When Falastine Munoz first began working at Grizzly Nut, LLC in Waterford eight years ago, she didn’t know much about almonds. The company has grown immensely since then, nearly doubling the number of almonds it processes each year, and so has Munoz’s commitment and knowledge of the industry.
Her hard work and determination over the years recently led to her selection as one of 19 movers and shakers throughout the state chosen by the Almond Board of California to participate in the 2019 Almond Leadership Program.
A year-long commitment, Munoz is now in the third month of the program, which she described as an “amazing learning experience.”
“It’s funny — I wish I would have done this program four years ago, but even doing it now after being in the industry for some time, I still have so much to learn,” Munoz said.
Munoz, a graduate of Turlock High School, started at Grizzly Nut in 2011, after working in retail for about eight years. She went from handling human resource matters at the company from wearing multiple hats within the organization, including employee development and compliance, shipping, food safety, fumigation and more.
She credits her versatility and expertise to her boss, Grizzly Nut owner Mike Staack, who encouraged her to apply for the program.
“He told me, ‘It’s a tough selection process, so be prepared and if it doesn’t work, try again.’ When I found out I got in I was so pumped,” Munoz said. “There was excitement throughout entire office, because we know what can come from this program and how it can help Grizzly Nut as well.”
Munoz and the other Almond Leadership Program participants will spend the next year meeting once a month, where they’ll learn from volunteer mentors and complete specialized training in a wide variety of topic areas, many of which are tied to ABC activities in marketing, trade stewardship, scientific research and food safety.
“I’ve met some amazing people who all have great backgrounds in leadership,” Munoz said. “Meeting those contacts and those people in the industry is a huge benefit, because now we have someone to relate to and lean on if we have questions or need advice.”
Throughout the course of the program, participants will complete a self-directed project focused on ways to help advance industry knowledge. Past projects have led to important breakthroughs for the industry, and 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.
So far, Munoz has been most impressed with the program’s recent trip to the University of California, Davis, where she saw firsthand the steps the ABC has taken towards sustainability in the almond industry by funding a significant amount of research. The program has helped to grow her passion for her career, she said, and she hopes to one day become a member of the ABC.
“I feel like after this program concludes, it really will encourage me to be more active in the almond industry,” she said. “I hope after this it won’t be the end of me making trips to see the Almond Board. I’d like to be part of it, and have a say in rules that are changing that directly affect what I do here at Grizzly Nut.”