When Falastine Munoz finished reading her book, “Almonds – Shake, Sweep & Eat” to Michelle Kuchan’s second grade class at Cunningham Elementary School on Tuesday morning, she asked the students if they had learned anything new. Instantly, 20 tiny hands shot into the air.
“I learned that the machines shake the almond trees, then trucks come and pick them up and take them to a factory,” one student said.
“I didn’t know the almonds get shipped around the world,” said another.
One student said she never knew that almonds first grow fuzzy and green before they mature into the brown nuts we know and love, while another didn’t know that bees pollinate the almond blossoms. This is why Munoz wrote her book, she said — to educate the younger generation about the almond industry from start to finish.
“Almonds – Shake, Sweep & Eat” is the first book she’s ever written, and came thanks to Munoz’s participation in the 2019 Almond Leadership Program. The year-long commitment requires participants to meet once a month, learning from volunteer mentors and completing specialized training in areas like marketing, trade stewardship, scientific research and food safety.
Munoz, an employee of Grizzly Nut, LLC in Waterford for the past eight years, was one of 19 movers and shakers throughout the state chosen by the ABC to participate in the program. The program also calls for each participant to complete a “project,” which resulted in Munoz’s book. She said she bounced around a few ideas — including Hot Cheeto-flavored almonds — for her project, but ultimately decided on writing a book that would share not only information about the industry she loves, but about her life as well.
“The book is a true story. My kids used to have no idea what I did, they just knew I would come home tired. One day my daughter started talking about how almonds grow on flowers, and as I was waiting for her to really explain the process, I realized she didn’t know,” Munoz said. “My kids didn’t know anything even though I work in the almond industry, so this book teaches them about it from harvest to the table. I thought a book would be a great tool to utilize.”
The book tells exactly that story, showing kids who think they know what their mom does for work, but are completely wrong. They’re shown the ins and outs of the almond industry, from how the nuts are gathered to the different, sustainable ways their hulls and shells are used.
“I think education is huge, because people and kids need to understand there isn’t a lot of waste from almonds. The book talks about how hulls are used to feed cattle, and not a lot of people knew that,” Munoz said. “People talk about how much water an almond uses, but it goes hand in hand with how far an almond actually makes a difference. An almond is more than just the nut; it’s the hull, the shell…there’s so much sustainability in our industry, and education is a big part of pushing for that.”
The reading at Cunningham tied in perfectly with the elementary school’s ag-based curriculum. In fact, the day before Munoz read her book to Kuchan’s class, the students made their very own “hand pollinators,” using crafted objects to transfer pollen from one surface to another.
Grizzly Nut funded the publishing of Munoz’s book in order to give a copy to every student that was read to on Tuesday, and she said other companies and industry partners have purchased books to donate to other schools, like Gratton Elementary School.
The book can be purchased on Amazon, Munoz added, and all proceeds go to the State FFA program.