Featured Farmer – Roy’s Jackrabbit Chipping

By Ramona Frances

A Madera man put his knowledge of good equipment to use by starting and running a business that depends on it. Rojelio “Roy” Castillo Sr. became interested in farm equipment after he went to work for a valley company known as JackRabbit in the 1980s. After the Ripon company built its first chipper in 1982, he began driving the machine and managing the department. Encouraged by Earl Anderson, the owner of JackRabbit, Castillo bought his first chipping machine to accommodate growers in managing and disposing of their orchard waste. Furthering this idea, he started his own business — Roy’s Jackrabbit Chipping, which is based in Madera.

Since its start in 1998 business has expanded to include four chippers, six shuttles, and four reservoir carts as well as four elevators– useful for chipping but also in harvesting almonds and walnuts. Roy’s Jackrabbit Chipping serves nut and citrus growers from Madera to Bakersfield.“Each chipper can do up to 4,000 acres per season,” Castillo said. “It can handle at least a 10 in. diameter piece of wood.”
After the grower prunes an orchard and stacks the wood, the chippers chip the wood into 1-1/2 inch pieces. The chips are then removed and delivered to biomass plants all over the Central Valley for burning and to dairies for bedding.

“Estimates of cost depend on how heavy the pruning is. Some of the money comes from the farmer and some of it comes from the biomass company,” Castillo said.
Castillo continues to credit the company that got him started — a company he still represents. Meanwhile, he uses the support of his son, Rojelio Castillo Jr. to help manage and run the seasonal business and keep the books.

In December of 2007, Rojelio Castillo Jr. married Normalee Gutierrez Castillo who moved from Washington State where she also came from a farming family.  Her father Horacio Gutierrez worked for 28 years with Noble Farms which grew potatoes, hay, and corn and also owned their own cattle company. 

Norma remembers growing up in the country where her closest neighbors were the 55 cow & calf pairs that her dad owned.  Her house was surrounded by wheat and potato fields and the next house was about a mile away.  “I lived 27 years of my life in the country and I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to live in a big city one day.  Well not that Madera is much bigger than the town I grew up in, but I have to admit I miss country living now.”  Moving to Madera, CA from Washington state has been an exciting change for Castillo, but she could do without the hot summers, “In Washington state, summer days never felt as hot as they do here.” 

“Taking the Executive Assistant position in March of 2008 at the Madera County Farm Bureau has been one of the most exciting and most interesting jobs I have had by far.  I have learned many different things from water rights laws, to how to drive an almond shaker, and what a persimmon is, to maintaining a top notch website and helping throw fabulous wine tasting parties,” says Castillo. 

On her down time, Norma likes to help her husband and father in law out in the fields, as well as camping, shopping, and traveling.  “Even though I miss my family back home and I don’t live on a farm here, being involved in a successful farming family business and working at the Farm Bureau keeps me close to the roots of where I came from and has been a journey I would not change.”