J. G. Boswell II farmed on a grand scale. He was once regarded as the world's largest cotton producer, headquartered in Corcoran, Calif.
However, he shunned the limelight and avoided publicity while building an unequaled farming operation. Boswell, 86, died of natural causes April 3, at his home at Indian Wells, in the Coachella Valley of Southern California..
The Boswell farming operation carved out of the dry Tulare Lake Bed was synonymous with cotton. The Boswell farm is still probably the largest cotton grower in the U.S.
However, cotton is now only about a third of the 150,000 acre operation in Kings and Kern counties. J.G. Boswell Tomato Co., LLC has become the nation's second largest processing tomato grower and packer, accounting for 10 percent of last year's 12-million ton California crop. That makes Boswell one of the largest tomato paste producers in the world.
The Boswell Co. is also one of the largest farmers in Australia, with 30,000 acres under cultivation.
Boswell parlayed his successful farming operation into community development. He was one of the original developers of Sun City in Arizona, turning his vast farming holdings there into one of the most successful retirement communities ever developed.
Boswell is also developing the Yokohl Ranch project, a 35,000-acre master planned community in Tulare County and The Eastlake Project, another master planned community in Chula Vista, Calif.
Boswell's 2008 revenue was more than $366 million.
However, it was the farming in Central and Southern California that made the Boswell name revered and feared.
Boswell's size had tremendous market impact. His political clout and money could move governments and voters. His opposition to a state referendum to build a peripheral canal to move water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta played a key role in voters rejecting the canal in 1982. Ever since then, the words “Peripheral Canal” have been called the “third rail” in water politics. However, California's deepening water crisis has renewed the idea almost 30 years later.
Just as he kept his personal life out of the public, the farm gate at Corcoran was not open to just anyone. However, for years Boswell's farming innovations have quietly been shared with many farmers and others involved with California agriculture. Boswell has hosted numerous ginning schools at the Corcoran facilities.
Boswell's pioneering cotton farming led to the creation of a cotton breeding operation that eventually resulted in PhytoGen Seed Co., a joint venture with Dow AgroSciences. Originally established to focus on Pimas and high quality Acala cottons for the San Joaquin Valley, PhytoGen upland varieties have been developed for planting in the U.S. and the world.
Boswell was a leader in establishing Pima cotton in the San Joaquin Valley. After initially opposing the introduction of Pima cotton in the Valley, viewing it as a threat to the Acala market, Boswell soon embraced it when its potential was proven and now grows all Pima cotton, roller ginning it in its modern facility in Corcoran. While the Boswell Co. shuns the National Cotton Council, it fully supports Supima, the marketing arm of U.S. Pima cotton, and the California Cotton Growers and Ginners Associations. Boswell's vice president of marketing, Jeff Elder, is current chairman of Supima.
J.G. Boswell gave much back to the community. He established the J. G. Boswell Foundation at California State University, Fresno with a $1.2 million endowed chair in the plant sciences department. Former Kings County University of California Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor Bruce Roberts holds that chair position on the CSUF faculty.
He supported numerous activities in Corcoran, including funds to help build the YMCA and Corcoran District Hospital. He created two full-ride scholarships to any four-year school in the nation to the top male and female graduates of Corcoran High School and endowment funds for the city or Corcoran.
The farming operation was established in 1925 by Boswell's father, Bill, and uncles Col. J.G. and Col. Walter Boswell. The company career for J.G. Boswell II began in 1948 after graduating from Stanford University and service in World War II in the Pacific.
He served as chairman, president and CEO from 1952 until his retirement in 1984. However, he remained on the board until his death. His son, James W. Boswell, currently heads the Boswell operation.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife Barbara and two daughters, Jody Hall and Lorraine Wilcox and five grandchildren.
A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m., April 22, at the Corcoran High School Memorial Stadium.