Family Farming
Produced by Jen Fischer

 

The Harlan Family has seen its share of good times and bad over the last six generations. Bernall Harlan's great grandfather built their house and ranch in the mid 1800's

From keeping the ranch afloat after the depression, to expanding the operation in the 1950's…Bernall Harlan credit's his late father, Bernall Sr. with keeping this tomato farm successful for so many years. If it wasn't for this legacy, Bernell doubts he could be farming today.

The torch was passed from generation to generation.. and now this farmer has handed it off once more to his son Blake. While Bernall works on the equipment, Blake manages the business. Bernall says the role of the farmer is much more complicated in today's society and he's grateful his son has the know-how to compete.

The Harlan family ranch sits on 5,000 acres in Yolo County. Keeping it running is no easy task in the face of foreign competition and regulatory constraints imposed on growers. Understanding the crops isn't enough anymore. The 21st century farmer needs to be a jack of many trades. Today marketing skills are required, along with an understanding of the global marketplace and the latest scientific research.

According to Blake two percent or less of the population is engaged in agriculture directly -- which makes it difficult to prove that farmers are doing a good job, and to convince people to buy domestic products instead of imports. But as Harlan sees it, his role, and the role of all farmers is to bridge that gap between the agricultural community and the rest of the population.

Controlling costs is essential and the Harlans accomplish this in part by mechanizing their operation to reduce labor costs. Work that used to take a crew of 20 now requires only four sorters.

Although farming is a much harder business now, after 150 years, the Harlan clan say they're in the farming business for the long haul. But for many farmers, the temptation to sell their land for urban development is hard to resist as the land becomes more valuable than the crops grown on it.

John Gamper is the Director of taxation and land use with the California Farm Bureau Federation. He says right now the state is in its 5th year of a deep agricultural recession in California. Many farmers are losing money, and barely hanging on.

Fortunately, the location of Harlan's ranch is far enough away from nearby cities of Davis and Woodland that they don't yet feel threatened by urban encroachment.

But what is affecting this farmer and father of three are the day-to-day challenges he faces to stay on top of this ever-changing business.


INTERVIEWS:

Bernell Harlan
Owner of Harlan & Dumars Inc.

Blake Harlan
Owner of Harlan & Dumars Inc.

John Gamper
Director of taxation & land use,CA Farmer Bureau


TRANSCRIPT:

The complete text of New Valley Episode 203 - The Green Machine...

 

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