State Fund is celebrating our centennial this year. In addition to being a stable and steady provider of workers’ compensation insurance in California in good times and bad for 100 years, we have some long-time customers who recognize our value and many have remained with us for decades.
As part of our centennial celebration, we recently had the opportunity to connect with several long-standing customers about how they’ve grown their businesses and the reasons why they’ve stayed with State Fund over the years.
One such customer is John Kautz, founder of the Central Valley’s Kautz Farms, Kautz Family Vineyards and California Hotwood, Inc. Kautz is a child of parents that emigrated from Germany to Lodi, California in search of a better life. His father worked for a walnut ranch in Waterloo and purchased his first 38 acres in 1931 for $13,000.
Kautz started working on the family farm at a young age, and by the time he graduated high school in 1948, he had earned a plot of land to grow his own canning tomatoes. He grew the business one crop at a time and has since raised more than 40 types of commercial vegetables sold to canneries, cold storage, freezers, and fresh markets around the world.
Kautz has always been at the leading edge of farming and worked closely with UC Davis on mechanized harvesting techniques. As farming in the valley grew more competitive Kautz focused his energy on wine grapes – a crop that does exceptionally well in Lodi due to the cooling effects of the evening Delta breeze.
Today, Ironstone Vineyards, nestled in the Sierra Foothills, is among the 10 largest family-owned wineries in California and the fourth generation of the Kautz family is entering the business. The family is also involved in California Hotwood, a company Kautz founded more than 30 years ago to manage the old dried wood that was regularly cleared from his farmland. Currently, his son Kurt runs the company, providing high quality firewood products conveniently packaged and readily available in grocery stores and retail outlets.
Kautz first started working with State Fund more than 60 years ago through the California Farm Bureau. Kautz is thankful for the safety programs and excellent client service that we’ve provided over the years. He recalls working closely with the Sacramento office of State Fund to implement best practices and conduct annual safety audits. “At one point, we got nearly 100 percent of our premium back for the year, based on our excellent safety record,” Kautz said.
Kautz believes that when relying on a small group of loyal employees, including his four children and several local families, it is imperative to ensure their well-being. At one point, he switched his worker’s compensation policy to another company, but came back to State Fund after a few short years because the service from the other carrier was not as good and caused a lot of added work for the office manager.
Kautz, like many other customers, have come to rely on State Fund not only because of our products, but because of our responsiveness, our values and because we are always there for them. By supporting their businesses, we’ve helped families like the Kautzes realize the American dream and we’re extremely proud to be a part of their story.