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Future Industry Leaders Begin Yearlong Almond Experience

MODESTO, Calif. — The Almond Board of California (ABC) today announced its 2019 Almond Leadership Program class. These 19 promising leaders represent diverse backgrounds across multiple industries, from almond growers, processors and food safety specialists to marketing experts, sales representatives and even a dentist who has a passion for farming. Almond Leadership Program participants will spend the next year growing in their roles as the future generation of California almond industry leaders. They will learn from volunteer mentors who will help equip program participants with the knowledge and experience necessary to improve their leadership skills, the industry and their communities. The class will complete specialized training in a wide variety of topic areas, many of which are tied to ABC activities in marketing, trade stewardship, scientific research, food safety and more. As a kickoff to the program, Leadership class members participated in a two-day orientation, which included a State of the Industry address from ABC President and CEO Richard Waycott and Chair of the Board of Directors Holly King. Waycott and King highlighted the Almond Orchard 2025 Goals and the almond community’s commitment to continuous improvement, which are cornerstones of this year’s Almond Leadership Program. As they progress through the program, Leadership members will gain a stronger understanding of how the social, economic and scientific issues facing our world today — combined with the current political climate — affect the almond industry. They’ll also learn how all sectors in the almond supply chain work together to provide a safe, sustainable1 product. Through monthly seminars that span topics reaching all aspects of the industry, Leadership members will sharpen their communication skills while building relationships that will span their careers. Each participant will also select an area of interest to explore as part of a yearlong self-directed project. These projects will all focus on ways to help advance industry knowledge, and some past projects even led to important breakthroughs for the industry. At the end of the year, one participant will be selected to present their project at The Almond Conference 2019, held this year at Cal Expo in Sacramento. “This program helps mold great people into even greater leaders — the leaders we will one day look toward to shape the future of the almond industry,” said Jenny Nicolau, senior manager, Industry Relations and Communications, ABC. “Each graduate from the Almond Leadership Program has gone on to be a leader of change in the industry or their community in some capacity, and this group will be no different. They are bright and talented, and obviously problem-solvers, and we are honored to be partners on this yearlong journey.” Over the past ten years, the Almond Leadership Program has graduated more than 150 participants and supported many key initiatives benefiting the industry. This year’s class will continue the tradition of raising funds for California Future Farmers of America (FFA) and has pledged to raise more than $20,000 in scholarships for high school students interested in pursuing agriculture in college. Members of this year’s class include: Maria Gabriela Chavarria, Harris Woolf California Almonds; Louis Brichetto, L.F. Brichetto Farming; Dominique Camou, Famoso Nut Company; Rocky Dhaliwal, Valley Pride Farming; Brian Erickson, Erickson Orchards; Haley Fields, Ali Cox & Company Marketing; Purnima Gupta, K&G Ranches; Joseph Jackson, Hillside Orchards; Falastine “Fill” Munoz, Grizzly Nut, LLC; April Nuckles, HarvestPort; Kristina Qualls, South Valley Almond Company, LLC; Brett Richesin, Alliant Insurance Services, Inc.; Dylan Rogers, AgroLiquid; Lucas Schmidt, Grow West; Victor Thao, Bank of America Merrill Lynch; Jerrett Thomason, Wells Fargo Food and Agribusiness; Chris VanderStoel, VanderStoel Farm; Connor Wagner, Wagner Land Company; and Chandler Wilson, NutriAg Group Ltd. [1] Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
2019 Almond Leadership Class
News Article
// About the Almond Board

Inside the California Almond Bloom | Fast Facts on Almonds and the 'Valley Snow'

