Almond Board of California Announces 2024 Elections

Courtesy of the Almond Board of California 

Elections for the Almond Board of California (ABC) Board of Directors will launch for the 2024-2025 crop year on Friday, Feb. 9 with the call to all candidates to file their petitions or declarations of candidacy by April 1, 2024.

The industry will choose people to hold two independent grower positions and two independent handler positions on the ABC Board of Directors in voting that starts April 22 and ends May 23. Alternate seats for those spots are also open.

To be considered for an independent grower or alternate seat, candidates must be a current grower and must submit a petition signed by at least 15 independent almond growers (as verified by ABC). Independent handler and alternate candidates must declare their intention in writing to ABC.

All details, documents, open positions, the election timeline and deadlines, and frequently asked questions can be found at All petitions and declarations must state the position for which the candidate is running and be sent to or printed and mailed to ABC, 1150 Ninth St., Suite 1500, Modesto, CA 95354. The deadline for all filings is April 1. Potential candidates who’d like more information can contact ABC at

“The ABC Board of Directors is tremendously important to the success of our industry,” said ABC President and CEO Clarice Turner. “More than 7,600 growers and 100 handlers count on them to guide the work of the Almond Board and to help the industry navigate these complicated times and work toward a positive future.”

The ABC board sets policy and recommends budgets in major areas, including marketing, production research, public relations and advertising, nutrition research, statistical reporting, quality control and food safety.

Getting involved provides an opportunity to help shape the future of the almond industry and to help guide ABC in its mission to promote California almonds to domestic and international audiences through marketing efforts, funding and promoting studies about almonds’ health benefits, and ensuring best-of-class agricultural practices and food safety.

ABC encourages eligible women, minorities and people with disabilities to consider running for a position on the Board of Directors to reflect the diversity of the industry it serves.

2024-02-08T10:40:51-08:00February 8th, 2024|

Clarice Turner: Almond Growers Dig In to Find What the Best Practices Are

There is a Halo that Surrounds Almonds

By Patrick Cavanaugh, with the Ag Information Radio Network

Clarice Turner, a ninth-generation California farming family will take the reins of the Almond Board of California at the end of this month, after Richard Waycott steps down after 21 years.

Turner comments on how she prepared for this job, traveling throughout the state in listening sessions with growers and others in the industry. “It’s interesting as I talk to people outside the industry, you realize the halo that almonds have, and how we are so revered as being the leading edge in so many things. And talking to growers you hear that reinforced from people who want to be 100 percent organic to biodynamic,” said Turner.

“Growers told me that they have been farming the same ground for four generations and we have been taking care of the soil, and it is not certified to do any of that, but we know what we know because we have generations to protect. We want to hand this down to our families that will come beyond us,” noted Turner. “So, their care and stewardship are there and they want to dig in to find out what the best practices are.”

And Turner credited almond growers with something very special regarding bees. “This was astounding to me when you think about bees, 86 percent of the bee-friendly certified farms are almond orchards. It’s incredible, all the things that are already happening because it’s the right thing,” she said.

2023-12-19T08:55:26-08:00December 19th, 2023|

UCCE Advisor Bruno Guides, Learns From Dairies Switching to Milking Robots

Courtesy of UC ANR News

Automatic milking systems increasingly used in California amid labor challenges

When third-generation dairy farmer Shonda Reid first saw a milking robot at a farm show 13 years ago, she immediately recognized that the technology represented the future. Her father, however, took a bit more convincing.

“I came home and showed him and said, ‘This is what we need to do.’ And he thought I was kidding!” said Reid, dairy and farm manager for Fred Rau Dairy, which has a herd of 1,400 milk cows in Fresno County.

Years later, after the family had visited several dairies using automatic milking systems (AMS) across the U.S., they installed their first six robots in November 2021. By fall 2022, they had 24 robots, evenly split between two newly built “free stall” barns where the cows can freely go to the milking machines.

As Fred Rau Dairy was one of the first in California to implement AMS at such a scale, Reid and her team have been instrumental in growing practical knowledge on these systems. She also has been a valued partner to Daniela Bruno, University of California Cooperative Extension dairy advisor for Fresno, Madera and Kings counties.

