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Chico icon turns 100

Helena Vrisimo, now 100-years-old, and her family share her story and the future of their historical orchard.

Posted: Mar 8, 2021 10:27 PM

CHICO, Calif. - If you have driven around the west side of Chico, you might have spotted a bright yellow house or maybe even seen the woman who lives there.

"I think I'm okay and very nice,” Helena Vrisimo, a local Chico and well-known farmer, said with a smile.

Helena just turned 100-years-old.

Born March 8, 1921, she is originally from the islands of Azores, Portugal.

Helena moved to Chico at 27 and hasn't stopped working in the almond orchard since.

But little do many know that this 20-acre lot of land has only changed hands once, from Annie Bidwell to the Vrisimo family.

"There's not too many people in this town that go back as far as we go back,” Laurene Vrisimo, Helena’s daughter, beamed. “So, I'm very proud, very proud of our family as farmers."

But, this past harvest was Vrisimo's last.

It's only fitting that Chico native Maisie Jane Huratdo was her last customer.

"I can't explain how exciting it is to have that connection directly with the land that changed hands from Annie Bidwell to the Vrisimo's,” Maisie Jane said with pride. “Just knowing that we are still keeping it alive, that's what's exciting."

For many, it won't be hard to imagine Helena wheeling her wheelbarrow through the trees.

"I like to buy flowers. I have somebody to take care of the orchard. I like everything nice. That's all I want,” Helena said.

As for what is next, the Vrisimo's are planning on maintaining the property and will keep the house and land as is.

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Northern California has had some light rain shower activity Thursday, but a more intense system will bring heavy rain and windy weather to our area late tonight and early Friday. Please drive carefully Friday morning!
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