Haleakala Walnut Shelling in Gerber
By Jordan Venema
Story by Jordan Venema
Photos Courtesy of Haleakala Ranch
SINCE THE LATE 19TH CENTURY, Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker” has been something of a holiday staple. From the musical composition to the ballet choreography, can we even think of Christmas without those little mustached soldiers? But this year, when it comes to holiday traditions, you might want to consider a visit to Gerber’s Haleakala where you can get a glimpse of a real nutcracker in action.
Haleakala is a three-generation, family-owned walnut grower and processor, though Haleakala office manager Samantha Haman says there’s a fourth generation that comes in a few days per week.
“There’s a few things going on here,” she says, referring to the 520 acres of walnuts and the processing and shelling operation. “Haleakala Ranch is where we actually grow and care for the trees, and we also have Haleakala walnut shelling, so basically we’re a root-to-box operation here.”
Haleakala’s goal is pretty simple: To establish long-term relationships with buyers, to provide a quality product at a reasonable cost, to maximize growers’ returns and to partner with employees to grow as a community.
Despite the name, which is Hawaiian for house of the sun, Haleakala prides itself for its involvement locally in Tehama County.
“We sponsor the rodeo every year, and have a sponsorship with the local theatre,” explains Haman, referring to the Haleakala stage at the Red Bluff State Theatre. And though the name of the company might not be common, Haman says, “It sticks in people’s minds. It’s not easily forgotten.”
Even though Haman says they run a pretty simple operation, she also says, “A lot of people don’t know how much work goes into [Haleakala]. Many people have said, ‘I thought this was just you-take-the-hammer-and-crack-the-nut kind of operation.’”
In addition to farming 520 acres of walnut orchards, Haleakala operates a processing facility which includes a two-story, 200-foot long industrial machine that cracks and separates walnuts into various sizes, which of course Haman says they call The Cracker.
“Most of the walnuts people are exposed to may have an off-putting flavor, but fresh walnuts are actually really tasty and don’t have a bitter flavor.” Plus, she adds, “they’re a healthy product with the seal of approval from the American Heart Association, and naturally GMO free.”
The company doesn’t sell much domestically, “but it’s something that we’re looking into for the future, and we’re always expanding our family, and have space for new family members to join us if they’re interested,” she says, referring to other growers.
Haleakala has had a lot of success selling internationally, but “this year has been a funny year because of tariffs,” she adds.
But just because Haleakala sells mostly internationally doesn’t mean the walnuts can’t be had close to home.
“It’s not impossible to get our walnuts,” says Haman. “We do
get people who call in for a box of walnuts here and there, so we do that,” adding that they have a small quantity of six-pound holiday boxes available.
When planning the holiday party this year, forget roasted almonds or the pecan pie, and instead try a walnut maple pie recipe instead, or at the very least, check out Haleakala in person and check out a totally different kind of nutcracker. And the timing is perfect. Haleakala’s season is short, but you can catch them between September and March. •
Haleakala Walnut Shelling, Inc.
9969 Tyler Road, Gerber