The words “Great Recession” are not in Mike Mason’s vocabulary.

After all, the word “opportunity” rolled off his tongue eight times during his keynote address as Almond Board of California (ABC) board chairman during the 2010 Almond Industry Conference in Modesto, Calif., in December. Mason plowed through a steady tabulation of 2010 ABC accomplishments.

Flying at 37,000 feet, Mason and Richard Waycott, ABC president and chief executive officer, peered over the results of an exciting year of good fortune for California almonds and the continued vital role of science-based research in the value of almonds.

The duo also set a celebratory tone commemorating the ABC’s 60thanniversary during the opening session speeches. The conference was attended by 2,200-plus almond growers, hullers and shellers, nurserymen, and other industry representatives.

Despite the almond industry’s good fortune, Mason, a partner in the almond handling company Supreme Almonds of California in Shafter, stays true to his roots, first and foremost, as a California almond grower.

“Over the years I have traveled across the U.S. and people from all walks of life ask me what I do for a living,” said Mason, a sixth-generation grower. “I’m always proud to say I am an almond grower. I usually hear them say, ‘I like almonds and almonds are good for you.’”

The California almond industry continues its unprecedented ride despite an earlier grower reservation.

“About 10 years ago a word in the industry brought great concern to almond growers – the word ‘billion’ (pounds of California almond production),” Mason said. “Now we can fast forward 10 years later and see how that billion-pound crop played out. If we had a billion-pound crop today, we would say that’s a disaster.”

The California almond industry achieved the billion-pound milestone during the 2002-2003 crop year. Production a decade earlier was 830 million pounds. Almost 1.5 billion pounds of California-grown almonds were shipped last year, but more importantly, says Mason, at a profitable price for growers.

The almond industry has performed well despite changing economic times. The industry has invested in forward thinking, Mason says, through plans developed years ago.

Not about to rest on its laurels, ABC leadership is focused on future opportunities, including increased relevancy and appeal for California almonds in the global marketplace. For the second year in a row, almonds were a favorite inclusion in new nut products globally.