With the influx of walnut production over the past few years, came the need for more hullers and more exporting since almost all walnuts grown for their nuts in the United States are produced in California.
According to the CA Ag Commissioners' Report of 2012, 627,921 tons of walnuts were produced on 312,323 acres in California with an estimated value of $1,802,586,000.
Longtime Live Oak High School classmates and friends Sukhraj Pamma and Mike Procunier with Sukhraj's father Gurnam, recognized the need for another huller purchasing the former Boeger property at the south end of Block Road at Luckehe Road.
With the purchase of the property came the addition of an office and a warehouse with plenty of room for growth that first season.
Sutter Buttes Mercantile Co., receives in-shell walnuts from area farmers and exports them primarily to Vietnam, their biggest buyer. They also process their own prunes.
The BSI Nimbus sheller sorts and prepares the walnuts for one pound packs. Six employees stack the 55 pound bags which is hard work according to Procunier.
A large world map on the wall of the office holds colored pins depicting what product is shipped where such as purple for prunes.
When the price of walnuts went down the last couple of years it opened it up for more sales such as those being shipped to Iraq for the first time.
Sutter Buttes received 7.5 million pounds of walnuts last year but they will be equipped to process as much as 20 million for this year's demand, their fourth season with the addition of two more large warehouses.
"Suk" Pamma is an attorney and uses three different brokers in order to get more with direct sales, preferring not to do the traveling that would be necessary if he did the exporting himself.
The business pays two percent to the brokers and one percent of that goes to shipping, making it worthwhile for them to let the brokers do their job.
"When we call the brokers it means the product is sold within three to four days," Procunier explained during a tour given to members of the Gridley Rotary Club April 27.
The vast amount of farmers planting walnuts just a few years back lead the price to drop and Chandlers started out selling for approximately 92 cents a pound this year are now at $1.02 average, Procunier stated. Sutter Buttes packed for 47 growers this year alone.
They estimate they had a half -million pounds from people who farmed five acres or less noting that these farms are producing the best nuts.
"They are big and beautiful. Farmers who do everything themselves do a great job," Procunier said.
This year the company sent 35 percent to China and Vietnam, thirty-five percent to the middle east and the rest scattered around the world.
India was a new market for the business this year. They sold two-and-a-half million pounds of nuts the first year.
Sutter Buttes had 212 trucks deliver walnuts in six weeks this season.
Keeping the nuts in bins instead of a silo works much better for Sutter Buttes as they can find problems a lot quicker. Handling their own fumigation is important making sure problems such as moths are kept at bay.
A new sanitation room was added besides a very nice break room for employees of which they have 40 at the peak of the season.
Gurnam Pamma joined the tour and explained the BSI Nimbus machine that takes out any rock, sticks, possible pieces of glass, anything that could come with the walnuts being dropped off.
In their third season, Sutter Buttes farms close to 5,000 acres of their own walnuts, prunes and almonds located next to the business.
This is a very impressive layout with new buildings, offices with beautiful stained concrete floors, a weight room, and a 13 foot walnut conference table with an epoxy finish.
Sutter Buttes has inspectors on-site whenever the machinery is running, in other words all the time to make sure the best quality meats are being shipped out.
Putting out 20,000 pounds an hour of Chandler walnuts means everyone has to be on their toes and Sutter Buttes is very appreciative of the people they have working for them, working 14 hour shifts.
The season lasted 48 straight days and is not apparent as the entire complex of buildings is kept very clean and orderly.
Procunier told Rotarians that when the Chinese come to visit their facility they are amazed to see wild deer and turkeys walking the property.
It is evident the company is ready for their fourth season to begin, bigger and better than ever. It's great to witness such a success and wish them the best of luck in the future.