He was the noblest rancher of them all. Forced to choose between a Farm Bureau political stand he was publicly advocating or standing up for his wife, who was being insulted in print for publicly taking a different position, Mike Gale last week resigned as president of the rancher organization.

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Saying he “reacted as any husband would when his wife is unfairly attacked,” Gale had asked fellow directors of the Farm Bureau to oust the director who publicly insulted his wife; when they declined, he resigned.

After news of his resignation became public, even Mrs. Gale’s acrimonious critic, Farm Bureau board member Judy Borello, was quick to say Mike Gale had been a very good president. He had represented the organization well, had brought in organic producers, and was a congenial person, Borello said. With his wife Sally, Mike Gale (above) grows apples, along with raising beef and poultry, in Chileno Valley.

Borello, who owns the Old Western Saloon in Point Reyes Station and a beef ranch near Millerton Point in Marshall, also writes a column, Moo Town News, for The Coastal Post. In the November issue of the monthly publication, she excoriated Sharon Doughty of Point Reyes Station and Sally Gale for breaking with other ranchers during a Board of Supervisors’ discussion on whether to limit the size of ranchers’ homes.

helen-and-judy-august-102007-025.jpgCounty government had initially considered 4,000-square-foot limits, and Mike Gale on behalf of the Farm Bureau had opposed limiting the size of homes. The supervisors on Sept. 11 then raised the proposed maximum to 8,500 square feet.

(The saloonkeeper is seen last August during a party in the Western for bartender Helen Skinner.)

However, Doughty’s and Sally Gale’s warning of “McMansions” and “starter castles” replacing genuine ranching in areas zoned for agriculture “gave Supervisor Steve Kinsey the opening he’d been looking for,” Borello wrote.
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Two weeks ago, Kinsey “and the other supervisors reversed their Sept. 11 decision, voting instead to reduce the maximum size of houses on our expansive ag lands to 7,000 square feet — smaller than single houses allowed to be built on tiny lots in many Marin towns,” Borello complained. “Why would these two women have the nerve to come out against their (former) friends and neighbors like this? Because they think it will benefit them financially and at the same time garner favor with the government.” The two will benefit financially, Borello wrote, if they get county government to “hogtie” potential competitors.

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(Sally Gale stands in the garden of the once-decrepit, Victorian ranch house that she and her husband restored.)

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In a phone interview, Borello added that the Farm Bureau had been trying to speak to county supervisors with a “united” voice, and she felt Mrs. Gale had been “disrespectful” when she advocated limits on home sizes while her husband, as Farm Bureau president, was arguing against them.

In her column, Borello wrote that Doughty and Sally Gale “are harming the rights of their fellow ranchers, which I find totally distasteful and disgusting.” In the interview, however, she said, she was “sorry” that her column ultimately led to Mike Gale’s resignation.

Borello conceded during her interview that from a rancher’s perspective, Sally Gale “has been good on a lot of issues.” She had opposed a county proposal for creating public trails across ranches with no compensation to the rancher, and as a member of the Tomales Bay Watershed Council, she had defended ranchers from environmental regulators who displayed more zeal than knowledge. On the issue of home sizes, however, 90 percent of the Farm Bureau disagreed with Mrs. Gale, Borello wrote in her October column.

100_5524_1.jpgWhile Mike Gale and Borello agree the columnist has the right to express her opinions, Gale has written that Borello’s November column “crossed the line” into a personal attack on his wife.

In the column, Borello also accused Sally Gale of undermining ranchers’ “property rights,” and in his resignation letter to the Farm Bureau board, Gale responded, “Are we focused on looking out for the ranchers of West Marin or are we focused on property rights?”

The Farm Bureau “for years… was a model of progressive thinking and was respected. We… are now viewed as marginalized in terms of influence within the community,” Gale wrote.

Marin County Farm Bureau, he added, “can turn it around, but it will take time and a united effort to get there. [But] for me personally, it is over.”

(Gale is seen last month talking with Veda Radke, communications officer for the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, during his organization’s annual luncheon for Marin County politicos.)

Writing to this blog, Gale commented: “Very few choices in life seem so clear as the choice I had to make over the published attack on my wife Sally by Judy Borello, a member of the Farm Bureau board of directors. In her November column in The Coastal Post, she criticized Sally and fellow rancher Sharon Doughty for urging the Board of Supervisors to lower the house-size limitations in the Countywide Plan.

“As president of the Marin Farm Bureau, I spoke numerous times for removing limits, but Sally is not a board member; nor is she bound by its policies. As a thoughtful and independent thinker, she has a right to speak out anywhere or anytime she so desires, and I support her 100 percent.

“Borello’s written assault clearly crossed the line, and I reacted as any husband would when his wife is unfairly attacked: I looked for support for ousting Judy among the board leadership, but that failed to materialize so I sent in my letter of resignation.”

Replacing Gale as Farm Bureau president will be rancher Dominic Grossi.