Vernon Crowder, Rabobank senior vice president and agricultural economist, does not miss much.

“Where’s that pretty girl who was with you last year?” Crowder asked with a big smile and a larger chuckle. Crowder’s greeting during the recent World Ag Expo was at the bank’s booth where he holds agricultural economic court each year.

He never disappoints and always amazes. He answers all questions forcefully. His words are dynamic. Crowder is one of the best known ag bankers in California. He is recognized not only for his economic prowess, but for his constant companion, a German Shepherd guide dog. Crowder, who lives in Fresno, Calif., is totally blind, yet he travels the state with his dog and occasional two-legged assistant.

Interviewing Crowder is always a treat. He looks you straight in the face, focusing on the source of the voice. He’s quick with a handshake or a pat on the forearm or shoulder to make a point.

After the interview, it was difficult to forget Crowder’s comment about “no pretty girl.” Is he totally blind or not? To find out, an apologetic email followed. This is his reply for those who also may have wondered about Crowder’s disability.

“No problem! I cannot see anything.  My eyes, in fact, are prosthesis. I went blind just before I became a teenager.  Everything that was a problem with my eyes then could be fixed with today’s medical technology, if caught soon enough.

“Please do not hesitate to ask questions. It is better than making the wrong assumption. Despite some problems, life has been and will still be good for me!”

 

Want access to the very latest in agriculture news each day? Sign up for the Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

 

Now to the subject at hand; the status of California’s agricultural economy.

Western Farm Press covered many subjects with Crowder, starting with the overall state of the agricultural economy.

Farmers and suppliers tell Farm Press the past five years have been good economically to the point of being very good. Agree or disagree?

You are absolutely right. It has been very good for most, with a few exceptions. The drought a few years back is one. It was tough last year on a few people with weather issues like hail. However, it also made prices good for other people. Even though we have been through a bad recession in this country, the growth of the global economy has been good. This has increased the demand for what people want to consume like nuts, citrus and wine. This has benefitted California agriculture. Asia is a huge market for California products. Yes, the economy there is slowing. However, it is still growing at 7 percent to 8 percent, more than double the global average. That is still strong for what California farmers sell into Asia.