Mexican and Spanish land grants created massive ranchos years before California became part of the United States. Later the Gold Rush lured the ambitious and adventurous from all over the world. One such dreamer was Heinrich Alfred Kreiser, a poor butcher who left his home in Germany and immigrated to New York City in 1846. Heinrich made his way to California in 1850. He renamed himself Henry Miller and soon built up a thriving butcher business in San Francisco. In 1858 he partnered with Charles Lux, a fellow German immigrant and a former competitor. The Miller and Lux company expanded rapidly, vertically integrating from meat products to cattle raising. They became the largest producer of cattle in California and one of the largest landowners in the United States, owning over one million acreas directly and controlling nearly 22,000 square miles. Like a scene out of the “Lonesome Dove” movie they trailed cattle all the way from Texas to stock their ranch, headquartered in Los Banos, on the west side of California’s San Joaquin Valley where Miller played a major role in the development of much of the Central Valley.
The Miller and Lux Corporation did not long survive his death, though his family reorganized their share of the holdings and are still engaged over 6 generations later. From these beginnings the Bowles Faming Company was formed in 1965. Today one of Henry Miller’s Great, Great, Great, Great Grandchildren Cannon Michael is continuing the enduring farming tradition with a progressive Vision stating: “We farm with both organic and conventional techniques and strive to produce food and fiber in the most ethical and environmentally friendly ways possible. We also manage habitat areas that are key resources for our local ecosystem as well as for migrating waterfowl. … “Sustainability” is part of everything we do…. not just a catch-phrase … it is a way of life”. To learn how this descendant ranch of the Henry Miller’s million acre spread preserves and promotes sustainability today we set down around a desk at Bowles Farming Company headquarters near Los Banos to visit with Executive Vice President Derek Azevedo and Senior Farm Analyst Curtis Garner. www.bfarm.com