Eric and Brian Genzoli
The Genzolis - Eric at left, and his father Brian, discuss plans for bloom sprays.

CASP program helps prioritize sustainability in almonds

Under CASP, almond grower Eric Genzoli has learned to pay more attention to calibrating sprayers for sustainable pest management, and keeping records of energy use in the field

Since completing his first California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP) module in 2011, fourth-generation almond farmer Eric Genzoli says his participation has made him a better farmer.

Over the last six years, he has conducted self-assessments in all nine modules ranging from pest, irrigation, and nutrition management; energy efficiency and air quality; financial and ecosystems management; the workplace; and the community.

Through this participation, Genzoli has learned to pay more attention to details such as calibrating his sprayers for sustainable pest management, and keeping records of energy use in the field. The financial management module prompted a tighter look at tracking expenses and succession planning.

Over the last five years, the Genzoli operation has converted about half of its acreage from flood irrigation to double-line drip, and the rest will be converted as older orchards are replanted.

While there are some differences within the nine blocks Genzoli farms on 300 acres in Stanislaus County, the online CASP system is designed so that he can import duplicate information, or clone data, on different blocks to expedite the self-assessment process.

“That’s a real time-saving device,” Genzoli said. “I’m not a computer-savvy person, but I was able to do the whole assessment on all nine blocks in about two hours.”

He also used CASP’s online irrigation calculator when completing a NRCS cost-share project application.

Participation in CASP complements the protocol and strategies passed down through four generations of the Genzoli farming family. His great-grandfathers on both sides of his father’s family immigrated to the Turlock area from Switzerland and from the Azores in Portugal, starting with small dairies in the late 1800s and converting to permanent plantings, including almonds.

“My family has been doing this a long time. There’s a lot you can learn when you have traditions passed down from family members,” Genzoli said.

“At the same time, the biggest benefit for me of participating in CASP is seeing what other farmers are doing in the industry and how we can improve and incorporate new strategies into our operation. It’s a unique device that makes people aware of things that maybe they weren’t before.”

CASP also provides industry tools to respond to crises, such as the recent drought, when water use in almonds gained significant media attention.

“Because of the Sustainability Program, we had the tools to show over the last decade how almond growers have converted to water-saving irrigation and measuring their water needs and use so they are not wasting precious resources,” he said.

“We were lucky to have that industry-wide information at our finger tips, but at the same time, luck has nothing to do with it. Growers should complete the information so it’s at hand when it’s needed.”

Sustainability is an integral part of Genzoli’s pest management, irrigation, and other production practices that basically involves looking at the big picture and the broader impact of every decision he makes in the orchard, he says.

As Genzoli has taken increased responsibility for managing the family’s farming operations, he has also become involved in leadership activities within the industry.

In addition to his CASP commitment, Genzoli graduated from the Blue Diamond Leadership Program, the California Ag Leadership Program, and the Almond Leadership Program. These programs provide communication and leadership training to help prepare young farmers for future leadership roles.

“As a farmer, the almond industry is our industry, and I believe it’s our duty to get involved,” Genzoli said.

“Unless you are really involved, you are missing opportunities to improve your operation or gain knowledge of how it can be better. If we all get involved, we can preserve this special privilege of farming almonds for generations in the future.”

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