Kick off to the 2019-2020 Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program!

Sierra Orchards and Mariani Nut Company

FARMS Leadership Program: Sacramento Valley: October 24th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Winters, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Craig McNamara – Owner and Manager, Sierra Orchards
Gus Mariani – Operations Manager, Mariani Nut Company Max Mariani – Production Manager, Mariani Nut Company

Theme: Walnut Production and Sustainability

Summary of the Day:

The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program kicked off the 2019-2020 program year at Sierra Orchards in Winters, CA. Sierra Orchards is home to Craig McNamara who founded the FARMS Leadership Program in 1993. The field day began with an introduction to the Program and the Farm followed by activities to introduce the students from different schools to one another. The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership Program is made up of students from 5 high schools in the Sacramento and Yolo counties; Luther Burbank, Grant Union, Sacramento, River City, and Esparto High Schools.

After the activities concluded the group headed on down the road to Mariani Nut Company. We were greeted by Gus and his nephew Max Mariani who work at and manage the facility. They gave us an overview of the family owned company and then took us on a tour. We were able to see the different stages of production from when the walnuts were dropped off in shell to how they are sorted and processed. They sell walnuts and almonds all over the world in different forms including in shell, sliced, whole, flavored, etc. You name it and they probably have a market for it. The students were then able to work on the factory line and help the quality control team sort walnuts.

Following our tour of Mariani Nut Company we headed back over to Sierra Orchards where we were met by Craig McNamara. Craig gave an overview of Sierra Orchards and then took the Sac Valley FARMS group on a tractor ride tour of the property. We went out into the orchard and were able to see the crew harvesting as well as visit the huller and see walnut shipments come in and be sorted and dried.

Access to the Best Walnuts in the World!

FARMS Leadership Program: San Joaquin: February 14th, 2019

Location of Field Day: Linden, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:

  • Jennifer Williams – Marketing Director for California Walnuts
  • Joseph Stacher – Production Manager for Prima Frutta
  • Katie Arce – Walnut Quality Control for Prima Noce

Theme: Walnuts and Ag Technology

Summary of the Day:

For our fifth field day of the 2018-2019 year we headed to Prima Noce in Linden California to learn about Walnut production and processing and the technology used in this booming industry. With the anticipation of upcoming rain showers we began our field day inside the break room of the apple processing building at Prima Frutta (the fruit processing division of the Prima company).  Once we finished our ice breakers and the students all finished their breakfast Jennifer Williams, the Marketing Director for California Walnuts introduced her self and joined us for the day at Prima Noce. Since there was a break in the rain in the morning we then headed outside for a tour of the orchards and processing facilities lead by Joseph Stacher the Production Manager for Prima Frutta.

While out in the orchards the students were able to see different varieties of walnut trees. We were also able to learn about the different stages of production between the various orchards and also the different styles of growing walnut trees including the grafting process. Joseph gave us a great over view of how things are managed at Prima Noce and the history of the company and then Jennifer gave her insight on how they compared to the walnut industry as a whole.

After leaving the orchard we toured the walnut processing facilities. The students put on hair nets and washed up at the high tech washing stations and then we were able to see all stages of Prima Noce’s production line. We saw everything from in shell walnuts, chopped walnuts, sliced walnuts to the packaging of walnuts. After finishing the tour of the walnut processing facilities we then tour the cherry processing facility which is gearing up to begin again in April and the apple processing facilities which is just wrapping up their season. We finished our tours just as the rain began to pick up and we headed back into the break room where we began our day.

The students took a break for lunch and then Joseph introduced Katie Arce, the woman in charge of Walnut Quality Control for Prima Noce. They taught the students how quality control works in the walnut industry and then the students were split into groups and able to work on sorting 100 walnuts in trays based on quality.