The Founder’s Harvest

FARMS Leadership | Sacramento Valley | Thursday November 12, 2020

Location(s) of Field Day:
Sierra Orchards – Winters, CA

Field Day Host(s) and Mentors:
Craig McNamara – Owner & Founder
Ramon Del Toro – Farm Manager
Sean McNamara – Farm Manager
Emily McNamara – Apprentice Farm Supervisor
Attila Kolozsi – Loading Supervisor & Farmhand

Theme:
Organic Walnut Production, Conservation, & Food Security

Summary of the Day:
The Sacramento Valley FARMS Leadership class commenced the 2020-2021 program a bit differently than previous years; Opting for a digital model that abides by the social-distancing safety standards necessitated by the Coronavirus pandemic. Students and teachers from Grant Union High School, Luther Burbank High School, and River City High School all joined Craig McNamara, owner of Sierra Orchards in a Zoom webinar for a screening of the virtual tour of his organic walnut orchard. In the post-tour Q&A session, one standout Junior of Luther Burbank, held Mr. McNamara to task with a battery of questions about his experience in the organic growing industry. FARMS Leadership students and a couple lucky teachers were provided Hands-On Learning Kits that included: organic walnut pieces, organic in-shell walnuts, crushed walnut shells, Sierra Orchards compost, organic cover crop mix, and a walnut grading sheet exhibiting the various defects that can befall the nutty legume; all complements of Craig McNamara and Sierra Orchards.


For more information or to view November’s Field Day, ‘click’ the YouTube link below:

¿¿ Drupe?? It’s ‘Drüp.

FARMS Leadership | San Joaquin Valley | January 16, 2020

Location of the Field Day:
Prima Noce Packing
16461 Comstock Road, Linden CA 95236

Partner(s):
Joseph Stacher – Production Manager for Prima Frutta

The San Joaquin Valley Prima Noce field day began in the packing facility’s break room. Following a quick sign-in, mixed-berry breakfast parfaits, and some much needed hot cocoa, we started with a big introduction circle. After our host, Joseph “Joe” Stacher formally welcomed us all to the Prima Noce compound, Joe led us to the Prima Noce cherry and walnut orchard. Given we were in the dead of winter, most all trees within view were bare because their harvest was already in full swing. Students, teachers, and FARMS staff were able to walk through the orchard while Joe provided some Prima Noce history and fielded student questions.

Following our host, we began to tour the Prima Noce grounds, surveying various machinery for harvesting and the maintenance shop for keeping those machines in tip-top.

Once inside the primary facility, we were required to undergo a sanitation process that consisted of usage of mandatory hairnets, hand-washing, and an under-boot wash.

Now that we were all were contaminant-free, Joe could lead us through the various processes necessary to bring these Prima Noce drupes to market. Sorting using lasers, grading and bleaching based on the market they were destined for, and of course the packing lines.

We ended this field day early because it began POURING rain outside. However, before our premature departure, we all enjoyed big bowls of vegetarian chili and creamy tomato basil soup with tangy vinaigrette salads garnished with Prima Noce walnuts. After a couple professional skills development exercises and an workshop on “the correct way” to crack a walnut, we concluded the Prima Noce tour with a big ‘thank you’ to our host and a ‘closing circle’ to reflect on all that we had learned.

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.