Let’s bargain

Led by Chico-area growers, the California almond community has finally gotten what farmers of crops such as walnuts and prunes have had for years: a bargaining association. That will give growers leverage as they work with handlers to arrive at a fair price for their nuts.

“We want to be an advocate for the growers [and] try to establish and ensure stability and protect the value of the crop,” said Rick Cinquini, a Chico almond grower and president of the group, which now has official legal status. The growers moved carefully so as not to offend the handlers who buy and market their almonds. “Our concern has been, whatever we do here as growers, we’re reluctant to alienate the handlers.”

Rather than negotiate with handlers on behalf of growers, the California Almond Bargaining Association will advise its members on how to get the best per-pound price based on the market. (Lately, growers have been getting about $1 a pound, but in the mid-1990s prices were as high as $2 to $2.50.) “We’re going to be an information and service organization,” Cinquini said.

He said the bargaining group is still forming its board, writing its bylaws and deciding on its mission statement and will soon be seeking members from all over the Central Valley where almonds are grown. Members will probably pay less than $2 an acre for the services.

The group formed with the help of NCFC Business Consulting, a subsidiary of Northern California Farm Credit. Rod Carter, who is also an ag business lecturer at Chico State University, runs NCFC.

Carter, whose expertise includes the legal matters involved in setting up such an organization, said the bargaining group had to become a legal entity so as not to engage in price-fixing. He said he’s not surprised it took a while for the industry to get a bargaining group up and running. “Farmers are a very independent lot, and it’s not in their nature to form this kind of entity.”

I’m so there

Thrift store junkies, rejoice: Paradise Hospice is holding the grand opening of its shop—or should I say “shoppe"—on Aug. 10. The Hospice Shoppe is located at 7126 The Skyway and carries clothing, vintage stuff, jewelry, collectibles and more at bargain prices.

At the grand opening, certified appraiser Richard C. Frey has volunteered to evaluate customers’ items, and the hospice would appreciate a $5 donation for every three items you bring in. There will also be ice cream and cookies and other treats, along with antique motorcycles and “another really BIG surprise!!!!” (That was four exclamation points on the press release, folks.)

ValleyRidge Foundation, Inc., runs the shop, and all proceeds will go to help hospice patients and other community causes.

Team player

Play It Again Sports is celebrating 10 years selling new and used sporting goods at 2065 Whitman Ave., and owner Scott Ulmer is pretty happy about it. He bought the Chico franchise eight years ago,

“It’s nice for the kids growing out of stuff,” Ulmer said, explaining that people can trade in their old equipment toward new gear. Play It Again Sports is busy year-round, what with snow sports in the winter, baseball and softball in the spring, football in the fall and golf year-round.

Ulmer, a Chico State recreation grad, has lots of sports experience himself. He wrestled (back when Chico State still had a program) and coached football and wrestling at a high school in central California.

Accordingly, Ulmer also sponsors local sports teams such as Little League and soccer, paying about 300 bucks to help with costs and get his name on their shirts at the same time. "It’s good advertising," he said. "It helps them and it helps me."