“Automatic milking robots are not a new technology, but it’s new to California,” said Bruno, noting that the milking robots were first used on small, family-run farms in Europe, where the technology granted family members more time for rest and other pursuits.

To better understand the feasibility of milking robots for large dairies in California, Bruno – alongside former UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor Fernanda Ferreira, University of Minnesota researcher Marcia Endres and other collaborators – began a project in 2020 to study the risks and opportunities of automated systems.

“The information is extremely useful for California producers to make informed decisions about implementing AMS on their facilities,” said Denise Mullinax, executive director of the California Dairy Research Foundation, which supported the effort through a competitive grant. “Cow care, labor requirements and profitability are key issues for producers, and CDRF was pleased to support this project which assists producers in understanding how AMS may impact those areas on their facility.”

Dairy farmer: ‘We needed to make some changes’

The project produced a paper analyzing existing research on automatic systems, which have been more widely used in the Midwest, where there are more small-scale, family-run dairies. In 2020, there were only 14 “box robots” in California, according to Bruno. Now there are about 200 across California – and both Bruno and Reid cited labor challenges as the primary reason for the increased use of automated systems.

“California suffers from labor quality and quantity issues,” Bruno said. “By bringing robots to California, you can minimize those problems.”

Higher costs of hiring and retaining employees, driven in part by new labor laws, are one factor. And then there’s the reliability and availability of labor, as fewer people are willing to do the physically demanding work of conventional milking.

“People just don’t want to milk in a flat barn [a conventional setup where the employee works at the same level as the cow] – there’s a lot of kneeling, squatting, that type of thing – it’s pretty tough on the body,” Reid explained.

Faced with labor shortages and mounting regulatory burdens, Reid said Fred Rau Dairy had to make the leap to automated systems to keep the 80-year-old dairy operation running.

“We needed to make some changes, or we’re going out of the dairy business,” she said.

In a survey conducted by Bruno and her colleagues of large dairies using AMS across the U.S., a majority of the 29 respondents reported reductions in labor costs – but survey results did not offer a definitive picture on whether AMS improved bottom-line profitability.

Calmer, healthier cows

Nevertheless, most of the survey respondents said they were generally happy with their transition to automatic systems.

“It’s totally met our expectations, and cow health has gotten much better, too,” Reid said.

In a typical conventional system where cows are outside in “open corral” pens, dairy employees must cajole the cows into the milking parlor. But within a “free stall” barn where the cows can voluntarily go to the milking robots when they want, as often as they want, the animals are much less stressed.

“When you think about cow handling, if you have robots, you don’t have anybody pushing and screaming at them to walk to the parlor,” Bruno explained. “You have less cow-people interaction so they are more calm; there is less stress.”

In the survey of large dairies using milking robots, more than 90% of the respondents said their cows were calmer. Reid also noted that many people have noticed how calm their cows are in the free stall barns.

“They’re not skittish, you can walk in and they don’t run,” Reid said. “They’ll just watch you or they’ll even come up and start licking on your jacket or shirt.”

Bruno also said that many of the large dairies reported fewer cases of mastitis and other diseases, less lameness, and greater milk production. But she added it’s hard to know whether the benefits can be attributed to the robots and their real-time monitoring technology – or to changes in the physical environment (cows save energy in the free stall barn setup, versus the open-corral system that requires walking to the milking parlor).

Dairy producers seek counsel on potential transition

Less bovine travel from outside to inside was a boon for Fred Rau Dairy during last year’s unusually wet winter.

“Even if it’s just a couple of weeks of rain, that mud and manure and everything – you do what you can, but oh my gosh – it’s a mess,” said Reid, noting that easier facility maintenance during extreme weather was another benefit of switching to automatic systems within free stall barns.

Reid shared many of her experiences with attendees of an AMS Field Day in October 2022, arranged by Bruno, Ferreira and their collaborators. About 60 farmers, researchers, industry representatives and consultants visited Fred Rau Dairy and Jones Dairy in Merced County.

