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A History of Success, A Future of Promise

​Alumni Hall of Fame

Jack W. DeWit

The Cultivator

The year was 1960, and Jacob “Jack” DeWit was an ambitious high school graduate with his eyes on escaping the cows of the dairy farm he grew up on among the fields of Corona, California. “The cows needed attention every day and I just didn’t like the cows,” recalls Jack, of his days tending to the herd where his father worked. What Jack did look forward to, was playing football at the collegiate level. Coming from a hardworking family who could not afford to send him to college, Jack had to make his own way. “I saw football as a key to opening doors,” he says.  “I looked at people with an education and for the most part, saw success.” Jack found his success at Santa Ana College.

After “succumbing” to the recruiting efforts of football coach Homer Beatty, says Jack, he signed on to become a Don. It had a winning tradition,” says Jack of SAC’s football program. “I didn’t know it at the time, but the coaches were superb in preparing us for the games, and the opposition. As history would show, Jack’s days at SAC were nearly sacked altogether.  Before suiting up for SAC, Jack went to Chaffey College down in the San Fernando Valley for a couple of days at the start of the football campaign in 1960. But athletic fate stepped in, tackling Jack’s plans to suit up for Chaffey. “There was a big guy there that bloodied my nose about three days in a row, and I said to myself, I’m going someplace else,” Jack recalls.

With a swollen nose literally adding insult to his injury, Jack headed back to Orange County with his hand in his helmet, hoping the coaches would welcome him back. They did. Back on the SAC team, along with sacking the opposition as an All Eastern Conference tackle, the future Santa Ana College Athletic Hall of Famer pursued a Business Administration degree. Initially, Jack punted around the idea of studying law, but with advice of his SAC counselors, he came to the realization that he’d be better suited for business. 

Both SAC’s academic and athletic coaches helped him plan his future. “They took me aside and said look, these are the things that you’ll need to be as successful as you can, and you can gain them right here at Santa Ana College,” says Jack. “The advisors gave preparation that made me feel empowered to accomplish the next step.” Though Jack didn’t hold dairy farming in high esteem growing up, he had long cultivated an interest in agriculture as a whole.

After enjoying Rose Bowl success as a SAC All-Star, Jack graduated in 1963. Post commencement, he accepted a football scholarship to the University of Colorado, but with the stark contrast of running on the beach in Orange County to trekking through snow in Boulder in play, Jack ran back to the beach. His second athletic and academic detour would once and for all, solidify his position as a Californian, and a farmer.

Back in Southern California with a newfound appreciation for the sun, Jack accepted an invitation to visit The University of California, Davis, to run the football field. There, he would ultimately helm the team as captain, and become an All Far West Conference champion, in addition to wrestling briefly. At Davis, Jack also dug deeper into the farming industry, enrolling in the school’s renowned agricultural business management program.

He graduated in 1966, and at the suggestion of a U.C. Davis teammate’s father, who believed Jack would be an asset to the rice farming industry, Jack interviewed at the second-largest rice Co-Op in California, the Farmers’ Rice Cooperative. While he didn’t get the position with the marketing organization, he later landed his first rice farming role at the Rice Growers Association.

After a decade there, Jack was recruited by former U.C. Davis classmate, Jack Anderson, as manager with his namesake company, Jack Anderson Andco Farms. Along with his seed sourcing and marketing expertise, Jack’s deep farming knowledge and expertise led the farm’s crop to wildly impressive growth, nearly 15,000 acres – a notable feat considering a typical rice crop comes in at 1200-1500 acres. “The successful rice farmer is going to be one who can market the crop at a price that’s necessary for profit, and survive,” says Jack.

Today, Jack and his wife of more than five decades, Bonnie, who Jack met and married when they were students at Santa Ana College, are thriving as owners and operators of DeWit Farms, a rice and wild rice farm. The 4,500 acres are located in Yolo, Sutter and Sacramento Counties. And with a nod to Jack’s farming beginnings, the company has grown into a successful family shop, with Jack’s sons, Michael and John holding key roles. Jack is also a partner in Pacific Laser, Inc., which provides GPS technology to support crop cultivation.

Farming has provided both professional success and personal gratification for Jack. Through his career and connections to former classmates, the United States Department of Agriculture invited him to be a part of the “Farmer to Farmer” program, working with farmers in underprivileged and underdeveloped regions of Africa. “It was an honor and a privilege to do something like that,” says Jack, on traveling to Kenya in 2010 and 2012, and later Tanzania, to educate, engage and enrich communities on rice and food production and water management. Despite his earlier detours, Jack has become a fixture in his Sacramento community.

For years, he’s served as deacon of his local church, Christian Reformed Church, which has extended his philanthropic endeavors, including a five-nation tour of Africa, as well as New Guinea, to provide communities with nutrition, crop planting and school assistance. “It’s been fun to be a part of something that will help people grow a better crop to take care of their families.” 

Through football, farming, and a strong educational foundation at Santa Ana College, Jack has cultivated a career that’s harvested many professional and personal achievements. For that, in large part, he credits Santa Ana College. “SAC helped prepare me for the future. The counselors, the professors all drove home the concept of being well prepared for challenges.” And in Jack’s case, to enjoy the rice, and fruits of his labor.