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Paramount Farming Company of Bakersfield, Calif. is owned by Stewart Resnick, a wealthy businessman, philanthropist and major donor to political campaigns. He owns 48% of the Kern Water Bank. Through his companies, Paramount Farms and Westside Mutual Water Company, he sold more than $30 million worth of water to the state-run environmental program and collected at least another $3.7 million in checks and credits for sales the companies made through other water agencies. Photo taken Jan. 7, 2009. (Karl Mondon/Times)

Stewart Resnick is not your typical dirt-under-the-fingernails farmer.

The Beverly Hills billionaire's companies, according to tax records, appear to own more than 115,000 acres in Kern County, about the size of four San Franciscos and more than all of the East Bay Regional Park District's parks combined.

The operation is the largest pistachio and almond growing and processing operation in the world, according to the company's Web site, and part of a business empire that Resnick runs with his wife, Lynda, whose Web site asserts they are the largest farmers of tree crops in the country.

The Resnicks' holding company, Roll International, also owns Fiji water, Pom Wonderful pomegranate juice, Teleflora, the largest floral wire service in the world and, until October 2006, the Franklin Mint, the largest collectibles company in the world.

Forbes ranks Roll International as the nation's 246th largest private company.

Resnick, a New Jersey native who graduated from UCLA in 1959, started his own janitorial company to pay his way through college, while Lynda started her first business at 19. The couple bought their first business together in 1979.

Today, the Resnicks' net worth is estimated at more than $1 billion, and they are believed to be among Los Angeles' richest people. They give generously to art museums, throw parties attended by Hollywood stars and donate lavishly to political campaigns — usually, but not always, to Democrats.


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During the presidential campaign that ended in November, they gave money to anyone who had a shot at winning, including Democrats Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Republican John McCain.

In the past decade, the Resnicks and their Kern County farming operations gave more than $1.6 million to political campaigns in California, including a whopping $373,000 to former Gov. Gray Davis.

Shortly after he was elected in 1998, Davis appointed Stewart Resnick as co-chairman of his water and agriculture advisory committee with former Rep. Gary Condit, D-Modesto, and Keith Brackpool, a businessman with plans to develop water storage underground in the Mojave Desert.

Last year, the couple pledged more than $55 million to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and this year they are opening a charter school in the farm town of Delano. Both sit on an executive committee for UCLA's medical sciences. Stewart Resnick is on the board of directors for the environmental group Conservation International.