Almonds, rice and walnuts have formed the basis of an enduring partnership between Gary Anderson and Charles Demmer, Willows, Calif. Their Glenn County farm is located in part of the area of natural flatlands, which straddle the Sacramento River in northern California, and has proven to be a productive and profitable environment for a three-crop combination.

Together, these partners grow some 1,500 acres of rice, 600 acres of walnuts and 500 acres of almonds. They also rotate another 700 acres of ground between alfalfa, and row crops, like sunflowers, corn and dry beans, such as lima or kidney beans.

Before they began cutting back on their acreage in 2001, the two farmed on a much larger scale. “Due to poor prices for our row crops, we weren’t coming out ahead financially so we ended our leases on several ranches,” Demmer says. “Also we wanted to have more time to do a better job in our rice fields and orchards.” They, along with their full-time rice and orchard crews and some seasonal, help handle all the field work, except for rice seeding, spraying some of their herbicides and baling their hay.

Their partnership reflects not only their common interests in farming, but also their family ties. The business traces back to their father-in-law, Tom Ratliff, who began growing rice, sugar beets and other row crops near Bayliss in the early 1950s. “He began buying land in the 1960s and made some really good land acquisitions to get this ranch up and going,” says Anderson, who teamed up with Ratliff and Demmer in 1985. Demmer began farming with Ratliff 15 years earlier.”

Maintaining their successful partnership over the years has been a matter of paying attention to details. “It takes good management of all aspects of the operation,” Anderson says. “That also means watching expenses closely so that you don’t overspend here and there.”

Anderson and Demmer are satisfied with the current crop mix and size of their operation. Because of the availability of water from their irrigation district, they have no plans to reduce their rice acreage. The mix of walnuts and almonds helps spread the risks of poor weather or a poor market affecting one or the other of their nut crops. What’s more, the harvest activities of the three crops dovetail to minimize logistical challenges.

“In terms of acreage, we’re just about right,” Anderson says. “We’re not interested in expanding because we don’t want to spread ourselves too thin. What we have now keeps us both pretty busy.”