If a dairy producer is considering implementing automatic systems, Reid recommends that they research all their options, visit dairies that use the systems, and check who in their area would be providing service and technical support.

And there are crucial workforce considerations, as dairy workers must learn an entirely new set of skills and processes. Instead of spending their time fetching the cows, prepping them and milking them in the parlor, workers might need to gather and interpret data from the robots. “Cow people,” as Reid puts it, must become computer people.

“You have a group of people who have been with you for a while, and you hope that they can transition to the new technology of what you’re doing,” Reid said.

During this technological transition, and on the myriad other challenges that dairy operators face, Reid said she is grateful for Bruno’s expertise and responsiveness.

“If there’s something that I need, she’s been really good about trying to help – or putting me in contact with the right people,” she explained. “I’ve enjoyed working with her.”

The AMS project team also includes UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine professor Fabio Lima, postdoctoral researcher Thaisa Marques and former postdoctoral researcher Camila Lage.

2023-12-08T08:27:10-08:00December 8th, 2023|

Two Crime-Fighting Canines Share Prize as California’s Top Farm Dog

Courtesy of Peter Hecht

Waylon and Willie, two rescue dogs who helped protect a Tulare County farm from crime, have earned the $1,000 Grand Prize in the third annual California Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year Contest.

 The award was announced during the 105th California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Reno.

 Waylon and Willie are Great Pyrenees and Doberman Pinscher mixed breeds. They were found as gangly puppies in an impoverished area of Tulare County and wound up in an overpopulated animal shelter and then foster care.

 Ultimately, the dogs helped rescue—and protect—the farm of Zack Stuller, whose exeter ranch of nearly 3,000 acres of row crops and fruit and nut trees had become a target for criminals. Stuller experienced 14 burglaries in a few years, including one truck stolen three different times and nine catalytic converters taken off trucks in broad daylight. He had tried everything to deter nighttime thefts, including security systems, fences, alarms and even a night guard.

 But after Waylon and Willie moved in to a heated, insulated doghouse as “ag security personnel,” the large, loud and happy dogs completely shut down criminal activity. At night, the boys have been caught on camera chasing away potential intruders and carefully scanning the landscape from atop vehicles parked on the ranch.

 “If you met them, you would probably say there is not an aggressive bone in their body,” Stuller said of his two crime fighters. “But a bad guy at midnight meeting two, 150-pound dogs standing over 6 feet tall on their back legs with a bark as loud as a freight train, might be persuaded otherwise.”    

 Besides taking a healthy bite out of crime, the two dogs dubbed “The Outlaw Brothers” also became renowned for their mischief, which has included teaming up to eat a bag of dry concrete mix, delivery packages, Halloween candy and a Fitbit watch that was once destined to be a Christmas gift.

 The California Farm Bureau Farm Dog of the Year Contest, sponsored by Nationwide, asked Farm Bureau members to submit photos and a brief story about their beloved dog.

 The first runner-up, Gus, a McNab who works as a cattle dog in Amador County, earned $500 for Joel Allen. The second runner-up, Megan, a border collie who herds livestock and chickens in Siskiyou County, earned $250 for Melanie Fowle-Nelson. The third runner-up, Jackson, an Australian shepherd who works at the Sunny Hills High School farm in Orange County, earned $100 for Brian Kim.

2023-12-04T15:47:24-08:00December 4th, 2023|

Horticulture Teacher Wins ‘Outstanding Educator Award’

Courtesy of Peter Hecht

A Sacramento-area teacher who created a garden and horticulture program to introduce students to agriculture has been honored with the “Outstanding Educator Award” presented by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

Kevin Jordan, a science and horticulture teacher at Leo A. Palmiter Junior and Senior High School in the Sacramento County community of Arden-Arcade, received the award at the 105th California Farm Bureau Annual Meeting in Reno.

Jordan, who has worked at the school for 14 years, was also recently named the 2023 Teacher of the Year by the Sacramento County Office of Education.

A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Jordan built an urban oasis to provide students with a hands-on understanding of growing food. “A school garden is truly a magical place that contains endless opportunities for students to explore, discover, create and grow,” he explained.

