Written by The Business Journal Staff
F rom humble origins to global leader, Poindexter Nut Co. has built one of the Valley’s most successful agribusinesses with hard work, perseverance and an old-fashioned commitment to doing the right thing.
The Selma-based company, a finalist in the 2016 California Family Business Award, began in 1969 as a small, roadside walnut dehydrator processing just 40 or 50 tons of walnuts a year.
Today, Ron and Sherian Poindexter’s company, now a third-generation family business, currently controls roughly 5 percent of the U.S. walnut business while continuing to branch out into new product lines that include walnut-flavored oatmeal cookies, buffalo and garlic parmesan.
Poindexter Nut Co. (PNC) grows, processes and packages its own walnuts as well as walnuts produced by nearly 300 local area farmers. The company’s roots reach to the 1950s when Ron Poindexter and his father, Latha, began delivering walnuts grown on the family farm to Berberian Processing Co. in Stockton.
Soon, the Poindexters neighbors began asking them to deliver their walnuts too and eventually, to streamline the process, the Poindexters started buying and reselling the nuts, using a small huller to clean the walnuts and then drying them on a wooden frame or by simply spreading them out across the ground.
In 1967, Ron and his father began buying walnuts on a commission basis for Associated Nut Growers (ANG) in Visalia and by the fall of 1969, the pair had installed a small, 12-ton huller and dryer.
Unfortunately, the following year, Latha Poindexter passed away. But Ron and Sherian continued the business and were able to eventually expand to handle more than 600 tons of walnuts a year.
Then, in 1983, ANG defaulted on their payments to area growers. So PNC stepped in, refinanced their own loan and paid the growers the money owed to them by ANG, a move that earned them a ton of credibility with their fellow nut growers.
In 1985, PNC began as commissioned buyers for Nutridge Farms and the business really ramped up its hulling, drying and procurement capabilities. The next year PNC began sizing and bleaching in-shell walnuts and with the Poindexter name now on the product — and a close attention to detail — the company quickly established a reputation for top-quality in-shell walnuts.
That year, PNC shipped five containers of nuts to Germany. Today, the company, which pasteurizes every nut that comes through their facility, ships over 500 containers a year all over the world.
But the Poindexters, like most Valley families involved in agriculture, have faced their share of challenges.
On Christmas Eve in 1990, the couple received news that Nutridge Farms could not pay their growers. So once again, the Poindexters refinanced and paid the growers money owed to them by Nutridge.
Eventually, Nutridge paid off all of their debt but Ron and Sherian decided they needed to take control of their own destiny. So with a strong grower base and dedicated employees, the Poindexters built their own processing plant and in the first year alone, PNC was able to process four million pounds of walnuts.
In 1993, Ron and Sherian’s son, Mike Poindexter, joined the company as a salesman and general manager. Now serving as CEO, Mike’s vision of growth has propelled the company to new heights. PNC now employs over 400 employees seasonally and currently processes 45 million pounds of walnuts a year, exporting to more than 45 countries.
Mike Poindexter says he plans to pass on the business someday to his three daughters. Acknowledging that his family has faced its fair share of challenges, Poindexter is proud to have helped support walnut growers throughout the Valley.
“A promise of payment from the Poindexter family is as good as gold,” he said. “We’ve built a solid reputation as a company that would do the right thing and honor their commitments.”
George Lurie | Reporter can be reached at:
490-3464 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org