Blue Diamond has targeted to become the most efficient nut company in the world over the next 10 years,” Blue Diamond Board Chairman, Howard Isom, told grower-members, who attended the cooperative’s 90th Anniversary Annual Meeting. Isom is a Chico almond grower and partner in the Matson-Isom Accounting Firm.

“We will use new technology to be the most efficient processors and most profitable marketers and be the undisputed leader in the tree nut industry,” stated Isom. “Like J.P. Dargitz, a small Acampo (near Lodi) California almond grower who formed the cooperative in 1910, our vision is his vision: to work together to provide a home for our crop in an otherwise fragmented industry; to return a competitive price to our growers every year; and to seek profitable growth opportunities for ourselves and our successors.”

“We honor our member-growers, employees, lenders, suppliers and customers who value our stability, quality and resolve to provide gold-standard service,” continued Isom. “Together, we have written one of the most exciting chapters in the annuals of the global food industry: a rags-to-riches story of vision, ingenuity and determination that established the Blue Diamond brand as one of the most recognized in the world.”

Reflecting on the tenure of President and CEO Walt Payne, who will be retire January 31, 2001, Isom told growers their return, while Payne was at the helm, beat or matched competitive returns on a streamlined re-organization plan that lowered costs and identified new market potential, including buying the world’s second largest macadamia nut producer, MacFarms of Hawaii. “Walt will be recognized in our history as one of our outstanding leaders,” said Isom.

Despite the lowest operating costs per pound in many years, the speculative world almond market drove 1999 grower returns to below a dollar a pound which cost all California almond growers over $100 million in reduced crop values, according to Isom. While some competitors paid less than Blue Diamond, others paid more, of which Isom says, “This will change because we have the foundation in place to more than just beat the competition, as you will see in the years ahead.”

Turning to the Board’s selection of President-elect Doug Youngdahl, who has over 12 years experience in the California almond industry, including nearly four years at Blue Diamond, Isom outlined the criteria that led to their decision. “Effective communication skills, prior experience in cooperatives, intimate marketing knowledge, prior high-level executive experience, education background and unquestioned integrity and professionalism led us to unanimously select Doug,” said Isom.

Youngdahl, who previously worked for the Pillsbury Company, was President of Chico Nut Company, an almond processor and marketer, and most recently was Director of the Americas Industrial Business Unit for Blue Diamond. He was raised on farms in Iowa and Minnesota and has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from the University of Minnesota. He serves on the Almond Board of California.

Isom and his Board will attend a strategic planning meeting in January, 2001, with key managers and Youngdahl who outlined a 12-point “New Century Plan” for Blue Diamond at the annual meeting.

Isom was re-elected to the Board and was also re-elected to serve in 2001 as Chairman of the Board. Clinton Shick was also re-elected to serve as Vice Chairman. Board members Ken Roos of Ripon (District 4) and Ron Piazza of Denair (District 6) were also re-elected to the Board. However, Piazza has resigned due to health problems. Petitions from interested District 6 Blue Diamond members are due by December 28, 2000. For more information, call 209-549-6225.

The following growers were elected to serve on the Grower Liaison Committee for 2001, which meets quarterly with the Board of Directors and management to review Blue Diamond operations. They are: Robert Boyes, Red Bluff; Sam Lewis, Jr., Chico; Steve Prentice, Chico; Michael Doherty, Arbuckle; Joe Martinez, Winters; Gilbert Ramos, Arbuckle; Richard Nix, Manteca; Ken Thomsen, Tracy; Lloyd Van Dyken, Manteca; Dave Costa, Ripon; Reno Giuntoli, Escalon; Philip E. Sandall, Escalon; Joe Gonsalves, Modesto; Bruce Oosterkamp, Modesto; Richard Vermuelen, Modesto; Arby Hoobyar, Turlock; Daniel Lara, Westley; Wayne Zipser, Ceres; Sarabjit Atwal, Merced; Govert Balvert, Ballico; Lloyd Erlandson, Hilmar; Thomas Benzler, Fresno; Dennis De Freitas, Caruthers; John Tolmosoff, Madera; Josh Bergman, Visalia; Richard Jelmini, Bakersfield; Pete Romanini, Buttonwillow.