Clark Heppner believes he needs to invest time to maintain quality, whether it’s in his almond orchards or with the Blue Diamond Growers cooperative to which he belongs. Clark, who has been growing almonds for more than 40 years near Winton, Calif., has served as a Blue Diamond grower liaison and is currently an advisory board member.
“I want to know what’s going on—that’s what keeps me going,” he says. “I’ve toured Blue Diamond’s plants a number of times, and I’m very fascinated with them. We have a first-class operation.”
Clark follows a similar philosophy with his almond orchards, one of which is 32 years old. Although that’s old for almonds, he says the trees still produce quality nuts.
“As long as you take care of them, they take care of you,” says the 71-year-old Clark.
He began growing almonds along side his father, the late Ed Heppner, in 1965. At the time, they also grew nectarines and winegrapes. Eventually, they switched entirely to almonds, a move Clark says was the best decision they made.
His wife, Rosalie, helped in the orchards for 12 years while their two sons were growing up before returning to work as a registered nurse. Now retired from nursing, Rosalie is keen on the nutrition almonds provide.
“We usually have a bowl of almonds out here--I enjoy them every day,” Rosalie says. “The microwave dry roasts them and makes them crunchy.”
Her trick — place a layer of raw almonds on a sheet of paper towel and microwave for 3 to 3 ½ minutes.