From February to early March, the Central Valley sees a flurry of pink and purple petals come to life for the almond bloom.   Author: Eric Escalante   ESCALON, Calif. — Almond bloom season brings about a stunning display of pink and purple petals in orchards all around Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties.   When the bloom ends, these gorgeous petals fall and become what many refer to as the "valley snow."   Here are some fast facts about California's almonds and the almond bloom:   1. 90 percent of California almond orchards are family owned   Many almond farms in California are family owned and operated - about 90 percent, according to the Almond Board of California.   In Escalon, ABC10 visited a 40-acre orchard, which dates back to 1965, while the bloom was at its peak. The orchard was the result of an effort from Fred Veenstra and his brother-in-law, who planted their orchard's first generation of almond trees.    Even though Veenstra isn't around today, his granddaughter Danielle Veenstra has been around to continue the family work with the orchards.    2. "Cool, wet winters" and "warm, hot summers"   "That’s what California offers and that’s what almond trees need,” Veenstra said.   In addition to great soil and water, almonds benefit from the kind of climate California offers, which is why California grows 80 percent of the world's almonds.   Freezing temperatures aren't good for the crop during periods like the almond bloom.   “You can’t grow them in Wisconsin or Arizona or any place where you would potentially have that type of weather,” Veenstra added.   3. Different almonds for different occasions   According to Veenstra, about 40 percent of the almond industry almonds are "nonpareil" varieties. These are the snack nuts that have the most desirable taste, look, and texture.   Other varieties are grown and can often end up as a flavored snack nut, like those with Wasabi and Soy seasoning. Other varieties like the Butte-Padre produce a smaller nut that you'll probably find hidden inside a Hershey's Kiss.   A lot of varieties are grown but all are put to their best possible use. In Veenstra's orchard, she has at least three different varieties of almonds, which also helps pollination.   4. "They [professionals] can make almonds into anything"   Almonds can be made into marzipan, butter, flour, and a "milk." One of the more surprising creations Veenstra ever saw was an almond-based meatball.   “I’ve been on some of our tours with food professionals, and they can make almonds into anything,” Veenstra said.   The coproducts, like the almond shells, have been used an animal bedding but it also has the potential to be used as a reinforcement agent for plastics. Research is being done to these shells, where they get burned in the absence of oxygen and made into a charcoal-like powder, to help make recycled plastics stronger.   5. The "valley snow"   Bees collect pollen and nectar from blooming almond trees and rub against other flowers, pollinating them. Inside the flower, you get what will grow into a harvest ready almond around August.   “Every single almond that we eat is because a bee pollinated whatever flower that was on almond tree,” Veenstra said.   To get the valley snow, those beautiful pink and purple petals have to fall off the tree. Some varieties bloom and fall later than others, but they eventually create the 'valley snow' when they fall to the ground.    
In The News
// About the Almond Board, Almond Bloom and Bees

Beautiful Drone Video of Northern California Almond Blossoms | Bartell's Backroads

In Northern California, it's the time of year when almond trees come to life, and there are a lot of them, about 80% of the world supply comes from here. As John Bartell discovered, the blooms look amazing and the smell is something you have to experience yourself to appreciate.   Author: John Bartell Updated: 5:06 PM PST March 5, 2019   ESCALON, Calif. — It's almond blossom season in Northern California, and that means your Facebook and Instagram feeds will be stacked with flower-filled selfies. It’s a magical time, but it’s also a very important biological event.   Around Stanislaus and San Joaquin Counties, the almond bloom almost always starts the week of St. Valentine's Day.   Danielle Veenstra grew up on her family’s 40-acre almond orchard in Escalon. She says it’s a romantic time of year, but not necessarily for humans. Honey bees are actively out pollinating each tree.    "Every almond that we eat is because of these bees, so, if we didn't have bees, we wouldn't have almonds," said Veenstra. The bees in her orchard were put out at the beginning of February and will stay through March.   Almond trees need bees to move pollen from one flower to the next, and, to make sure that happens, the almond tree attracts the bees with vibrantly colored flowers and sweet smelling nectar.   The bees work fast. Within a matter of weeks, nearly every branch on every tree will be pollinated, and the orchard floor will be littered with beautiful pink and purple peddles.   "When they start dropping their peddles like this, you can actually see an almond inside," Veenstra added.   The almonds will be ready to harvest by mid-August but only if the flower buds don't freeze.   Aside from the yearly display, the blossoms also are a reminder of how important almonds are to our economy. About 80% of the worlds almonds grow in California, according to Veenstra. The bloom may be beautiful but it’s also one of our most important crops.
In The News
// About the Almond Industry, Almond Bloom and Bees

