Madera means “lumber” in Spanish. However, you won’t find many naturally-occurring trees nor much of a timber industry in this mostly agricultural San Joaquin Valley town. It is located smack in the center of California’s broad, flat, agricultural Central Valley. The name dates back to the 1870’s when loggers built a flume to bring logs from the vast Sierras to the east to a railroad loading point.
The Madera economy is driven by agriculture, including wine growing and fruit and nut orchards, but also by a variety of manufacturing businesses including glass and plastic products, farm equipment, and machinery. These businesses enjoy relatively low costs, a good labor force, transportation, access to California markets and Fresno services.
Some preferring a small-town lifestyle live here and commute to Fresno. However, perhaps because of proximity to Fresno, the area has a higher cost of living and housing profile than many other valley towns. There are some good healthcare facilities, notably a large children’s hospital, but most to to Fresno for city services. Like all Central Valley towns, access to Sierra recreation, and particularly Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, is a plus.
As with most Central Valley towns, the terrain is completely flat and treeless (save for the numerous orchards), with mountains rising sharply to the east and less dramatically to the west but only visible on clear days. The climate is California Mediterranean, hot and completely dry in summer with pleasant evenings and mild in winter. Almost all precipitation falls in winter, when temperatures remain in a 35 to 60 degree range with persistent fog at times.