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Macadamia association helps local farmers

ESCONDIDO – Yes, macadamia nuts grow in California. This is the response Dan Hecko gives every time someone comes into his store and sees macadamia nuts there. Hecko is the warehouse manager of the Gold Crown Macadamia Nut Association.

The macadamia association is located at Dan’s nursery on Del Dios Highway across from Lake Hodges. Last year the association paid out $2 per pound for produce brought in by its members, some as far away as Gaviota, Calif., which is north of Santa Barbara.

The association’s volunteer board of directors, George McManigle (president), Dr. Dennis Martinek (vice president), Dan Hecko (secretary/treasurer) and Curt West (director), have been working hard on cutting expenses in order to continue paying the highest prices possible to their member farmers.

Labor cost has remained the same since 1995 and the board continues to economize on other operating costs with good success. But perhaps the most important reason they can pay out the highest amount to their farmers is because they provide high quality, hand-sorted macadamia nuts and sell ancillary products such as the Ultimate Nut Cracker.

The proceeds of their sales go into a pool of money that’s paid out to farmers each year. Also, George McManigle implemented a Web site several years ago that brings numerous new customers to the farmers’ co-op every year. “We are very proud of our Web site,” McManigle said. “We sell a quality product and want to make sure our image is represented to customers who shop online.”

Gold Crown is able to keep its customers because of the quality of their products. The farmers handpick the macadamia nuts and cull out any bad ones. Then they perform a two-week pre-drying before bringing their produce to the co-op. Dr. Dennis Martinek, who is one of the largest producers of macadamia nuts in Fallbrook, explained, “Our farmers dry and cull their own produce in order to save on expenses. When they do their own pre-drying, we save on our electrical cost when we dry the produce.”

The co-op has a large dryer that takes the moisture content down to less than one percent. This preserves the macadamia nuts from spoilage and they will no longer grow into new trees. Then they cull the nuts again to make sure they have only the good nuts before shipping them to customers.

“Some of our farmers have as few as three or four trees and still bring their nuts to the co-op.” said Curt West.

Association members welcome anyone who is interested to contact them about becoming a farmer member at Gold Crown Macadamia Association, 9582 Del Dios Highway, Escondido CA 92029, (760) 745-4396, or http://www.macnuts.org.

 

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