The Fishers

Pulling up to the headquarters of Crop Management Company Inc., a Delano-area diversified farming operation, feels like coming home. The focus of the complex is a tidy farmhouse, surrounded by citrus trees as far as the eye can see.

The feeling is reality for John Fisher IV and his sons John Fisher V and Matt Fisher, who operate the business today — continuing an agricultural legacy started in 1945 by John Fisher II and passed along to his son, John Fisher III and then to the present generations.

While their headquarters is no longer used as a home, it’s where John Fisher IV and his wife raised their daughter and two sons.

A family feeling continues. It’s where every day a parade of Fishers and their employees file into a homey kitchen to eat their noontime meals, catch up on business and enjoy each other’s company.

I joined a group from Mission Bank on a visit. Our one-hour drive led us to a two-lane country road lined by groves of trees and field crops. An unexpected rain settled the dust and filled a blue sky with billowing clouds.

The delicious smell of chicken and pork chops on the grill wafted over us as we arrived. Our host, John Fisher IV, invited us to stay for lunch. Good thing. My stomach was growling and a spread of salads, vegetables and barbecue awaited.

Crop Management Company, which also is known as Fisher Farms, operates four locations from Fresno to south of Bakersfield. They are involved in a variety of citrus crops including lemons, oranges, grapefruit, mandarins, blood oranges and cara cara oranges. The company farms several thousands of acres of family owned land, along with custom farming for clients and investors.

The company also operates a propane business in Strathmore and a propane yard near Delano. With locations in Fresno, Lake Forest and Strathmore, the company also operates a freight brokerage and trucking company.

These diverse activities sprouted from the few acres of citrus trees and modest commercial spray business great grandfather John Fisher II started in 1945.

“My grandfather (John Fisher III) grew that business into more acreage and my dad (John Fisher IV) grew the family acreage, along with custom farming,” explained Matt Fisher. “So we are in our fourth generation now, with my brother (John Fisher V) and me.

“In 2004, we started our own propane business to complement the wind machines we run in the field to keep our fruit warm during winter. Our propane is exclusively an agricultural propane business. We don’t serve residential properties.

“In 2006, we diversified into the freight business,” he said. “We don’t necessarily haul our own products, but we do haul lots of produce across the country.”

How has the company survived four generations and is continuing to grow?

“With the consolidation of farms in California and increasing costs and regulatory environment, we see opportunity for future growth,” said Matt Fisher. “Smaller growers won’t be able to keep up with everything necessary to stay ahead of looming labor costs and regulations. Unfortunately, that will force consolidation, or people will come to us and have us farm their ranches.

“Relationships are what have always gotten us through farming in this state. This spans water, labor, pest and disease pressures — main challenges for us. Accessibility to water and labor is paramount to success going forward.”

Matt Fisher said his company’s need to maintain relationships extends to financial relationships.

“Our family has always utilized banking relationships to grow our business,” he said. “It takes a ton of money to farm. Our ability to have good financing to help with projects, such as redeveloping land into better varieties, or drilling a new well are fundamental in farming,” he said, explaining the decision to work with Mission Bank.

As we said goodbye, John Fisher IV insisted we each take a box of freshly picked oranges.

Maureen Buscher-Dang is a Bakersfield public relations consultant.

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