The Dougherty family has been involved in agriculture in the Sutter Basin, near Robbins, since the before the Great Depression. Neil F. Dougherty came to the area in 1920 after graduating from the UC Berkeley College of Agriculture and then serving in World War I. He was employed as Assistant Agricultural Superintendent for the Sutter Basin Corporation, where he was responsible for testing all of the soils in the area. He later became Agricultural Superintendent. When the company liquidated its holdings, Neil purchased 1,700 acres of good, irrigated land and began farming. Upon his death in 1957, his son-in-law Bill Dougherty, a graduate from West Point and a fighter pilot in the Korean War, took over the operation. Bill grew rice and wheat at that time.
In the late 1970s, Bill’s sons Neil and Dan began working on the ranch too. Neil worked on the farm while getting his BS in Agricultural Economics at UC Davis and was later joined by his older brother Dan, who had graduated from the Air Force Academy.
Until Neil and Dan began farming, Dougherty Farms was primarily a rice growing operation. They expanded the business, established Dougherty Brothers, and increased the size of the farm. Neil and Dan were early innovators and the first farmers in the area to use lasers to level the land and adopt drip irrigation. Now, in addition to rice, they produce tomatoes, sunflowers, corn, beans, and vine seed. They are also certified organic growers.
Neil and Dan quickly learned that irrigating tomatoes on rice ground was tricky. Although the heavy clay soils produce a sweeter tomato, it takes great care to keep the plants alive in that soil type and they have spent many years working to improve their methods. Today they use GPS technology to guide tractors, monitor yields, and calibrate fertilizer and chemical applications. This allows them to reduce the number of passes through the field, which saves fuel, maximizes efficiency and reduces fertilizer and chemical usage. These tools have enabled them to increase their tons per acre while decreasing their water usage and inputs. Being as efficient as possible with their resources and leaving the ground in better condition than they found it is a tenant of Dougherty Brothers and Neil and Dan continue to look for new ways to achieve that goal.
These values fit in perfectly with Pacific Coast Producer’s goal of being the best high-quality, low-cost producer of canned fruit and tomatoes.