Even as a youngster, Rod Vilas knew that he would some day follow in his father Steve’s footsteps and grow almonds for Blue Diamond Growers.
“I guess it’s in my blood,” says Rod, who at 36 years old is the fifth generation to farm the family’s land near Keyes in central California. “It’s just a really enjoyable career.”
He receives an indescribable satisfaction seeing the trees bloom in February, watching the almonds plump during the summer and then harvesting the brown-skinned nuts in early fall.
“It’s more of a personal, family business where you’re growing a crop all year long and you get to see your crop and bring it in,” Rod says. “It’s so much more rewarding than working in a factory and producing, say, brakes for a car. The trees are almost like pets that you’re raising, so you want to do the best possible job.”
One way he does this is by shredding the branches he prunes from the trees and recycling them back into the orchard soil.
As a third-generation Blue Diamond member, Rod says he takes comfort knowing the cooperative shares his views on producing a safe, wholesome product.
“They are always a leader in technology with food safety, and we don’t have to worry about it as much as we would with some other companies,” Rod says. “I just feel safer with Blue Diamond knowing that they are on top of things.”