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Stories from the valley

Deep Roots

Contributed by Jim Morris

I’ve had the good fortune to visit with many families in the Sacramento Valley who have spent generations hard at work. In a world of constant change, I find that continuity refreshing.

Take the Yerxa family, diversified farmers in Colusa County. I’ve visited them many times, to see seed crops harvested and prune orchards in bloom, among other subjects.

The youngest generation of this family farm, Mitchell Yerxa, says Yerxa Farms started soon after World War II, when his grandfather, Charles T. Yerxa, took the existing farm and grew it using money he won while playing poker while on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific.

River Vista Farms began in the late 1970s, with Woody and Kathy Yerxa, and took over the entire farming operation in 1991 following the Charles’ death.

Continuity extends beyond the farm family. For example, the Yerxas nurture hundreds of majestic oak trees on their ranc hland (a practice fortunately repeated by many other valley landowners).

One such tree, likely about two centuries old, stands tall along the Sacramento River in Colusa.

It was so impressive to see this mighty tree up close. Just a stone’s throw from the river and surrounded by farm ground, the oak provides amazing ambience. A historic, working barn is right next to it, which to me symbolizes how people and nature can co-exist. The farmer works the land each year to be as productive as possible, while at the same maintaining gigantic trees that will likely live on long past our generation.

Many of these historic oaks will drop acorns, some of which will grow up to replace trees that die out over time.

It’s symbolic of a broader, sustaining life cycle.

In the meantime, we enjoy the beauty and shade of these oak trees. I hope my kids and their kids will have the same or greater appreciation for a frequent view that shouldn’t be taken for granted.