Maisie Jane Hurtado is the fourth generation in a family of almond growers. She grew up sliding through the winter mud in the orchard and learning to drive a tractor. By the time she was in high school, she had a lot of agriculture experience under her belt and had started to put what she’d learned into a business.
It was only natural that she would join the Future Farmers of America. “My FFA project was to raise lambs. But at the same time my passion was to stay involved with farming and agriculture, particularly the almond industry.”
Knowing how much she loved her flock of sheep, everyone was surprised by the choice of this precocious 17-year-old. “In 1993 I sold my lambs and bought a ton of almonds from my family’s Bertagna Orchards. That’s why we say that this business has grown ‘From Sheep to Nuts!’ ”
Other farmers thought Maisie Jane was a cute kid. They just never expected her to take the family nut harvest in a new direction. But having grown up in the male-dominated world of agriculture, she knew what it took to carve a place for her own business. With her mother and aunt she experimented with recipes from friends and family and launched her line with cinnamon-glazed, coffee-glazed, tamari and natural almonds, as well as her mother’s Caramel Corn and Almonds. After six years in business, she opened her own store.
That store was the reason she met her husband. Isidro Hurtado is from Hollister, so he grew up near garlic and apricot farms, but he was attending Chico State for a construction engineering degree and working part time in the local hardware store. “I was making a little retail showroom at the front of my manufacturing space, and he sold me the paint!”
Isidro joined the business in 2002. He is in charge of production and wholesale orders, while Maisie Jane focuses on sales and marketing. They recently moved the store to a historic building that had been the Dayton Country Store for 50 years. “It’s been a lot of things since then, including a saloon!” In addition to Maisie Jane’s products, the store sells food items made by other local producers.
"But it's not just about selling almonds," Maisie Jane says. "It's rewarding to be working with other local farmers and selling their farm fresh goods at our store and on our website. It's all about supporting the local community and keeping agriculture alive!"
"I guess that's why I've always loved sunflowers and why I chose them for my logo. From one little seed comes this strong, tall stalk, and a bright beautiful flower. From the flower come hundreds and hundreds of seeds. These seeds can not only grow hundreds more flowers, but they can nourish us as well."