Grow your own.

First, if you are looking for an example of completely excellent work, go check out the Almond Board page. It is one of the best products I’ve ever seen. The design is attractive and easy to use. They offer the site in, like, six languages. They don’t get sloppy; every single picture of an almond radiates pearly light. They show tons of data, all of it clear. With monthly updates! That means they’re keeping tons of data. They aren’t going to be surprised by the next couple tens of thousands of acres planted to almonds. They know those are coming.

Besides that, they’re inventive and thorough and carrying out a plan. Their presentations cover the agronomy side of almond growing and the marketing side. They’re seeking out ways to use almonds and convincing people they wanted them. They have a pastry strategy. If you saw an almond croissant at your bakery, or have come around to thinking that a handful of almonds would be a healthy snack with omega-3s, you are the Almond Board’s bitch.

They’re doing amazingly consistent high quality work and I wonder how that came about. Did they just happen to hire someone good, who built a good organization? Did that person love almonds or just doing good work? Coincidence that it was the Almond Board and not the Walnut Board or Citrus Board? Does everyone talk about almonds as the shining light of California agriculture because of some quirk of hiring and personality? Anyway, I don’t know what almond growers pay for the board (I assume some small percent of their price/piece), but they’re getting stellar value for it.

Standing across from a tomato processing plant one day, I happened to ask what the big boxes were. They’re big woooden boxes, perhaps a third or half the size of a railcar/shipping box, stacked all around the processing plant’s paved back lot. I was told they’re processed tomato sauce, waiting for prices to recover. The tomatoes are processed into sauce, then poured into monstrous plastic bags and vacuum-sealed. One bag per huge crate. Then they sit in the yard for months or years, until the plant finds a canner who wants them at a decent price. I looked a little shocked and they assured me it was all sterile and kept indefinitely. I suppose it is and I still buy canned tomatoes. But I also think of those crates, out there in the 110 degree heat all summer. I’d like row crops be grown to satisfy an existing demand, not wait around for years until demand comes along.

Seeing that, I wasn’t surprised by this.

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One response to “Grow your own.

  1. bobvis

    Then they sit in the yard for months or years, until the plant finds a canner who wants them at a decent price.

    I find this puzzling. I can certainly understand waiting months for the market to clear. However, if you are talking about years, then essentially someone has to be willing to sit on a commodity for years as an investment in the hope that the price will go up. This would murder your cash flows, and every extra day you’ve got tomatoes on your balance sheet, you’re busy trying to finance them either out of debt or out of whatever else you would have been doing with that money.

    I’m not calling bullshit on it. I’m calling really surprising thing that I don’t quite get.