One year ago: Organic dairy owner Mark McAfee launched a program allowing people to invest $1,800 to relocate a cow from a conventional dairy to his Kerman pasture. The program was dubbed "Operation: Rescue Organic Cows."
Today: McAfee's program has grown from 40 rescued cows to 220, and interest remains high. The program satisfies two goals: It increases milk production at Organic Pastures, and it gives environmentally conscious consumers a chance to support an organic farm.
Once the cows can no longer be milked, they won't become hamburger. Instead they will live out the rest of their days in Ventura County, where their manure will be used to make organic compost.
The cows' investors also are repaid their money, plus 10% interest over three years.
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"People feel good knowing they have been able to rescue a cow," said Aaron McAfee, operations manager at Organic Pastures. "And the cows like it because they haven't been made into beef."
-- Robert Rodriguez
Ex-Gottschalks exec still plans new chain
One year ago: A former chairman and CEO of the bankrupt Gottschalks department store chain announced a new company, Gottschalk by Joe Levy, to resurrect the family's brand with a new, smaller chain of stores. Levy, whose great-aunt was the wife of Gottschalks founder Emil Gottschalk, said he hoped to open at least three stores in November 2010 in Clovis, Auburn and Carson City, Nev.
Today: In October, Levy said a lackluster economy and difficulty finding investors forced him to push back until spring 2011 his hopes for opening new stores. This week, he said he and his management team continue to negotiate with several investment groups.
"Venture capital remains very tight in this economy," he said, "but I think we're coming very close."
One of the former Gottschalks stores that Levy hoped to reoccupy, in Auburn, is now off the market, due to be taken over by McCaulou's, a Bay Area department store chain. But Levy said he's still planning to open stores in Clovis and Carson City, and is also looking at Modesto and Hemet.
-- Tim Sheehan
Valley school districts keep working on reform
One year ago: Fresno, Clovis and Sanger school districts joined with districts in Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco -- and later, Sacramento -- to take a lead role in writing California's second application for federal Race to the Top funds for education reform.
Today: California lost its bid for $700 million in Race to the Top funds late last year, but the seven school districts have continued to work together on education-reform issues.
The districts formed a nonprofit consortium to raise money, share ideas and become laboratories for boosting student achievement. Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson, president of the California Office to Reform Education -- CORE -- has promised to press ahead on the reform agenda to show that educators are serious about making positive changes.
Members of the group said coming together for the Race to the Top funding provided an impetus for the superintendents to work together. The districts are working on data systems to improve student tracking from elementary through high school and into the work force. Inadequate student tracking hurt California in its Race to the Top application.
-- Tracy Correa