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Growing More Than Crops

Growing More Than Crops

Bob Viets thought he retired in December of 2007. His friends gave him a big sendoff. The backslaps and speeches made the longtime Coalinga farmer misty-eyed. Now Bob finds himself running another farm - Third Chapter Farms - as in, the third chapter of his life.

"I've fished less and gotten less stuff done this past year than when I was working full time," Bob said in an interview shortly after his retirement.

He also found it impossible to retire in another sense: His name will live in perpetuity thanks to longtime friend and former business partner, Brad Gleason. Brad established the Bob Viets Agriculture Studies Endowed Scholarship at the West Hills Community College Foundation, where he sat on the board.

The scholarship is to benefit students at the Coalinga campus. Brad's gift of $25,000 was a tribute to his partner upon his retirement from farming -allegedly - Dec. 17, 2007. Yes, Bob officially retired, but a true farmer can't keep his hands out of the soil. After moving to a 50-acre property at a 4,500-foot elevation at Lake Almanor, east of Chico, Bob bought land in Vina, located on the floor of the Sacramento Valley, and is growing 40 acres of plums there - for fun, he says.

Bob was blown away by the endowment Brad set up. "It's a super deal," says the father and grandfather. "It's beyond me. It's something you can't buy."

A portion of income earned from the fund will finance scholarships for deserving students now and in the future. Ideally, the fund will grow in the range of 6 - 7 percent per year," Brad said. "The money will help a scholarship recipient pay for books and tuition in the amount of $1,200 to $1,500 a year."

A true partnership

Brad and Bob met in 1986, when both were part of the Allen Farm organization. Brad, a former CPA, was the controller and Bob ran operations. While there, they used bonus money to buy their own property. They started with 320 acres, forming Double B Farms. Their first crops were cotton, barley and wheat. Double B Farms grew to 3,000 acres of row crops and evolved into 2,500-acres of permanent plantings, including almonds and pistachios. The friends formed other farming-related ventures over the years.

For at least two decades, Bob had a close affiliation with the WHC Coalinga's Farm of the Future, donating his time and expertise to students and faculty. He always kept up on the latest science and technology, such as irrigation schedules and pest-control management, and he remained passionate
about education.

That affiliation will be remembered in perpetuity, thanks to the endowed scholarship fund that was established by Brad Gleason. Students at West Hills College Coalinga will long remember Bob Viets as a visionary agriculturist who realized the value of education as well as hard work.