The Biggest Misconceptions and Myths About Almonds and Almond Farming

by Daniel Falconer Female First   There seems to be a trend in the media of big press going after the latest trends. Almonds have been popular for a few years now, and whilst they're loved by people across the globe, that hasn't stopped them from facing the glare of the critical spotlight. Whilst they're certainly not perfect (what is?), our recent trip to California and visit to almond blooms has really opened our eyes to the reality behind almond farming. Here, we take a look at some of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to the powerful little nut...   Growing almonds uses more water than any other crop   Dairy and livestock are actually considered to be far more water-intensive than crops such as almonds. The nuts (or seeds, if you want to be pedantic) actually use the same or similar levels of water as other California fruit and nut trees.   In fact, by 2025 the almond community have teamed up with the Almond Board of California to make a pledge, committing to reduce the amount of water they use to grow each pound of almonds by 20%. This is on top of the 33% reduction of water being used already successfully implemented!   Bees get nothing from working on almond blooms   Without bees, there would be no almonds. It's that simple! So, it's understandable that some may think farmers are bringing in bees simply for their own profit. What they fail to understand however, is that the first thing Californian bees gain nutrients from at the start of the year is almonds! The blooms provide all 10 of the essential amino acids that bees need to survive.   Almonds can be grown anywhere   Hmm, technically, but not as proficiently! There are only five places on the planet with the perfect Mediterranean climate that allows almond trees to thrive. California is one of the five, with central Chile, the Mediterranean Basin, the Western Cape of South Africa and the Western Cape of South Australia also providing a faultless location for growth.   Almond farmers are selfish   There's a misconception surrounding almond farmers that they are simply in this business for the money, and care about nothing else. After meeting female grower Christine Gemperle, as well as second and third generation father and son team Jim and Jason Jasper, we can categorically state that this is not the case. They are respectful, family-oriented hard workers who aren't afraid of getting their hands dirty. They live and breathe their businesses and the community, and really light up when talking about what they love.   Growing almonds leads to huge scales of waste   The California almond community have made a commitment to achieve zero waste in orchards by 2025, by putting everything that's grown to optimal use. Not only are the almonds taken from their hulls and shells, but those hulls and shells are also used in a number of beneficial ways rather than being sent straight to landfill. Researchers at the USDA-ARS Lab in Albany, California are currently experimenting with new ways to use hulls and shells, even showing us on a visit a piece of revolutionary plastic that was created using 40% almond materials!
In The News
// About the Almond Industry, Almond Bloom and Bees

Meeting the Female California Almond Farmer Who's Grabbing the Stereotype by the Nuts

by Daniel Falconer Female First   "When I go to conferences, there's never a queue for the women's bathroom!" So says female almond grower and hobbyist beekeeper Christine Gemperle, for whom farming is in her blood. As the daughter to a man who has been farming almonds since the early 1970s, Christine grew up around hard work and labour, and so when she got the opportunity to set up her own operations alongside her brother Erich in 1997, she jumped at the chance.   From an outsider's point of view, the world of farming is thought to be heavily dominated by men. Whilst Christine's comments about conferences may prove that to be true, there are incredible women just like her who are paving their own way in the industry, and inspiring others to do the same.   We joined Christine at her almond blooms in California, where she explained: "[About eight years ago] I started going to the conferences and getting involved in the industry and initially I was a little bit overwhelmed. I was like, ‘God, it’s all guys here!’; I felt like people maybe overlooked me and thought I didn’t know what I was talking about, and the truth is I didn’t know what I was talking about! But, I caught on really quick.   "Number one thing – never think you know everything, because then you can’t learn anything at all. So I took that perspective and went forward and I would just go in and ask people anything, I didn’t care, I just wanted the information. I think they respected that."   Despite her initial trepidation, Christine says that she is treated well by the majority of men in her field.   “It’s a really great industry to be in as a female,” she says. “I find that a lot of these guys in this business are pretty enlightened when it comes to it, and respectful, absolutely. I’m proud of our boys. There’s always gonna be the ‘good old boys’, but they’re like 70, and you deal with that!”   Of the “enlightened” men however, Christine adds: “They’re pretty progressive. I don’t know if that’s because it’s California – we’re a little bit different out here – but there’s a lot of women in our industry. The chairman of the Almond Board is a woman! Gosh, go through the offices at the Almond Board, there are tonnes of women, they’re working and they all come from farming families and they are very well-educated. “That’s another thing in this business. As a female, usually the women that are really the standouts in the business are incredibly well-educated women. It’s nice to be a part of that, I have to say.”   Christine also recognises that without bees, there would be no almonds. That's why, alongside her work as a full-time grower, she's a hobbyist beekeeper.   Having just finished potting up her last jars of honey for the season, Christine explained how she and other farmers like her work with the bees to make the most out of what both have to offer to one another. The first thing that bees consume in California at the start of the year is almonds, which provide all 10 of the essential amino acids that the friendly little helpers need! It's a brilliant cycle of giving and getting back, and so growers such as Christine do their all to ensure the good health of their miniature workers.   "I look at the relationship between beekeepers and almond farmers as symbiotic in many ways," Christine says. "Being a hobbyist beekeeper as well as an almond farmer enables me to see issues from both sides. Over the years, we have changed our farming practices and planted forage to promote bee health and nutrition because, at the end of the day, stronger hives can produce bigger crops."   The number of honey bee hives across the United States is currently at a 20-year high, though beekeepers are still experiencing some significant in-season losses. The Almond Board of California is continuing to fund research into delving deeper into these areas, helping to combat the threats that bees are facing.
In The News
// About the Almond Board, Almond Bloom and Bees
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