Advocacy & Activism, Cesar Chavez, News

Henry Schacht Dies: Former Chronicle Farm Columnist

From SFGate.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer, 17 Apr 2011.


Henry Schacht's column ran in The Chronicle from the 1940s to 1981. Photo credit: Courtesy Schacht Family

Henry Schacht's column ran in The Chronicle from the 1940s to 1981. Photo credit: Courtesy Schacht Family

For decades, Henry Schacht did something many in California might deem impossible: He convinced Bay Area city slickers and Central Valley farmers to listen to each other.

“He really bridged the gap between farmers and the consumers,” said Len Richardson, editor of California Farmer journal. “He gave them each a voice, and they all respected him. He could do this because he was very likable, a gentleman’s gentleman.”

Mr. Schacht, longtime farm correspondent at The Chronicle and numerous local TV and radio stations, died March 30 at his home in Oakland. He was 95.

Mr. Schacht wrote thousands of dispatches about California farm life, on topics such as water politics, corporate takeovers of family farms, Cesar Chavez and migrant worker unions, the nuances of grape harvesting in Napa, pesticides and the environment, and how sometimes, for farmers, it all comes down to the weather.

“Agriculture plays such a huge role in California’s economy, but it never got much attention in urban areas,” said Mr. Schacht’s daughter, Linda Gage, of Berkeley. “He had a real desire to make urban audiences understand what was happening in rural California.”

Mr. Schacht was born in a small town in Iowa, where his family ran a lumberyard and a farm. He came to California in the early 1930s shortly after his older sister was admitted to UC Berkeley.

He, too, became a student there and his allegiance to Cal lasted a lifetime. He was editor of the Daily Californian and met his future wife, Mary, when she was editor of the Pelican humor magazine. They spent their honeymoon at the 1937 Rose Bowl, in which Cal defeated Alabama 13-0. It was Cal’s last Rose Bowl victory.

After graduation, with a degree in economics, Mr. Schacht’s devotion to Cal sports continued. In the 1950s, he lived a block from legendary Cal football coach Pappy Waldorf, and often met with Waldorf and various athletes to talk sports. He was a mentor to dozens of student-athletes, offering them encouragement, advice, even a place to stay if they needed it.

“He was the most genuinely kind, honest, intelligent man I’ve ever known,” said Paul Larson, Cal’s All-America quarterback during the 1950s and a lifelong friend of Mr. Schacht’s. “Everyone knew him and liked him. I know I was a small part of his life, but he was a big part of mine.”

Mr. Schacht’s first job was conducting an on-campus radio broadcast for an agriculture office at the university. He was quickly hired by the local NBC radio affiliate to do a morning farm report and eventually landed a column at The Chronicle.

His column – conversational, topical and filled with stories of people – ran in The Chronicle from the early 1940s until he retired in 1981. It appeared twice a week on the right side of the Business section front.

In one of his more memorable columns, Mr. Schacht waxed poetically about a herd of white cattle near San Luis Obispo.

“Equipped with wicked horns, they could jump like deer,” he wrote. “And as (deer) hide their fawns, so do the cows hide their newborn calves in brush and grass.”

Mr. Schacht was an avid outdoorsman and traveler, but his favorite spot was Little Bear Paw Meadow in Sequoia National Park. His family plans to scatter his ashes there this summer.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by a son, Henry John Schacht of Danville, and two grandchildren.

Donations can go to the Berkeley Public Library Foundation, 2090 Kittredge St., Berkeley, CA 94704.

No services are planned, but Mr. Schacht requested that family and friends raise a glass to him and his wife each year at the Big Game, Gage said.

E-mail Carolyn Jones at carolynjones@sfchronicle.com.

This article appeared on page D – 9 of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Source: SFGate.com, The San Francisco Chronicle, “Henry Schacht dies: former Chronicle farm columnist” by Carolyn Jones, Chronicle Staff Writer, 17 Apr 2011.

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