Consumers snacking on a bag of Blue Diamond almonds or Sun-Maid raisins might be eating the very nuts and fruit grown on Wattenbarger Ranch, a property that overlooks the San Joaquin River near Avenue 7 in Madera County.
Bill Wattenbarger said his family has farmed on that property, which has now been placed under a conservation easement to ensure it will remain in farming, since 1914.
And for almost as long, the Wattenbargers have been part of the Sun-Maid Growers of California cooperative, and more recently, the Blue Diamond Growers co-op.
“We’re very fortunate,” Wattenbarger said. “My grandparents moved out here from eastern Washington to Madera. In those days they had 10 cows, they grew their own hay and grain. It was dry land farming here; they hadn’t invented the deep-well pump yet. There wasn’t much irrigation — that came later when they planted vineyards. They got out of the dairy business and into the raisin grape business.” ...