The world has changed dramatically since Joey Roche’s grandmother, Helen Roche, began growing almonds and operating a nut cracker near Escalon, Calif. in the mid-1950s. The family-owned operation now includes Joey’s father and mother, an uncle, two cousins and his wife. Over the years, the cracker—which removed the nuts from the shell—has been replaced by a state-of-the-art sheller.
And more improvements are in the works.
“We started a project in 2006 that we will finish in 2010 to modernize [the shelling plant] and to keep up with everything that’s changing in terms of technology,” says Joey, a third-generation almond grower. “We try to do our best to keep our grades as high as possible.”
As a father of two children, Joey says he’s concerned about food safety. That’s why he’s a clean freak in the shelling plant.
“We sanitize everything that the almond touches from the beginning to the end,” he says. “We need to make sure our plant is 100 percent up to par.”
He credits Blue Diamond Growers with providing its members with the latest information about how best to produce a safe, wholesome product.
“They’ve opened our eyes,” Joey says of the co-op’s efforts. “We have always followed their lead.”
The Roches also have adopted modern technology to grow the best quality nuts. For example, moisture sensors let them know when the trees are thirsty or have enough water.
“Water is a very important part of growing almonds, as well as a precious commodity. You need to use it wisely,” Joey says.