Almond Legacies: A Family’s Journey from Orchard to Table

Posted on : February 13th, 2024

Indeed, today marks National Almond Day, and we are celebrating it in a big way at Maisie Jane’s! We are kicking off our weeklong 25% OFF National Almond Day Sale. I Will provide more details on that later, but first, let me share why this day evokes wonderful emotions for me personally, and introduce you to my dad.

Ben Bertagna In almond orchard

Maisie’s Father Ben Bertagna.

Generations in Almond Farming: My Journey

In essence, if it weren’t for these golden, crunchy almond nougats, my entire lifestyle and existence wouldn’t be what it is today. I wouldn’t have grown up as a fourth-generation almond farmer’s daughter, and my three daughters wouldn’t be fifth-generation almond farmer’s daughters. I’d miss out on the scents of honey-filled air during almond bloom time or the heat-stricken, earthy dust-filled air during harvest, with bursts of freshly harvested almond aromas. My life wouldn’t revolve around the almond season, contemplating how to enhance almond tree growth, achieve better pollination, and ultimately make them taste their absolute best, whether in their natural state or creatively paired with other earth-derived surprises for our customers’ delight.
Being a farmer is a blessing, tapping into the simplest yet most complex tasks. How can we better provide people with these naturally healthy almonds, and how can we farm these bountiful trees through ever-changing times that present different challenges? These are the profound questions occupying my mind and the minds of other almond farmers.

Meet Ben Bertagna: The Pioneer Almond Farmer

On this National Almond Day, I’d like you to meet my dad, Ben Bertagna. He introduced me to the ‘almond’ lifestyle at a very young age and planted the seed in me to start up Maisie Jane’s California Sunshine Products. My dad has always been an almond farmer, teaching his four children to follow in his footsteps. He epitomizes the ideal American farmer, instilling in me lessons about relentless hard work, a passion for Mother Earth and the seasons, trust in the Lord, and the need to be flexible and intelligent in the ever-changing world around us. He’s also been a pioneer in the industry, leading as one of the valley’s first Organic Almond Farmers and becoming certified Organic in 1996.

So, please allow me to introduce Ben Bertagna to you. I’ve asked him a few questions so you can get to know him as the ‘Best Almond Farmer’ that I know, even though, during my teenage years when I wanted to sleep in, he dragged me out of bed before sunrise to work in the orchards!

Early Memories: Growing Up in Almond Orchards

Question: What is one of your first memories of being an Almond Farmer?

Answer: Playing in my sandbox, pretending to be a farmer. I’d use twigs to create almond rows and, with my toy tractor, mimic whatever my father was doing in his ‘real’ orchard. I even crafted irrigation pipes with little sticks, and back in those days, new license plates every year served perfectly to make my barns.

Chico’s Almond Farming Landscape: A Long-Term Partnership

Question: Can you share some reasons you’ve been a lifelong Almond Farmer in Chico, CA?

Answer: I enjoy growing things and trees because they are a long-term partnership. You’re in a relationship with an orchard for about 25 years, so you really get to know them. They have a beautiful bloom in the spring, and they are not a short-term crop. They cycle every year, making it definitely not boring. Every year brings new challenges. Farming almonds just keeps you going!

Challenges and Triumphs: Insights from an Almond Farmer

Question: What have been some of the most challenging times of being an Almond Farmer for you?

Answer: Oh, my goodness, let’s see. Probably the marketing of them. The challenge of educating everyone about their great value. The nutritional value of almonds is incredible and like no other nut. You have to educate consumers on why they should eat them.

Life in Chico, CA: Raising a Family on a Farm

Question: What was it like raising a family in Chico, CA, being a farmer, and bringing up your family of four kids (Berton, Maisie Jane, Jason, & Mary Carmen) on a family farm?

Answer: Well, it was wonderful because your business is outdoors and something you can involve your kids with from the day they can walk. Raising my kids and working with them coincided. I feel all my kids learned the value of nature and hard work, and the pleasure that comes with doing those two things. And it must have been good because they all stuck around (laughing).

Ben Bertagna driving a Almond Sweeper.

Ben Bertagna still loves ‘playing’ driving the tractors.

Technological Hurdles: Adapting to a Changing Farming World

Question: What do you see as the future challenges for almond farmers?

Answer: Dealing with technology. Technology is a wonderful thing, but adapting to it and overcoming growing pains in daily farming practices is challenging. Another challenge is the survival of small farmers, avoiding being consumed by industrial farmers. It’s about surviving in the current economic environment. All the technology requires a lot of money and works well for large-scale farmers but can become too difficult and costly for smaller farmers. Pickup machines, for instance, cost $250,000 today, compared to $50,000 twenty years ago. Yet today’s almond commodity prices are about the same if not less than they were twenty years ago!

Favorite Almond Products: A Farmer’s Picks

Question: What’s your favorite Maisie Jane’s Almond product?

Answer: Oh my gosh, the almond butter. I just love the almond butter. That and the Dark Chocolate Coated Almonds. I could live off those two things. That and the garden, that’s all I’d need.

From Orchard to Table: Almonds in Every Meal

Question: Anything else you’d like to share with the consumers of Maisie Jane’s Almonds?

Answer: Eat more almonds! Really look into all the great benefits of eating almonds. Not just as a snack but incorporate them into your meals.

Join the Celebration: Embrace the Almond Lifestyle

I hope you’ve enjoyed this time with my father, and with his words and Maisie Jane’s enthusiasm and passion, you’ll help us celebrate National Almond Day! I love that bumper sticker that reads, “Hug a Farmer if you’ve eaten today.” Today, let’s not just celebrate almonds but also all the family farmers that bring them to your mouth for your health and enjoyment! Go nuts this week with our 25% off Almonds Sale. Check it out, and we sincerely thank you for supporting our small family farm and business!


With gratitude,

Maisie Jane and her Nutty team.