A 4th-Generation Orange Farmer, on Why He Sticks With It

"I was born in the grove. I was raised in the grove. I developed an intense dislike of farming in the grove." Yet after 20 years around the world he has come back.
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This afternoon Marketplace will have an American Futures report on Redlands, California. This smallish town still styles much of its identity around its orange-growing industry, even though its remaining groves are a tiny fraction of those that made this area the center of world navel-orange production through the mid-1900s.

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I expect that the report will include some comments from Bob Knight, who now actively farms some of Redlands's groves and has been leading efforts to develop better business models for the industry and prepare for the seemingly unstoppable spread of an insect-borne disease that has ravaged much of Florida's citrus groves. At top you see one of Knight's groves, with small younger trees, in the Crafton district on the east side of Redlands. At the end of this post you'll see him -- on the left, in brown shirt -- leading the visiting Marketplace and Atlantic team through an old-growth grove in San Timoteo Canyon, on the south side of town. 

Next week we'll hear more from Knight and others about the pest problem. For now, courtesy of Marketplace, here are some clips from his original interview that give a flavor of how he thinks about the role of this old industry in a growing town.

1) Two kinds of oranges. Knight explains the difference to Kai Ryssdal.

 

2) How the orange industry shaped the culture of this area. Why it relies less on migrant workers than other crops.

 

3) The economics of orange-growing. Why fruits costs more than ever, and farmers get less than ever -- and what they can do about it.

 

4) Why he came back. After 20 years in New York and around the world.

 

5) How people in this small town think of themselves.

Below you see Knight making these comments and showing off his trees. Listen in this afternoon for more from him and others. (Both photos by Deborah Fallows.)

 

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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