Jordan has also created and hosts agricultural-themed programs, including the Field Trippin’ YouTube channel and the Green Acres Garden Podcast.

“Understanding agriculture and where our food comes from helps students appreciate all aspects of food production in California,” Jordan said. “Laying the foundation for students’ passion in agriculture improves their opportunities for pursuing a higher education and paves the way for a potential job in the agriculture industry.”

“Kevin is a true advocate for agricultural education,” said Judy Culbertson, executive director of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom. “His dedication and enthusiasm shines through in his classroom in ways that impact his students now and in the future. We are excited to work with Mr. Jordan as our ‘Outstanding Educator’ this year and look forward to seeing his school garden project flourish.”

2023-12-04T15:43:51-08:00December 4th, 2023|

Farm Bureau President Urges Support to Sustain Farming

Courtesy of Peter Hecht

The leader of California’s largest agricultural organization today called on lawmakers to work to sustain agriculture well into the future by securing water supplies and rejecting policies that merely ask farmers and ranchers to be resilient in the face of unaddressed challenges.

Speaking before the 105th Annual Meeting of the California Farm Bureau in Reno, Farm Bureau President Jamie Johansson outlined “extraordinary events that have put all of California farmers and ranchers at risk.”

He noted the impacts of a three-year drought that resulted in the fallowing of more than 1.2 million acres of productive farmland. That was followed in 2023 by atmospheric river storms and destructive floods that caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damages to California farmland and crops.

Johansson took issue with California’s failure to complete long-planned water infrastructure projects that could have stored water for dry years and enhanced flood control in wet ones.

“While our members struggled, we faced administrations in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento who found it easy to blame it all on climate change,” said Johansson. He took political leaders to task for simply declaring that “agriculture would have to do less to meet climate goals.”

Johansson said farmers and ranchers need supportive policies rooted in science, not politics. He said Farm Bureau remains committed to “defending the use of science on our farms, our waterways…and saving the next generation of farmers and ranchers.”

“I truly believe it must be Farm Bureau and our membership who leads the fight.”

But Johansson cited some notable victories for California agriculture in 2023. That included advocacy that led Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order that rolled back unnecessary permitting requirements and bureaucratic red tape to allow farmers to divert floodwaters to recharge depleted groundwater aquifers.

“For 13 years, California Farm Bureau and some of our partners have been pushing the (California) State Water Resources Control Board to allow our farmers to use their land to recharge aquifers,” Johansson said. “This year, our efforts finally produced results.”

Johansson applauded actions by the governor that fast-tracked Sites Reservoir, a planned off-stream water storage project north of Sacramento long advocated by the Farm Bureau.

2023-12-04T15:08:02-08:00December 4th, 2023|

Park Farming Organics Receives California Leopold Conservation Award

Courtesy of Sand County Foundation

Park Farming Organics of Meridian is the 2023 California Leopold Conservation Award® recipient.


The award honors farmers, ranchers, and forestland owners who go above and beyond in their management of soil health, water quality and wildlife habitat on working land.


Park Farming Organics’ owners, Brian and Jamie Park, and Scott and Ulla Park, were presented with the award during the California Farm Bureau Federation’s Annual Meeting. The Park family receive $10,000 and a crystal award for being selected.


Sand County Foundation and national sponsor American Farmland Trust present the Leopold Conservation Award to private landowners in 27 states. In California, the award is presented with Sustainable Conservation and the California Farm Bureau Federation.


Given in honor of renowned conservationist Aldo Leopold, the award recognizes farmers and forestland owners who inspire others with their dedication to environmental improvement. In his influential 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac, Leopold advocated for “a land ethic,” an ethical relationship between people and the land they own and manage.


Among the many outstanding landowners nominated for the award was finalist Bowles Farming Company of Los Banos in Merced County. Earlier this year, California farmers, ranchers and forestland owners were encouraged to apply (or be nominated) for the award. Applications were reviewed by an independent panel of agricultural and conservation leaders.


