As California’s 2023 almond harvesting season nears its end, the management of Monte Vista Farming Company has begun to turn its attention from the almond producer’s seasonal flow of “almonds in” and “almonds out” to people and operations.
“After what we pay our growers for the almonds, our number one cost becomes labor,” explains Mark Lampe, who joined Monte Vista as CFO back in late 2021, just after the company had opted to convert roughly 100 contract laborers to full-time employees.
“I was a little nervous about how many people would ultimately come over as full-time employees, but to Monte Vista’s credit, almost 100 percent opted in,” recalls Lampe, who sat down with us at NetSuite’s SuiteWorld 2023 tech conference, where he was seeking to glean insight into one of the developer’s newest software entries: workforce applications designed to to help organizations with the tricky task of managing labor costs.
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CFOTL: Tell us about Monte Vista Farming … what does this company do, and what are its offerings today?
Lampe: We’re an innovative, quality huller, processor, and sheller of almonds. As we’ve said, 80 percent of the almonds in the world come from California, with the remainder sourcing mainly in Spain, Portugal, Iran, Turkey, and Australia. So, all of these great, wonderful, healthy almonds that you eat are predominantly coming out of California. The U.S. does eat a lot of almonds, but most of them go outside the USA to Japan, China, India, and other parts of Asia, as well as to western Europe and the Middle East.
We don’t actually have “farms” now, although we’re actively looking for a couple of good ones. The almonds come out of trees, which are about the size of apple trees and grow in rows, much like in an apple orchard. During the harvest, which happens from August to about December, the trees are shaken and the nuts fall down, to be raked into rows. A machine picks them up and puts them in trucks that bring them to facilities like ours.
The hull is a little green rind that almost looks like it has a little peach fuzz around it. We take this off, and it gets used for cattle feed, usually on California dairy farms. We then take the shell off because almost every almond is sold as a kernel or, as we call it, a “meat.” Sometimes, though, the kernel is left in the shell—somewhat for domestic use, but mainly for export to India.
We market and sell these products to other food companies in the USA and all around the world. We don’t currently have our own brand. We’re a B2B business, so we sell to high-quality food companies that often turn our products into great bakery goods like marzipan over in Europe—that kind of sugary, almond paste confectionary item—as well as sell them as snack nuts, too, with seasonings and things like that. We’re basically all about providing great almonds for people all around the world to eat.
Monte Vista Farming Co. | www.montevistafarming.com | Denair, CA