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Producing Excellence

Blake Harlan

Woodland, CA

Harlan Family Ranch

Products: Tomatoes, alfalfa, almonds, wheat and corn

Size of Operation: 8,500 acres

In Business Since: 1851

Farm Credit Partner: Farm Credit West

Working with Farm Credit Since: 1934

Alongside the centuries-old tradition of working hard to farm the family land, farmer Blake Harlan embraces technology as a way to gain efficiencies, improve the quality of his products and reduce the impact on the environment.

“The farm was settled by my three-times great grandfather, and we've been here on the same land all these years," says Blake.

That's not to say that things haven't changed, of course. In the 1930s, the family planted their first crop of tomatoes, a crop that expanded to become one of their largest. Today, they supplement their tomatoes with a host of products, including almonds, grains and alfalfa hay crops. They also own a thriving alfalfa processing mill, selling hay-based feed across the west coast and Hawaii.

Technical improvements in tractors have played a big role on the Harlan's farm. GPS technology guides the tractors across each field with perfect precision, avoiding trees and other obstacles while ensuring single-pass application of seed and other inputs. The tractors themselves are more efficient, using half the fuel as when Blake started out. Along with their tractors, irrigation systems can be monitored remotely via Smartphone or tablet, tracking work performed, measuring moisture levels and turning pumps on and off remotely. Blake's father was involved with the early development of mechanical tomato harvesters, the first step in automation which today includes harvesting the fruit, loading it into bins, and sorting and cleaning the delicate fruit.

The Harlan's finance their operation with Farm Credit West, building on a relationship with Farm Credit that goes back to the 1930s. “Agriculture today is still capital intensive, whether it's for land, vertical integration, buying equipment, or developing our orchards," says Blake. “Farm Credit has always been there for us. They understand our business and they understand that it's a cyclical one." Blake himself took out his first Farm Credit loan as a young 4-H member, buying a hog to raise and sell.

Despite the hard work, the uncontrollable conditions like the weather, and ever-present capital needs, Blake is happy carrying on his family's farming tradition. “Farming to me is very much a business, but it's also a lifestyle," says Blake. “A typical day for me starts at sunrise and goes almost till sunset, but it doesn't seem like work because I enjoy what I do.

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