E.G. Berchtold built his father’s business from a grain company into one of the Central Valley’s premier farm equipment dealerships over a seven-decade career, but his reach extended beyond his own company to farming and development deals that helped shape the city. "Berch" died Dec. 9 at age 94.
The son of Joseph Berchtold and Wilhelmina Westlund-Berchtold, Berchtold grew up in the family business, Berchtold Grain and Implement Co., which his father started in 1910. After returning from military service in World War II, he returned home to a pivotal point in the company's history.
“When he came home from the war his father’s health was not very good," said son Mark Berchtold. "My dad either had to pick it up or shut it down, and the story is, his mother told him to keep it going.”
Ron Petty, a longtime employee and colleague, went to work for Berchtold in 1982.
“He was pretty large and in charge at the time, and for 26 years after that,” Petty said. “He was a kind business genius, I think — just extremely perceptive. He could smell trends and look at financials and sense problems coming.”
Berchtold entered into significant land and farming deals with the Giumarra and Icardo families and helped with financial arrangements that enabled backhoe owner-operators to get off the ground, often initially in the oil business.
Today, the company has farming equipment stores in Delano and Santa Maria in addition to the original location on East 19th in Bakersfield.