No he is not a Rock star, though he could entertain many in the country and the world with his numerous productions. His business is not located in the Silicon Valley where he'd be known for all the shows he appears on or his spending spree. He has no such motivation. In fact, he has no reason to show off. He lets his deeds talk for him. Talk they do! You know what? He does not care about having a public relations department in his company. The King Of California: J.G. Boswell and the Making of a Secret American Empire reveals 0ne of the richest farmers in the world. He sits on one of the greatest empires of our century. Yet, not too many people knew about it until Mark Arax and Rick Wartzman decided to go after this very private man, J.D. Boswell. To tell you that this empire exists in the richest farmland of the world where poverty and the standard of living are similar to any third world countries would be a great contradiction. James "Jim" Boswell is the owner of the more than 200,000 acres of the country's richest and most fertile land. He also breaks a few records along the way.
Where will you find the king of Cotton?
With more than 500 pages, this book is very fascinating. I was tempted to read it in one seating until my wife called me and the kids started making more noise giving me hints that they needed my undivided attention. The King Of California is interesting for many reasons. It gives the bare facts and the true stories about this not-so-glamorous parts of California. It's true that Southern and Northern California are often in the spotlight. Very rarely will you find the Central Valley in the news. Yet, with its productions, crops, and fruits, it's for ever closer than you'd ever think. Where do the best peaches, nectarines and plums come from? How about the fresh oranges, lemons that you buy at the grocery stores? They were plucked from our trees by hands of love that are mostly invisible. Not only is Jim the biggest cotton farmer in the world, he is also grows more wheat, safflower and see alfalfa than anybody else in the whole country. As I read the book, I could not help but paying attention to the relationship between agricultural wealth and the degradation of culture and environment. The authors did a good job of presenting the consequences of using massive applications of chemicals on the ecosystems. It's great that the authors did not dwell too much on the personality of this interesting, educated and rich gentleman. After all, for all those years, he managed to secretly create his persona and empire. "As long as the whale never surfaces, it is never harpooned," said somebody to the authors. That's how he managed to amass 200,000 acres of this precious land in the Kings County.
How did this "Old Cowboy" from the South set out to conquer a major portion of the West?
No, Jim did not just ride into the sunset. He preferred the sunrise. He saw cotton fields on the bed of the greatest lake west of the Mississippi River. He redesigned and re-wrote the history of Kings County. He became so powerful that he could build his empire on the bed of Tulare Lake which was once the largest freshwater lake in this area of the West. He went unimpeded about draining the lake and converting it to farmland. He managed to outmaneuver, negotiate or buy out the opposition. As if the draining was not enough, he managed to dam the rivers that flowed into Tulare Lake. Then, he got control of its waters. Now, according to the book's authors, water rights only could make him a multi-millionaire. Let's not kid ourselves. He was not the only one to seize control of this precious liquid gold in the Valley. To his credits, he was such a visionary to predict the importance of water in this arid land. As we say in the Valley, "Without water,there is no agriculture."
If you have a chance to get a copy, I would encourage you to so. The King of California is a very moving read. It's written by at least one of the trusted sons of the Valley. Mark Arax knows his subjects. He grew up amid the abundance of this agricultural wonder. He can't just sit around and see it disappear and gobble up by developers without doing anything. If this landscape is being poisoned by the excessive use of dangerous chemicals which can maximize crop output, he'll do something about it. This book shows the writers' passion for the landscape. In my mind, this book is one of the best landscape writing pieces I have ever encountered. Way to go, guys!