Easter was in full bloom! The tables were beautifully decorated with yellow, pink and lilac napkins. Centerpieces were filled with assorted Peep’s bunnies of various colors, jelly beans and topped with sparkling eggs.

President Todd Koolakian called upon Sarah Hodge for a Thought for the Day. Sarah offered a poem by Mary Oliver about California’s poppies sending up their orange flares: “That light is an invitation to happiness.”

Dan Fenocchio surprised members with the announcement of a new Sacramento Rotary Fellow: PP Bob Miller. Bob realized it was HIM when his Northern California graduating class of about 42 high school students was referenced. Miller played college football and is an avid golfer, runner and LA Dodgers fan. In addition to all his volunteering and donations to our club, he still finds time to make his own beer, bread and pizza. When Miller was president of our club, he also chaired the Elk Grove Chamber of Commerce.

Club Announcements:

  • Ski Trip – David Brandenburger reminded members that the club’s ski trip to Heavenly Valley will be on April 5 at Heavenly.
  • Fireside gathering – Mik Miklaus has offered his home for a Fireside night on April 18. You can register here.
  • District Conference – President Todd said it’s time to sign up for the District 5180 Conference at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno.

Let’s Go Skiing:

Bhavnesh Makin donated in honor of the graduations of his daughter and son. PP Bob was grateful to be honored as the newest Sacramento Rotary Fellow. Amin Elmallah donated in honor of the 20+ club members who recently contributed over $7,000 to Doctors Without Borders for Gaza humanitarian relief.

Chair of the Day Steve Huffman introduced our guest speaker Kai Bockmann, president of the Blue Diamond Almonds which is a 114-year-old cooperative headquartered in Sacramento. Huffman worked for Blue Diamond for many years.

Bockmann said Blue Diamond’s 3,000 almond growers in the Central Valley provide 80 percent of the almonds sold in the world. It is California’s number one agricultural crop that provides $9 billion to the state’s economy.

One of the first questions usually asked of Bockmann is about how much water is needed to grow almonds. He said more growers have started using micro irrigations which decreases the water needed. And he compared almonds with tomatoes, which require three times as much water and have a short lifespan.

Almonds are grown on 21 percent of the farmland in the valley but use only 14 percent of the state’s agricultural water supply. With the increased use of micro irrigations, their growers use 33 percent less water than they did 30 years to grow a pound of almonds. Growers are also focused on earning Honeybee Friendly certification for certain products.

In harvesting, the entire almond shaken out of trees then separated into nut, hull and shell. The hulls provide bedding for farm animals, and the shells are a nutrition element for cattle feed.

California’s almond growers have been challenged by weather issues such as high winds and too much rain. “We’re in a world of hurt right now,” Bockmann said, with more almonds being grown than consumed. “But we’re in a great position to be successful.”

Club members can get a 30 percent discount on all products sold in Blue Diamond’s store at 7th and C Streets until March 30 by using the password of “Nuts for Rotary.” (This reporter has shipped them as gifts to friends in other states and carried gift baskets to parties or vacation stays.)

President Todd acknowledged the numerous club members who facilitated the meeting. Tom Bacon served as sergeant-at-arms. Members and guests were greeted at the door by Megan Laurie, Bhavnesh Makin, and Josh Pelz. Photography was provided by John Swentowsky. Rick Davis poured the wine.

No meeting next Tuesday because of Easter. Next meeting will be April 9.

By Nancy Weaver Teichert

Photos courtesy of John Swentowsky of Swentowsky Photography