My, The Times How They Are a Changing


Every time you turn around seems like things in food production are changing. Somebody’s sold out the cow herd and there sits and empty pasture, and the neighbors change-up the crops they are raising. I received the most kind letter from an 87-year-old farmer in Chico,  California yesterday and his story is a prime example of how farmers work to fit growing and changing markets.

Still farming on the ground his grandfather homesteaded in 1865, Mr. Roney and his wife of 65 years work have seen many changes in farming operations. A little background on the area, Chico is 100 miles north of Sacramento in the northern Sacramento Valley. The average rain fall is 25 inches, mostly in December, January, and March. The area gets as warm as 90-105 in the months of June to October.

Mr Rooney and his brother purchased their grandfather’s operation in 1944, consisting of 1,000 acres of dry land farming, wheat, barley, and hay. 300 head of Angus cows and 4,000 acres of pasture land made up the livestock portion of the ranch. In the following years the brothers increased the cow herd to 500 and planted Canadian Field Peas to be harvested for seed.

In the 1950s, much of the land was leveled and wells dug to start irrigation farming. During that time the Roney brothers raised cucumbers, honey-dew melons, snap beans, alfalfa, kidney beans, white beans, tomatoes, corn, milo, and sugar beets. Many of these crops were raised for seed and the alfalfa for hay crops.

In 1968, the brothers divided the operation between livestock and crops. Around 1970 the area began changing from irrigated crops to orchards. Now the farm has almonds, prunes, pistachios, walnuts, and even kiwis.

Over the 57 years Mr. Roney has been involved with farming he has witnessed many changes in farming methods, machinery, and crops. Multi-generation farms are a treasure and part of this country’s heritage. Even though the number farms like Mr. Roney’s continues to decline, it makes them no less important.

I thought it would be cool to share Mr. Roney’s story because production Agriculture in the Sacramento Valley is so different from that in Arkansas. Although, he tells me rice is also grown just south of Chico. It’s all part of the diverse faces of American Farmers. Learn more about California Agriculture in my project Stamps, States, and AgFacts. Don’t forget to send me a postcard from your area!

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2 Comments

  1. Neat post! I grew up about 45 minutes south of Chico and graduated from Chico State- great farms, tons of agricultural diversity. And he’s right- there is a ton of rice grown in the area… my elementary school was literally surrounded by rice fields!

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  2. Great Post Ryan! I was raised outside of Jackson California roughly 120 miles from Chico (been decades since I’ve lived there though). In my travels it has amazed me as to the number of people who have no idea of the diversity of agriculture there…They seem to think it is all Hollywood or surfers!

    Like

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