Keeping up with a changing environment
Alvie Snow Farms was established in 1952 and named for the owner, Alvie, who moved from Oklahoma to Wasco in 1951.
Alvie died in a farm accident on his property in 1979 at age 62. The farm then passed to his wife, Betty, daughter Beverly and his two sons, Ronnie and Ricky. Ronnie's son Casye is also farming now, so it's third generation operation.
They grow almonds and alfalfa, but before farmed mainly cotton, alfalfa, sugar beets and grains.
"Cotton got to the point where you just couldn't make money," Ronnie said.
He said farming in Wasco has changed.
"It used to be that 95% were family farms, and now only about 5% are family owned and corporations own the rest."
Ronnie said the difference is that corporations have a lot more financial backing. "Most farmers still have to borrow from the banks. It's harder for us to compete with the larger corporations," he said.
He said his most lucrative crop is almonds.
"But right now, almonds are not very good because of the price we sell. It used to be we got around $3 a pound for them, and now it is around $1.50/$1.60 a pound. It's half of what it was."
He said that all of his farming costs have gone really high. "With the labor, water, power, chemicals and fertilizers [it's tough]."
Prior to farming, Alvie worked overseas in the pipeline industry in Venezuela, Brazil and India.
"He was out of the States for about eight year,." Ronnie explained.
When he returned, his brothers bought a farm and made him a third partner. At the time, they farmed and owned a car dealership in Wasco, too.
Alvie married Betty in 1953.
"Mom was a field worker chopping cotton for my dad. She was his employee when he married her. He was 36, and she was 18."
They went on to have three children who were all born and raised in Wasco, attending local schools and graduating from Wasco High School.
Ronnie, who has lived in Wasco for 66 years, also graduated from Wasco High School in 1975, working on the farm right afterward.
Ronnie's marriage to Dianna is a love story. He met his wife in Wasco. They had a date on Friday, another on Saturday, and he asked her for marriage that same day. They have been married for 44 years.
They have three children and seven grandchildren and are preparing for a third sdvm,k.l/"
He said Wasco has been a nice place to live and farm.
"I love Wasco. It's changed, but I'll probably die here. It's home. It's always been home."
Regarding the changes, he said, "We used to have our local police department, and we had very little crime. It was mostly mom-and-pop businesses, and we pretty much knew everybody."
He said the changes started when the prisons came in, bringing different people to town, "although many of my family works at the prison or have retired from there."
Ronnie said farming in Wasco has some advantages and disadvantages.
"We've got a couple of water districts where other places don't. It has changed since the drought and water situation. Staying in business is hard with all the rules and regulations compared to what we used to have."
He also has trouble with illegal dumping. "It happens all the time," he said. "It is a daily thing."
Plus, he has experienced crime, stolen vehicles, vandalism and thievery on his farm.
The best part of being a farmer for him is that he gets to be his own boss.
"It's something our dad started, and we will continue doing."
He doesn't plan on retiring soon.
"I really don't plan to, but my wife would like me to. I've worked all my life and wouldn't know what to do with myself. Hopefully, Wasco continues to be a good place to live and farm."