The California Leopold Conservation Award is made possible thanks to generous contributions from American Farmland Trust, Sustainable Conservation, California Farm Bureau Federation, Sand County Foundation, The Harvey L. & Maud C. Sorenson Foundation, Farm Credit, The Nature Conservancy in California, McDonald’s, and California Leopold Conservation Award alumni.



Scott and Ulla Park placed their bets on regenerative farming practices long before they were trending.


They spent the 1980s conventionally growing processing tomatoes before deciding to switch to organic production. Fueled by their love for agriculture and nature, coupled with a healthy dose of skepticism and common sense, they embarked on journey of exploration and discovery.


In their effort to mimic the natural world, the Parks chose gentler tillage methods, grew a variety of cover crops, and adopted a thoughtful rotation of crops. Their use of fertility inputs produced naturally balanced soils that help grow disease and pest-free plants. They noticed their once sterile soils became rich in earthworms and microbial life.


The Park’s farm, Park Farming Organics, grew to 1,350 acres, and is now run by their son Brian and his wife Jamie. What hasn’t changed is the family’s openness to experimentation and willingness to embrace new methods to adapt to changing consumer demands, market dynamics, environmental variability, and regulatory shifts.


Each year Park Farming Organics grows between 15-20 types of crops including rice, corn, wheat, sunflower, flax, alfalfa, barley, squash, cantaloupe, watermelons, cucumbers, and fresh market vegetables. It is governed by what the Parks call their “9 Cs of conservation”: critter cover, compost, controlled traffic, crop rotation, cover crops, conservation tillage, crop residue, conserving inputs, and crew care.


Their use of cover crops, compost applications, and crop residue annually returns an average of 15 tons of organic biomass per acre back to the soil. Growing sunn hemp as a cover crop helps improve soil properties, reduce soil erosion, conserve soil moisture, and recycle plant nutrients. The Parks’ unique border management of their fields includes growing diverse hedge rows that benefit wildlife and installing owl boxes to help control rodents.


Innovation and adaptability of farm equipment has been required to meet their production and conservation goals. Flotation tires on tractors help minimize compaction of rice fields. By modifying many core pieces of their farm equipment, the Parks have become leaders in developing specially adapted implements that other growers now rely on.


Exploring novel conservation practices has not been devoid of challenges and unexpected consequences. Scott and Brian participate in workshops, conferences, and fields days where they eloquently break down the challenges of organic and sustainable practices. Their expertise and willingness to share has made Park Farming Organics a go-to destination in northern California for students, scientists, journalists, and food sector professionals.


Collaborative partnerships with their local conservation district and universities have led to new innovations and provided regional context for adopting conservation practices. The impacts of their efforts to improve soil health are documented in a variety of peer-reviewed scientific journals. Promoting environmental stewardship among fellow farmers, educators, and environmental professionals is the purpose of the Parks’ involvement with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Conservation Education and Awareness Center.


Through dedication, passion, and the ability to put their ideas into practice, the Parks have trailblazed a path for other farmers to begin their conservation journeys.



“We are honored to join Sand County Foundation, American Farmland Trust and Sustainable Conservation to recognize the extraordinary efforts of California farmers and ranchers who go above and beyond in their stewardship of our natural resources,” said Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation President. “The Park family has championed organic and regenerative agriculture for decades. Their innovative and trailblazing spirit demonstrates the ability of California farmers and ranchers to find solutions for the environment while continuing to grow food that feeds the world.”


“The Parks define innovation and perseverance in California’s private land stewardship,” said Ashley Boren, Sustainable Conservation CEO, which has co-sponsored the award since its launch in California in 2006. “Caring for the soil, water, and air that nourish Park Farming Organics’ food crops is a full-time job. Brian, Jamie, Ulla and Scott go above and beyond that work with keen attention to how they’ll leave the land for future generations, how they can improve nutrition in the produce they grow, and how they can steward their precious water into the future.”


“As the national sponsor for Sand County Foundation’s Leopold Conservation Award, American Farmland Trust celebrates the hard work and dedication of Park Farming Organics,” said John Piotti, AFT President and CEO. “At AFT we believe that conservation in agriculture requires a focus on the land, the practices and the people and this award recognizes the integral role of all three.”


