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Led by milk, almonds, chickens, walnuts, and corn silage, the county grossed nearly .1 billion in agricultural production in 2011.

At one time, Modesto was the operational center of the Tidewater Southern Railway, which had its main line down the center of Ninth Street, a major north-south street.

A city ordinance passed by the city council kept electric power lines over this section of street activated long after the railroad had converted to steam power. Now the railroad (owned by the Union Pacific Railroad since 1983) no longer passes through Modesto.

At its founding in 1870, it was to be named Ralston after financier William C. Ralston's modesty prompted him to ask that another name be found, and the town was named Modesto in recognition of his modesty.

Modesto was incorporated in 1884 with a population of over 1000.

The city's annual Architectural Festival honors Modesto's history as a testing ground for mid-century modern architecture during the 1940s and '50s.