From The Business Journal

Frank Lopez – STAFF WRITER

June 14, 2024

Nichols Farms photo| Nichols Farms in Hanford is a third-generation family business that has managed not to become over-leveraged as farmland selloffs continue.

Though it may appear that corporate owned farming is dominating the agricultural industry, family farms still play a vital role in feeding the nation and the world.

While there have been significant family farm selloffs to corporations, family owned and operated farms accounted for 95% of all U.S. farms and operated 84% of farmland. One Central Valley family farm has been growing crops, as well its business, for 60 years now — all while focusing on sustainable environmental and business practices.

Vertically integrated Nichols Farms in Hanford grows pistachios and almonds, as well as processes them with different flavors including habanero lime, hot honey and jalapeno lime.

They also grow and process organic pistachios.

There has been turbulence in the ag industry surrounding private equity investments in farms, notably the implosion of Fresno based stone fruit grower Prima Wawona and nut grower Trinitas, but Nichols Farms has self-financed throughout its history.

That has allowed Nichols Farms to grow to more than 400 people and manage 4,000 acres of orchards. James Nichols, vice president of farming operations, and Vice President of Supply Chain Jeffrey Nichols, represent the third generation running the family farm. They are the grandkids of founders Nic and Virginia Nichols.

“He [Nic] was one of the first farmers to adopt a competitive health care program,” Jeff said. “That’s one of the values he’s instilled in us — taking care of our employees.”

Nic and Virginia found Nichols farms in the early 1950s, and for the next 20 years, farmed row crops, with cotton as the main staple. In 1981 Nic planted the farm’s first almond and pistachio trees, and 10 years later, work began on the processing plant.

Nichols Farms photo| Nichols Farms has 400 team members and manages 4,000 acres of orchards. They also process their bounty.

James said they farm in the counties of Fresno, Kings and Tulare, with the primary headquarters just down the street from the Hanford processing site. Pistachios have been commercially grown in California since the late 1970s. Policies have been set in place to help pistachio and almond growers, but nothing along the line of direct subsidies, James said.

“Pistachios are not necessarily seenas a food staple,” James said.

James said he and other farmers he knows are noticing that the next generation is not as interested in taking over a farm, and many are forced to sell.

He said their parents didn’t force him and Jeffrey to work on the farm but gave them the opportunity — and somewhat pushed them to try other things.

Jeffrey said there was a “boom” in agriculture over the last 15 years, and it is now in a bust period. “With increasing operational costs, increasing commodity costs, and the next generations not interested in farming, they are deciding to sell,” Jeffrey said.

James and Jeffrey have stayed interested in continuing the family business because of the pride they work of making a quality product that people enjoy. They also have fun on the job.

They are also inspired to continue the work for the more than 400 people they employ at the facility and wouldn’t want them to be out of a job.

Conservation and sustainability have been a major focus for Nichols Farms, James said, being one of the first farms to adopt subsurface drip irrigation for permanent crops in the 1990s.

Along with drip irrigation, Nichols Farms also utilizes other sustainable practices like renewable energy, water recycling and natural composting.

Jeffrey said the pistachio industry is growing and production is projected to reach over 2 billion pounds in the near future. He said they are trying boost value added products with all of their pistachios to escape the export raw bulk market.

Nichols Farms products can be found at several stores including Costco, WinCo and online at Amazon.

There are currently investments for automation at the plant to help with quality and labor costs, but the next big push over the next few years will be pushing the Nichols Farm brand, and hopefully, raise the fourth generation of the family to continue the farm’s legacy.

Frank Lopez | Writer can be reached at: 490-
3465 or e-mail frank@thebusinessjournal.com