After an exhausting day of work, George McArthur watches the sun sink below the horizon in the sleepy Fall River Valley, just as his great-grandfather did in the 1880s. Though times have changed in the town that was named after his ancestors, the landscape retains the same serenity that has kept the McArthurs anchored there for more than a century.
It’s a lifestyle – and a location – that the fourth-generation rancher chose for himself many years ago. “When I was a young kid, maybe 14 or 15, I decided I wanted to be a rancher in the Fall River Valley,” McArthur said. “I went to Chico State and got my bachelor’s degree, and I’ve been all over the world – India, Africa, South America – but this is where I still want to live. My son is 21 and is in the Marines, and he could have spent Christmas anywhere in the world, and he wanted to come to McArthur.”
Theirs is a “seasonal life,” he said. “In the spring, the calves are born and we plant our crops. In the summer, we irrigate and make hay. In the fall, you’re shipping your big cattle and getting ready for winter. In the winter, we start getting ready for spring again. It’s a year-round type of life for us,” McArthur said.
In the late 1800s, John McArthur, the founding father of the town of McArthur, settled in the area and started his dried goods business. In 1963, his grandson, John McArthur, and his wife Shirley launched McArthur Farm Supply out of their barn. George and his wife, Christine, have owned the business since 1991. It’s a privilege and lofty responsibility to help keep their fellow farmers and ranchers’ operations rolling. “We get to deal with them daily as our neighbors, and we deal with them daily as customers,” McArthur said.
Particularly in a small town, customer service is king. The McArthurs take this to heart. “When you lose a customer in a small town, you probably lose them for life,” he says.
They’re proud to take good care of their employees, not just with a paycheck but by investing in technology and training. They’re also proud to care for their environment – wetlands and deer management programs are among the ways they work as custodians of the earth.
Today’s Fall River Valley has evolved from the place where his great-grandfather chose to set his roots. “Now, there are fewer farmers and more modernization,” McArthur said. “There used to be two or three farm families where now there is one. There are fewer farm kids. It’s too bad, because country kids are ready to step into the real world and compete.”
However, the amenities that lure visitors to the valley are also many of the things that the McArthurs enjoy. “My mom is 77, and she goes to a world-class golf course that wasn’t there when she was growing up,” McArthur said. “You put $20 on the honor system into a coffee can and you play. Where in the world can you do that?”
The McArthurs keep a ski boat on the river in summer, and when winter falls, they ice skate on a frozen pond. Reflecting on the place his family has called home for five generations, he mused, “We get to live and work in a place where people come to vacation.”