Three Turlockers were selected to be a part of the 2017 Almond Leadership class, preparing them to become leaders not just within the California almond industry but also in their communities as well.
After five years in education, Michelle Penney decided to trade in the classroom for almond processing and farming with her family’s business, Del Rio Nut Company. Currently, she works in inventory as well as quality and food safety.
Katie Staack has worked in some capacity in the family business her entire life. While she has worn many different hats while working for the family, she currently is the Food and Safety Coordinator at her family’s processing plant, Grizzly Nut LLC., in Waterford.
Cameron White is 24 years old and has been involved in the almond industry for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Snelling where his roots as a third-generation farmer began to grow. He works at the family’s Sierra View Ranch where he assists with daily operational needs as well as accounting and financial analysis.
All three have been chosen as part of this year’s Almond Leadership class, a group of 18 future leaders selected by The Almond Board of California representing nearly every point of the industry—growers, processors, suppliers, retailers and pest control advisers.
Participants will spend the next year in a structured program, with the oversight of the volunteer mentors. They will complete specialized training in a wide variety of topic areas such as food safety, biomass, honey extraction and nutrition research. Over the course of the year they will spend time in nurseries, almond orchards, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research facility and other venues where they will get hands-on experience and training.
Along the way, the participants will build relationships and develop communications skills; gain a clear understanding of current social, political, scientific and economic issues facing the almond industry, as well as how to effect change; and learn how all sectors along the almond supply chain work together to provide a safe, sustainable product.
At the end of the year, each participant will have to present the findings from a year-long self-directed project designed to advance industry knowledge in an area of interest to them. In the past, these projects have led to important breakthroughs for the industry. ABC is currently conducting follow up research on the promising initial project of one of last year’s Almond Leaders around the alternative use of hulls and shells.
“We are so fortunate to have this program,” said Kent Stenderup, a member of the Almond Board of Directors and also a volunteer mentor for this year’s Almond Leadership Program. “As an industry, we get to interact with the best and brightest individuals who will lead us in the decades to come. This program grounds them in the latest industry knowledge, but also teaches them how to be leaders, and helps them understand the responsibilities that come with that.”
This year’s class has also pledged to raise $25,000 for California Future Farmers of America scholarships.
Over the past eight years, the program has graduated more than 100 participants.
The Almond Leadership Program is sponsored by Sunworks, Inc. for 2017.