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
From keeping the
ranch afloat after the depression, to expanding the operation in the
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
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.
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.
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.
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.