Almond Facts, May-June 2021

NEWS IN A NUTSHELL Introduction of Dr. Dan Sonke, Sustainability Director In April, Dr. Dan Sonke joined Blue Diamond as Director of Sustainability. Dan’s family represents three generations of Blue Diamond almond growers in the Ripon area of California and he brings a wealth of experience and expertise in Sustainable Agriculture. Dan recently shared a bit of this background. Tell us a little about your background and your family’s legacy in almonds. My family started out as dairy farmers. My mother’s father got out of dairy and started growing almonds in the Ripon area around 1957. That’s the house I grew up in — the same one my mother grew up in. That orchard is still in the extended family and my parents are still BDG members. We have three proud generations of Blue Diamond membership in our family. Any favorite memories of growing up on a farm? When I was about seven years old, my parents became Blue Diamond growers in partnership with an uncle. We were not only growers, but hullers as well. As a kid, my brother and I would ride in the trucks from the huller to deliver our nuts to the Blue Diamond facility in Salida. In fact, growing up, the word “Salida” to me meant the Blue Diamond facility. I didn’t know it was an actual town until much later in life. Every time we visited Salida, we would get lollipops from the receiving manager and be handed brooms to help sweep the nuts into the pit. It’s a great memory for me. Then when I turned 16 and got my license, I got to drive trucks myself to Salida. When I first joined Blue Diamond in April and toured the Salida facility, I met Tim Fitzgerald, who has been in Receiving 43 years. As we talked, he told me, “If you were a kid and were handed a broom here, it was probably from me.” I think it’s fantastic that we have employees who have been with us that long and have made an impact on generations of kids like me. How did you wind up in the Sustainability field? I went to college at Dordt University in Iowa and majored in Environmental Studies. After college, I moved to Florida and worked in international agriculture and got my Doctorate in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) from University of Florida, worked with the statewide IPM program at the university and got connected with sustainability leaders around the nation which eventually brought me back to California. I started working as a consultant developing sustainable agriculture programs for a large number of crops. The company I worked for successfully petitioned the Almond Board of California to fund what is now California’s Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). I was the lead employee consultant who helped develop CASP along with Mel Machado and other BDG member relations staff and growers who were active on committees and in pilot workshops for the program. Blue Diamond was certainly a driver of CASP from the beginning. What led you to Blue Diamond Growers ? Given my background and family legacy, I always wanted to come work for Blue Diamond and focus on sustainability. When I started hearing that Blue Diamond had a CASP incentive plan that was having a dramatic effect on building involvement in the program, it made me even more excited to join the team. Blue Diamond Growers’ new Director of Sustainability, Dr. Daniel Sonke. 1 0 A L M O N D F A C T S