Notes from Home: Beyond Boswell
By Trudy Wischemann
I was just catching my breath last week from the news that Boswell had withdrawn their proposal for Yokohl Ranch when I heard that Mark Arax would be interviewed on KVPR. The subject was his article “A Kingdom from Dust” on Stewart and Lynda Resnick’s operations just published Jan. 31st in the California Sunday Magazine story.californiasunday.com/resnick-a-kingdom-from-dust.
Once known as Paramount Farms, renamed to Wonderful, Inc., these operations now exceed those once farmed by Boswell. Although there’s a difference in levels and kinds of philanthropy, like the clinics and schools being built in Lost Hills and Delano, there’s great similarity to the Boswell empire in control over water and land, which we learned in Arax and Wartzman’s The King of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire (2003). The Resnick article just published is also part of a forthcoming book by Arax, hopefully to be released next year.
Getting this Resnick story now rather than later, however, may help us face the need to take back the decisions over land and water that belong in the public’s sphere. “Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in the United States,” Arax wrote early in the piece, “a fact he has tried to keep hidden while he has shaped what we eat, transformed California’s landscape, and ruled entire towns.” Arax also writes of the Stewart’s partnership with his wife, Lynda, as unique and portentous. With their influence over the entire citrus industry, we who live in the Sun-Gazette’s readership sphere are already feeling the effects in lost navel markets and acres of replants to mandarins no longer packed in our towns.
Wonderful’s crop production through the drought was remarkably high, a fact that led Arax to track down their water supply. One thing he discovered was a “private, off-the-books pipeline” that was taking water “from unsuspecting farmers in an irrigation district in Tulare County 40 miles away.” Learning that a land developer from Santa Clara Valley named John Vidovich was the wheeler for that water provides clues about what we’ll need to prevent in the future.
Writing about the Wonderful Citrus complex sited along Hwy 99 just south of the Tulare/Kern county line, “with its four-story storage building designed in the shape of an almighty box of Halo mandarins, (the complex was) conceived by Lynda, cost one fortune to build and a second fortune to light up. I doubt the Resnicks have any idea,” Arax continued, “of the fester that eats at this place, the shame piled on shame.” I think one layer of that shame is that we seem unable to bootstrap our public power high enough to make these guys realize who they’re taking from and how they’re damaging the future they’re trying to make with their charitable contributions in the communities of Lost Hills and Delano.
This is just a taste of what’s available in Mark’s article. If you’re interested in the future of this part of the Valley, it’s worth starting here — and now.
Trudy Wischemann is a rural community researcher who writes. You can send her your thoughts on the Big Boys c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.