An interview with a Blue Diamond almond farmer
Among the gluten-free items in today’s grocery stores, it’s becoming more common to see almonds, almond meal and almond flour as a staple on the gluten-free shelves. Long a sumptuous ingredient in macaroons and marzipan, almonds are playing a larger role in the diets of people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Almonds, known for healthy fats, vitamin E and loads of magnesium and potassium, are a desirable choice for gluten-free eating.
Blue Diamond Growers, a sponsor of the NFCA, is a California agricultural cooperative and marketing organization that specializes in almonds.
We recently spoke with Steve Van Duyn, CEO of Van Duyn Family Farms, a California almond grower and co-op member of Blue Diamond, the makers of gluten-free Nut Thins and Artisan Nut Thins. They have been a part of the Blue Diamond cooperative for 25 years.
Almond trees, native to the Mediterranean climate, do very well in the fertile growing conditions of California. As a producer of California’s third leading agricultural product, Steve’s typical day is as much about management as about farming and orcharding. Steve notes, “I start out with our ranch managers to go over all we are doing on the farm that day. I also handle various bookkeeping responsibilities, and reports for never-ending regulations.”
The Blue Diamond Cooperative was formed more than a hundred years ago. Small producers joined together to support each other through marketing, pricing and more. A century later, Steve says “Being a member of a co-op means having the peace of knowing that, as we are out here taking care of the crops in the field, our co-op is working hard to maximize our returns and to keep us informed about market events.” He also notes that as cooperative growers, their concerns are not just about maximizing profit. “We farmers really do care! We do our very best to have a safe work environment for our people, as well as provide a safe food for people to consume.”
The Van Duyn Family Farms, who also grow walnuts and cherries, take precautions to keep their gluten-free crops truly gluten-free. “We make sure we have no other crop of any kind come in contact with the crops in our field,” Steve affirms. For the Van Duyn’s, protecting against cross-contact is more than a good business practice. “Good friends of ours have celiac disease, so we are fully aware and take care to avoid the dangers of contaminating our product.”
To learn more about Blue Diamond's gluten-free products, visit them on Facebook.