Almond Farmers Recognized for Innovation, Leadership

Posted March 14th, 2016

Multiple generations of almond farmers have produced not only multiple crops of California Almonds, but also innovative leaders. The latest “crop” of leaders is represented by Daniel Bays and Matthew Efird. These fifth-generation almond farmers have been recognized for their innovation in sustainable1 growing practices as well as their leadership on the farm, in local communities and in the agricultural industry.

Recently, Bays, who grew up farming in Stanislaus County, received the Young Farmers and Ranchers Achievement Award. The American Farm Bureau Federation Achievement Award Program is designed to recognize those young farmers and ranchers who have excelled in their farming/ranching operations and honed their leadership abilities to superiority. They are judged by the operating efficiency, leadership abilities, creativity and proven success.

Efird, who farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley, is named on The Progressive Farmer’s 2016 list of America’s Best Young Farmers and Ranchers. The program recognizes leaders in production and management innovation, and also for involvement in their home communities.

As farmers across California have been faced with new challenges brought on by the drought, Bays and Efird are taking advantage of new technologies and practices, particularly in irrigation, to become more efficient and sustainable.

Both awardees are improving their sustainability and combating the effects of the drought by maximizing their water efficiency with drip or micro-irrigation. Drip and micro-irrigation deliver water in small amounts directly to where tree roots can most efficiently use it. These irrigation systems help farmers like Bays and Efird conserve water while optimizing production and tree health.

Today, more than 70% of almond orchards report using water-saving micro-irrigation systems, demonstrating leadership in adopting new technology.2,3 In fact, innovative farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped almond growers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33%.4

As a winner of the Achievement Award, Bays has earned a $4,000 cash prize, 250 hours’ use of a Kubota tractor and will represent California at the American Farm Bureau Federation Annual Meeting in Orlando. Efird will continue developing his leadership abilities alongside the 24 fellows accepted in the California Ag Leadership Program. The program will allow Efird to experience two years of personal development, leadership training and public speaking education.



1 Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious and safe food product.

2 California Almond Sustainability Program. Jan. 2014.

3 California Department of Water Resources. California Water Plan Update. 2013. Oct. 2014.

4 UC Drought Management – Historical Almond ET and Goldhamer, David. 2012. Almond in Group Yield Response to Water. FAO irrigation and Drainage Paper No. 66, P. Steduto, T.C. Hsiao, E. Fereres, and D. Raes, eds. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy, pp. 246-296.