Tim Merrill, sales and marketing manager for Omega Walnuts in Orland, Calif., designed the processing facility of premium walnuts. Construction started in early 2012 with its first walnuts for processing received later the same year.
Planning for the project started more than a year ahead of when the first concrete was poured, he said. Merrill praised the local planning and permitting process for its speed of approval. The company has all of its expansion plans approved by Glenn County and merely needs to acquire the proper permits for future construction.
“I’ve been in the walnut industry a long time,” Merrill said. “I’ve seen most of the facilities in the North State in the past 30 years, and I’ve had a chance to walk through most of them.
Merrill continued: “We truly have something special here. We took a very aggressive approach, bought the most sophisticated equipment we could find, and used our experience to develop a premier facility.”
Merrill’s optimism was not initially matched by some area growers, who could not believe such a facility could be built in such a short time, much less so such quick success.
“There was a lot of skepticism in the north state,” he said.
That skepticism did not deter the ownership, and certainly did not slow Merrill from building a team of individuals to operate the facility.
Merrill is confident the company will overcome the naysayers and early skeptics. He plans to do this through an open-door policy of plant tours and demonstrated success.
“You get people in here to see that you’re not a fly-by-night operation,” Merrill said. You do this by making a serious commitment to markets and transparency.”
Eventually, Merrill says growers shipping to Omega Walnuts will begin to share their own success stories with others and that skepticism will be overtaken by optimism and a desire to be a part of a growing success story.
“This year we did a little over 11 million pounds,” said Merrill. “We are projected to do well over 15 million pounds next year.”
At full capacity Omega Walnuts will process 100 million pounds of walnuts. Merrill says growth in the industry and demand for premium walnuts primes the company for success.
Key to this success, according to Merrill, was hiring a good plant manager.