Prior to June 3, 1963, when the association approved a simple policy statement “to maximize the member’s return in almond production capabilities,” California’s commercial almond production was primarily limited to the Sacramento Valley. Areas once predominantly planted in cotton in the SJV now grow a cornucopia of commodities, including almonds.

Almonds are now grown throughout the Central Valley, making shelled almonds the number two cash commodity in California as of 2011, and the top commodity grown in Fresno County.

According to Denis Prosperi, CCAGA board chairman and a Madera County almond grower, getting the association off the ground in 1963 first required Fresno County Supervisors to rezone 32 acres of land in the Sanger area so the association’s first almond huller could be constructed. The land was previously owned by Producers Cotton Oil Company and was zoned strictly for cotton ginning.

A year later, Clovis Sanger Cooperative Gin manager Bob Hines recommended to the fledgling CCAGA board of directors that the gin co-manage the new hulling association. This led the hulling association to hire Hines as the CCAGA’s first full-time manager.

“He did an impeccable job of leadership in growing this operation into what it is today,” Prosperi said.

The association succeeded in part since very little change at the top occurred during its 50-year history. While Hines managed the organization from its inception to about 1993, Michael Kelley was hired by the board in 2005 as the association’s president and chief executive officer.

“I came over here from the cotton industry,” said Kelley, whose experience includes work with the National Cotton Board and the Farmers Marketing Cooperative in Phoenix and Yuma, Ariz.

Throughout this period, Kelley says the association has never lost sight of its six prime objectives, which include:

  1. Producing the highest value of products consistent with the cost of creating value.
  2. Hulling members’ almonds at the lowest practical net cost.
  3. Hulling in coordination with the growers field operations to minimize members’ total cost of harvest and hulling.
  4. Providing hulling facilities to handle members’ product in a reasonable period of time to minimize exposure of almonds to field and weather hazards.
  5. Producing a product that meets industry standards.
  6. Securing research and information on almond production problems.

Only four men have served as CCAGA board chairman over the last 50 years: the late Bill McFarlane of Clovis (inception to 1993); Chuck Nichols of Hanford (1994 to mid-2002; Don McKinney of Madera (mid 2002 to 2009); and current chairman Prosperi of Madera