Meet Walnut Farmer Mike Machado
This month we are happy to introduce you to our friend Mike Machado, a local farmer dedicated to service. Mr. Machado served in the United States Navy during the Vietnam War, then earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Stanford University and a master’s degree in agricultural economics from the University of California, Davis. He also attended the Harvard Agribusiness School in London. Mike then continued to serve California in the State Assembly from 1994-2000 and the State Senate from 2000-2008.
In addition to his military service and legislative duties, Mike owns and operates his family’s walnut farm near Linden. He permanently protected the property from development by placing an easement in 2015. We asked Mike a few questions to get his perspective on farming in California.
Q: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in farming, and how have you adapted to them?
A: Farming has transformed from most farms growing an array of row crops, field crops and permanent crops, to today where most are in permanent crops. Diversity and risk management is through varieties rather than different crops. This has been market driven…land cost, input costs, and commodity costs. I, like many others, have followed that path. In addition to cropping changes, California agriculture has faced increasing regulations and accountability to government agencies.
Q: What do you love about farming in California? What do you wish you could change?
A: Agriculture is a great industry to raise a family. In California you can have both big city opportunities and life in the country, there is a great deal of satisfaction in nurturing a crop through harvest. It is difficult for young people to enter agriculture, there is competition from many sectors for water, cities want to expand into agricultural areas, what is needed is more recognition of the value of agriculture to our communities, our environment, our culture and the economy.
A: We started growing walnuts with the decline in row crops, difficulty in finding labor, and the need for higher value crops to meet ever increasing costs. Walnuts are a healthy food; some studies say that a quarter cup of walnuts a day can fight cancer. Walnuts end up in salads, mixed fruit packages, bulk supply to baking and confectionary industry, and are exported around the world for use by many different cultures in their diet.
Q: Why did you decide to protect your property with an easement?
A: We decided to go with an easement to preserve for future generations the ability to continue in agriculture. Our goal is to have a nucleus that gives the opportunity to a family member or another young person who wants a career in agriculture.
More than 99% of American walnuts are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley, which Mike calls home. Internationally, California growers like Mike supply two-thirds of the world’s walnuts.
California walnuts, once harvested, are held in cold storage to maintain freshness. Walnut handlers shell walnuts as needed throughout the year to fill orders globally. Keeping walnuts cold and in-shell as long as possible ensures that consumers enjoy high-quality, fresh-tasting California walnuts throughout the year.
Tips: Cold Storage = Fresh Taste
Walnuts go rancid when exposed to warm temperatures for long periods of time. Heat causes the fat in walnuts to change structure, which creates off odors and flavors. Fresh walnuts smell mildly nutty and taste sweet
It is best to store walnuts in an air tight container in the refrigerator or in the freezer if you are storing for more than a month. Keep in mind they absorb flavors of other foods, so air tight containers are best!
Why eat ’em
Walnuts are the only nut significantly high in Omega-3s. One ounce (or a handful, ¼ cup, 12-14 halves) of walnuts is packed with nutrients for optimum health, including:
- An excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid (2.5g) – the most ALA of any other tree nut
- 4g of protein
- 2g of fiber
- A good source of magnesium (45mg)
Go eatcha’ some: Red, White & Blueberry S’mores
Not your typical s’more, but well worth the try! These sweet treats are a perfect summer snack for at home or camping. Try this twist on the ol’classic.