“These award recipients are examples of how Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is alive and well today. Their dedication to conservation shows how individuals can improve the health of the land while producing food and fiber,” said Kevin McAleese, Sand County Foundation President and CEO.

2023-12-04T13:04:41-08:00December 4th, 2023|

Detection of Huanglongbing Triggers Quarantine in Ventura County; First HLB Detection in County

Courtesy of Citrus Insider

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has declared a quarantine in Ventura County following the detection of the citrus disease Huanglongbing (HLB), or citrus greening, in two citrus trees on one residential property in the city of Santa Paula. These detections are the first HLB-positive trees in Ventura County. CDFA is working with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner on this cooperative project.

The disease was detected in plant material taken from one orange and one lime tree in a residential neighborhood in the Santa Paula area of Ventura County. These detections follow the confirmation of a Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus (CLas)-positive Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) sample taken from the find site.

CDFA crews will be working to remove and dispose of the infected trees and are conducting a mandatory survey of every property within 250 meters of the detection site. After the survey is complete, all host plants in the 250-meter area around the detection site will be treated to suppress the disease vector, the ACP. By taking these steps, a critical reservoir of the disease and its vectors will be removed, which is essential to protect the surrounding citrus from this deadly disease.

These detections establish a mandatory five-mile citrus HLB quarantine area around the find site. The quarantine area is bordered on the north by Ojai Road; on the south by E Los Angeles Avenue; on the west by Wells Road; and on the east by Balcom Canyon Road. The quarantine prohibits the sale of all host nursery stock and the movement of all host plants or plant parts within a five-mile radius of the finds. The quarantine applies to residents and commercial operations alike. These detections will also place parts of Ventura County into Bulk Citrus Regional Quarantine Zone 6, which will require any commercial citrus growers to apply an additional mitigation step(s) to move fruit within or from this zone. Production and retail nurseries within the five-mile quarantine are being contacted by CDFA and will be issued a hold notice preventing the sale of nursery stock host plants. Visit CDFA’s Map and Quarantines page for more details.

Growers in Ventura County should contact Grower Liaisons Sandra Zwaal at or Cressida Silvers at for additional information about these detections. In response to the HLB detections in Santa Paula, a grower meeting is being held on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Stay tuned to Citrus Insider for details or reach out to the Grower Liaisons for more information.

An HLB quarantine area currently exists in parts of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties, where more than 6,300 residential trees have tested positive for the disease and have been removed.

To read the full press release, please visit the CDFA website.

2023-10-04T08:09:53-07:00October 4th, 2023|


Courtesy of the CDFA

This is a federal grant program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. The purpose of the program is to competitively award funds to projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops by funding collaborative, multi-state projects that address regional or national level specialty crop issues, including food safety, plant pests and disease, research, crop-specific projects addressing common issues, and marketing and promotion.

Specialty crops include fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture, and nursery crops (including floriculture). All prospective applicants are encouraged to review the 2023 Request for Applications:

Additional information about the grant program , including application instructions and templates are available on the CDFA website:

Grant awards will range from $250,000 to $1 million per project and projects may last for up to three years. Specialty crop producer associations and groups, other state agencies, Tribal government entities, universities, non-profits, and other stakeholder groups and organizations are eligible to apply.

All proposals must include at least two partners (referred to as “multi-state partners”) with substantive involvement in the project, and the multi-state partners must be located in two different states to qualify for the program.

The deadline to submit proposals is 1:59 p.m. PT on December 22, 2023. Proposals must be submitted electronically to

CDFA will conduct a webinar on Wednesday, October 25, 2023, at 10:00 am PDT featuring an overview of the proposal application. There is no cost to attend; however, space is limited and CDFA requests that attendees register in advance.

Webinar registration link:

All questions regarding the Specialty Crop Multi-State Program should be emailed to Please include “SCMP” in the subject line.

2023-09-28T13:23:00-07:00September 28th, 2023|
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