor Vito Chiesa, a farmer himself, assured the Rodin family as well as the audience, that the board was committed to finding a way to do right by the fruit stand.

“There is not one person up here that wants to see Rodin Farms disappear, not a one,” Chiesa stated. “There is nothing good about taking our agriculture away.”

He said he feels the issue will be resolved successfully.

“I believe there’s a way to get there, I really do,” Chiesa continued in regard to the farm stand relocation on the family property. “And it will be as viable a year from now, 10 years from now, 20 years now, if that’s what they choose, because their land is in a pretty good spot for other uses too.”

Chiesa concluded his comments by noting that voting for eminent domain now brings opportunity for the board to get involved, as a decision of how to go forward has been made.

“I have faith in the system and I want to be a party for that, but I think we need to move forward,” he stated.

District 1 Supervisor Buck Condit – who represents both Oakdale and Riverbank on the county board – also addressed his fellow supervisors and community residents in regards to the concerns.

“There is no way we want to get rid of Rodin Farms,” Condit stated. “They’re an institution here in Stanislaus County. They’re community people. You can tell somebody, I’m going to the fruit stand and they know exactly where you’re going. I’ve been shopping there for 20 years.”

He indicated the board would be dedicated to assisting the family farm operation.

“We are going to get to a point and we need to make every effort to get that done,” he continued. “It’s a delicate balance between progress and keeping our foundation of what builds Stanislaus County and that’s our agriculture. So, we need to find a way to make this happen.”

For the Rodin family, the community support has continued and been evident well beyond the December meeting.

“A lot of my customers have been calling their supervisors,” Rodin stated in an interview following the meeting. “Buck Condit is in my district. I have to say Buck’s been great. He’s come out to visit a few times with genuine concern.”

With hopes that locals will continue to contact their supervisors via phone calls or e-mails, Rodin and her family now wait.

“There’s just more to it than just moving the stand,” she reiterated of the daunting cost and associated stress it has brought about. “It’s an agriculture/commercial well. That’s where the difficulty comes in. It’s a big financial burden.”

But it’s one the family – and their supporters – hope can be compensated for through the negotiations.

“That’s what I’ve done all my life. That’s how I raised my kids and supported them. That’s all I did,” Rodin said, sharing memories of farming during her days as a child and doing the same with her own children. “It’s our life. I love it. I really, really do. I always have. I’ve been doing it since I was 17 and graduated high school. It’s what I know. I love my customers, the community, my staff; all of it. I absolutely love it.”

Known for their fresh fruits, vegetables, delectable treats and show-stopping gift baskets, Rodin Farms Fruit Stand has serviced the Central Valley for over three decades. Photo Contributed