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'Vern from Kern' still working family operation

Vernon S. Crawford, "Vern from Kern," owner of VSC Farms, Inc., has been farming since he was 10. Now retired, he continues to cultivate his passion for the agriculture industry.

The farm he manages and lives on was established in 1916 when his wife's grandfather came to Wasco from Canada.

"It's the second oldest farm in Kern County," Crawford said.

He took over the operation in 1968 and has continued with the family tradition.

Crawford grows cotton, wheat, alfalfa and dry beans. He used to farm cherries, but he sold that part off. Cotton was his specialty in the past.

He said 2022 was the best year on record for alfalfa. "Prices were in the neighborhood of $400 a ton. We did very well last year."

Though he added that the price of water was "astronomical" because of the drought.

"Prior to the local service irrigation district, everything was well water. We had to pump it, but then we brought in the federal water, which was reasonable at $6.50 an acre-foot. Now the price is from $95 to $135 an acre-foot."

He said he is going to tear out his alfalfa "because the price is so poor. We're not above cost anymore once you take water processing into account."

Crawford said he has a small farm and shared that it was different in the 1940s. "During the war, it was a big ranch," he said.

Everything changed because the Kern County Land Company had special leases for bare deserts, so a young soldier could come to them to rent that land.

"They had development leases so the person would take the raw desert and level it, put in a well and a pipeline. There was no fee for the first five years, and they could develop the bare land."

"This was the boom in farming post-war. It was a really fair deal."

Crawford is 86 and still involved in agriculture with his farm. His love for the industry dates back to when he was a young boy on his father's farm.

"We primarily grew cotton and potatoes, wheat, barley dry beans and black-eyed peas."

He partnered with his father in 1960 and continued to farm even after he went to work for Wilbur Ellis. He retired from there at 74. "I worked with them for around 50 years," he said.

Crawford attended Wasco Elementary, Thomas Jefferson Middle School and graduated from Wasco High School in 1955.

"I've been a Tiger all the way."

He was ag president at Bakersfield College and Fresno State, where he earned his degree as a Field Agronomist.

"That education helped me be successful as a farmer as it helped me with all the laws, regulations and science involved. Without my degree, it would have been tough."

Crawford has three children with his daughter, Lori, working with him for 20 years, handling the finances. His other daughter, Jennifer, works for Nutrient Ag Chem in seed sales.

Regarding the next generation managing the farm, he said, "My three kids can probably continue to operate it like I have. Though they may want to sell it."

"The business is in a family trust. It's really up to the trust members (my three kids) to make the decision after I'm gone."


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