Barn Burner

A soil-level look at the redone barn.

What started as a basic barn repair has transformed into the introduction of a new South County landmark.

The Pisonis, who have been farming vegetables in the Salinas Valley for three generations—and found fame in the wine industry for Gary Pisoni's big Pinot Noirs and bigger personality—decided the historic barn on Breschini ranch could use some love.

So they set about some rehab for the roof, a little work on the siding and a bit of reinforcing on the foundation.

But that's not what has the greater Gonzales community buzzing.

The Pisonis also commissioned local artist John Cerney to paint a tribute mural to a pair of farming pioneers.

The result is a towering portrait of the late Eddie Pisoni and 95-year-old Elvezio “Saw” Breschini made up of nearly 1,100 individually painted panels, the largest such installation of its kind in the area. 

Almost every day until his death in 2008, Eddie Pisoni would join his grandson, Pisoni vineyard director Mark Pisoni, into the fields and vineyards.

"My grandfather loved farming and loved this ranch," Mark says. "I look at the mural everyday and think of him on the side of that barn, looking over his fields. I hope that he would be proud of the job we are doing."

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He adds he's pleasantly stunned how many friends have called to comment on the barn, which borders Highway 101 so everyone heading south gets to see it.

The multi-purpose barn was built around 1910.

Recent immigrant Bernardo Breschini purchased the property in October 1909 for $250 per acre, with 70 cows thrown in for good measure.

He promptly took the dairy-alfalfa business and made it a row-crop operation.

In 1952, Pisoni and his wife Jane founded Pisoni Farms, growing lettuce, onions, sugar beets, tomatoes, small white beans, broccoli and cauliflower on the Breschini Ranch, which was owned by Jane’s family.

Jane managed the office and handled the accounting, her brother “Saw” helped farm the land, driving the 1940 Farmall 300 tractor in the mural for more than a half century.

Both men pictured served in World War II and were avid hunters.

Tomorrow (July 12), Jane and Mark and Gary will help host a modest celebration in the barn.

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