The new president of Bowles Farming Company carries the weight of overseeing an 11,000-acre farm during California’s water crisis, increasingly onerous regulations and environmental restraints, plus realizing he is the sixth generation to lead the Los Banos-area farm.

Cannon Michael took the farm’s helm Jan. 1.

He never studied agriculture in college as he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with an English degree. Michael understands the business aspects and relies on his team of farm managers to run the agronomic side of the business.

 

 

Despite ties to the historical heyday of Miller & Lux, who purchased huge swaths of land to support cattle ranching during their transformational imprint on the western U.S., Michael had a lot to learn when he hitched his future to the enterprise in 1998 after working in business for five years in Atlanta, Ga.

Over the past 15 years, he has worked a variety of jobs and shadowed his uncle, Phillip Bowles, to gain a solid understanding of the nuances and challenges that he could face if chosen to carry on the family legacy.

 

Want the latest agricultural news each day? Click here for the Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

 

“It was never a given that the job was mine, but as the oldest male child and with my older sister not interested in taking over, I was given the opportunity to earn the position,” Michael said.

The family has a long history in California. Michael’s great-great-great-grandfather was Henry Miller, a penniless German immigrant, whose partnership with Charles Lux built up landholdings to a million-plus acres.

Miller was focused on building a cattle ranching dynasty. Due to his personality, he did not see a need to develop a succession plan near the end of his life, according to Michael. By that time, most family members, who were enjoying the wealth and lavish lifestyle the city had to offer, were not inclined to take over.

 

 

The intervening years were disrupted by the San Francisco earthquake which destroyed the partners’ city feedlots, Miller’s death in 1916, developing new leadership to guide the landholdings, and the eventual breakup of the Miller-Lux property in the 1960s. This reduced the Miller side of the ranch to the current size.

While the operation started as land to raise cattle, it is now wholly dedicated to growing cotton, fresh market and processing tomatoes, field crops, and other commodities. Michael says future economic opportunities may include solar, aquaculture, and new crops.