If you wait for your dad’s shoes, you’ll wait all your life.
“That’s a Portuguese saying, or words to that effect,” said Ed Machado at some point as he recalled the hardscrabble but intensely focused way he built his family dairy.
The fact his dairy operation is arguably now bigger than all of Manteca’s small family dairies of the last four or five decades combined, and how he managed to stay afloat – become even bigger when practically everyone around him were sinking – is clear testament of his business savvy. Not bad for someone who quit high school during his senior year to start working on his dream – running and operating his own dairy.
As it turned out, Machado did not have to wait for his father’s shoes. He did not have time to wait. More importantly, he did not want to wait.
Actually, life did not give him a chance to even wait for his father’s shoes. He was in eighth grade when his father unexpectedly passed away. He left behind a young wife, Alice, who soon became the head of the household and in charge of the family dairy farm, and never remarried. The youngest of the five children was six years old. Machado was the middle child.
But young as he was, Machado carried the farming genes in his blood. At age 15, right after his father died, he stepped up to the challenge, muscled himself through the herd in the fields into the milking barn and offered his inexperienced but determined youthful brains and brawn to his mother who courageously forged forward to keep the family dairy going. After all, their mother as a young widow had to raise her five children all by herself now, and make sure their physical, emotional and mental well-being was taken care of to help them fulfill their dreams in life and become responsible and successful individuals. He and his siblings all rallied to help their mother.
At the age of 17, Machado took over the managing of the “homeplace” which is what he calls his parents’ dairy in rural south Manteca. He quit high school without graduating to be able to concentrate on that gargantuan responsibility.
“I was old before my time,” he said with a small laugh, by way of explaining how he managed to take on chores that were challenging even for older adults.
“It was tough,” he quickly added, more somberly this time.
But all the hardship worked to his advantage in the end when he turned 26 and “I bought my own place,” he said.
“I wanted more, so I went out on my own,” he explained as he gave a tour of his business holdings in Manteca, Modesto and part of Lathrop near the Deuel Vocational Institute on Kasson Road.
For starters, he bought the old John Mancebo dairy on South Union Road. He bought the business but not the property which belonged to the Teunissen family. For the next several years, he bought other smaller dairies in the area including the Manuel Teicheira family dairy at Perrin Road on South Manteca Road.
He now has four dairy operations – one in Manteca and three in Modesto. Two of the three dairies in Modesto are on leased property, with an option to buy one of them. The dairy in Manteca has 450 milking cows. The dairy in Modesto has 1,620 milking cows – all Holsteins – and 2,800 heifers.
He also farms over 2,500 acres where he grows hay, corn, and alfalfa for his dairies. He also cuts hay for other operations including the dairy at DVI in Tracy. In 2008, he went into partnership with his cousin, Frank Borges, and purchased a 1,160-acre property near Tracy from a developer and planted it with corn and alfalfa.
Machado is quick to admit, and proudly points out, that he is not a one-man operation.
“To be successful, you have to be there 24/7, 365 days a year. And you have to have good back-up (manpower),” he said.
The manpower he was referring to are his four children with Lorie, his wife of 38 years – “going on 39.” They were high school sweethearts. She was attending Ripon Christian; he was at Ripon High.
“I’m very fortunate. All my four kids graduated from Cal Poly (San Luis Obispo)” where they majored in ag dairy science and ag business, he said. They are all partners in the family operation, and each has been charged with specific responsibilities which make the business run like a well-oiled machine.
Oldest son Eddie runs all four dairies. Son Ron, the only one among the siblings who is not married, runs all the farmland. Daughter Elayna Ng and her sister Meagan take care of all the office business.
Mother Lorie’s role is to babysit their five grandchildren, one for each day of the week. Ed and wife Mindy have one son, Edward Anthony Braxton Machado. Daughter Elayna and husband Matt are the parents of two delightful twins, Matt and David. Meagan and husband Scott are the parents of two boys who also have Biblical names, Luke and James.
While he quit high school before he graduated to start working on having his own dairy, Machado did manage to go to night school at Modesto Junior College and, at the same time, finish his GED high school equivalency diploma. “I did a little bit of that,” he said with a bit of self-deprecation.
Along the way, he decided to diversify as part of his plan to stay fiscally afloat.
“It’s tough; very tough,” he said of dairy farming. “But I’m very diversified. I farm almonds. I do custom chopping for other dairymen. I even did construction – I am a contractor – I build houses.”
One of his construction projects was the 20-unit project at Lincoln and Edison near the Bank of Stockton. He sold two of the houses and kept 18 of them as rentals. He is poised to get into more housing development with other partners sometime next year. When the real estate market went down, he took advantage of that opportunity and bought “a lot of rentals.”
He also owns an almond huller on Moncure Road in Ripon.
He credits his success to a number of people. One of them is his mother.
“My mom always gave good advice,” he said.
There were also the people who helped him along the way. “The (property) owners financed most of the properties I bought,” he said of the first dairies that he acquired while he was in his twenties. “I was very fortunate.”
With all his success thus far in life, Machado remains humble.
“Anybody can succeed if you have the drive and the will to succeed,” he said.