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6| May 21, 2009| LIVING HERELiving hereWHO WE AREBY VALERIE GIBBONSvgibbons@ visalia. gannett. comt's nearly the size of Connecticut but it's one of the hiddenjewels of California. From dairies and orchards along its western border torugged Alpine peaks along the crest of the Sierra Nevada, Tulare County is a diverse landscape that draws visitorsfrom all over the world. iThe area encompasses a total of 4,863 square miles and includestopography ranging from the fertile, nearly sea level Valley floor tothe towering Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48states, rising about 14,495 feet. iEvery year hundreds of thousands of international tourists aredrawn to the World Ag Expo in February. During the warmermonths, throngs of tour groups make their way up Highway 198 toSequoia National Park. iThere's something in the county for virtually every outdoorenthusiast — from the backpacker and rock climber to the boaterand fisherman. iThe county also boasts one of the most unique historical stopsin the county, at the Allensworth State Historical Park. The town- ship was founded in 1908 by Colonel Allen Allensworth and oth- ers who dreamed of a town founded and governed by blacks. iWith all of these attractions it's hard to imagine that cows near- ly outnumber humans in this mostly rural county. Home to 430,974residents, Tulare County is large enough to serve as a major com- mercial center; most national retailers have set up shop somewherein either Visalia, Tulare or Porterville, alongside a consistent smallbusiness sector. iOne in four county residents resides in Visalia, the county seat. The area is still a rural county with some 144,000 people still liv- ing in unincorporated areas of the county. iAnd while the economic picture has sagged this year, the coun- ty's strong agricultural base has helped to keep key parts of theprivate sector moving. Two local dairy processors are not only hir- ing more workers, they're expanding their facilities. The area's oth- er local food processors are also still growing. There's a reason thefood processors are thriving here. iWith more than 300 operating dairies producing $ 1.8 billion inmilk and related product annually, Tulare County is the epicenterof the nation's dairy industry — producing more milk than tradi- tional dairy heavyweights like Wisconsin. iIn fact, Tulare is the second- most productive agricultural coun- ty in the nation, generating more than $ 4.8 billion in total ag pro- duction in 2007. The value of the orange crop alone in Tulare Coun- ty in 2007 was more than $ 533 million. The county is situated halfway between Los Angeles andSan Francisco. Flanked by the Sierra Nevada to theeast, Tulare County is home tosome of the most fertileagricultural landin thecountry. The county producesmore than 120 differentcommodities, 46 ofwhich are valued at morethan $ 1 million. It's the second- most agriculturally productive countyinthe country, second only to Fresno County. It is thelargest dairy producer in the world. Agricultural and food processing, health care and govern- ment are the largest employers. The county also boasts a growing manufacturing andhospitality base. About 46 percent of residents speak a language otherthan English. More than 67 percent of people age 25 and older have ahigh school diploma. The average family has 3.82 people in it. The average commute time is less than 30 minutes. ABOUT TULARE COUNTYiCreatedApril 20,1852, thecounty isnamed forTulare Lakewhich wassurroundedby marshesand filledwith rushesand tules. iTheroot of thenameTulare isfound inthe Mexi- can word" tullin" des- ignatingcattail orsimilarreeds. WHAT'SIN ANAME? Tulare County is the nation's No. 2 ag producerI

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