Mar 09, 2020
USA Rice extends condolences to the family and friends of Michael “Mike” Vernon LaGrande, who passed away last weekend, at the age of 76. He is survived by his wife, Cindy; son Ken and his wife, Julie; daughter Michelle; and grandchildren Andrew and Maxwell. His first wife, Kristine, died in 2016.
Mike was born in Woodland, California, on December 13, 1943, and grew up on a ranch on LaGrande Road in Colusa County where he still lived. He worked on the ranch his whole life, and after graduating from Chico State University, he and his brother, Ron, started LaGrande Farms where they grew tomatoes, row crops, and rice. They also had a cattle enterprise.
“I remember Mike saying rice farming and milling were his living but cattle farming was his passion,” said Steve Malin, a friend and colleague who worked for Anheuser-Busch. “He was a devoted family man and a great friend to many, and definitely a pioneer in his time.”
Mike was one of the founders of California Pacific Rice Mill, Foothill Warehouse, and in 1999, he and his son, Ken, created the Sun Valley Rice Company.
He was a past chair of the USA Rice Millers’ Association (RMA) from 2005-07, and served on several RMA committees and on the USA Rice Federation board from 2005-09.
Arkansas rice farmer Gary Sebree said, “Mike was a great advocate for the entire rice industry. He believed that unity made us strong and his commitment to the industry as a whole had an enormous impact on USA Rice. He was a true friend to me, and though he is no longer with us, he and his impact on the U.S. rice industry will not be forgotten.”
USA Rice President & CEO Betsy Ward remembers Mike fondly as “a straight shooter and a loyal supporter of both me and the industry. I could count on him for good counsel and for even better friendship. He was a great man and leaves a tremendous legacy for his children and grandchildren.”
A private funeral service is scheduled this week, and a memorial tribute to Mike is planned for this spring.