When Navreen Thandi was younger, she heard the phrase “money doesn’t grow on trees” about a hundred times. But as she quickly learned, money does grow on trees — almond trees, to be exact.
Thandi comes from a family of organic farmers. Her parents, Robin and Kashmir Singh, are organic farmers who own California’s Organic Harvest in Madera. The 292-acre farm is nestled among orchards and vineyards on Avenue 12.
The family business started from their love for organic nuts and dried fruit. In the 1960s, her father moved from Punjab, India to California — meeting her mother along the way. They owned a farm in Yuba City before settling in the Central Valley.
Thandi currently handles paperwork for the family business, but like her parents, being a business owner runs through her veins. The 23-year-old recently opened a storefront for California’s Organic Harvest in River Park Shopping Center — across the street from Me-N-Ed’s Coney Island Grill.
Among the dozens of restaurants and boutiques, Thandi sells organic nuts and dried fruit: almonds, pistachios, walnuts, prunes and raisins. She also sells grape seed oil, almond oil and almond butter, which she makes fresh daily.
Next month, she will start selling organic almond flour — great for baking muffins, cookies and cakes.
Thandi said the process of switching to organic farming from conventional farming took “a lot of time and money,” but is essential to helping the environment by increasing sustainability and biodiversity.
“A lot of people don’t know the difference between organic [farming] and conventional [farming],” Thandi said.
Organic farming is a system of production and processing that doesn’t include the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers. It uses techniques that reduce the amount of harmful emissions released into the environment.
Conventional farming refers to a system that includes the use of pesticides, herbicides and artificial fertilizers —in addition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), heavy irrigation and irradiation. It also creates a loss in biodiversity.
Among the varieties of organic almonds that she sells: roasted and salted, unsalted, pasteurized, unpasteurized and in-shell unpasteurized — “the rawest, purest form,” Thandi said.
Although Thandi is new to being a business owner, she doesn’t lack the skills and knowledge of running a storefront.
In 2014, she graduated with her B.S. in agribusiness from California Polytechnic State University.
During her four years at Cal Poly, she was part of the Agribusiness Management Club, Alpha Zeta and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.
Next, she enrolled in the Master in Global Entrepreneurial Management program at University of San Francisco. As part of the MGEM program, she studied at Institut Químic de Sarrià in Barcelona, Spain and Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, Taiwan.
“I focused my thesis on agribusiness,” she said.
When Thandi returned to the family business, she started feeding the idea of opening a storefront in Fresno. The idea was brought to life when she saw a vacant space for sale in River Park Shopping Center.
Thandi said her parents live by the phrase “learning-by-doing,” which they instilled in her and her younger brother.
“They have been so supportive,” she said of her parents. “They’re so helpful.”
As for her younger brother, Shaan Thandi, “he will be joining to the family business, too.”
In the future, Thandi hopes to partner and collaborate with local businesses. She also wants to continue her mission of educating the community on the benefits of organic farming.
Details: (559) 664-8677, www.californiasorganicharvest.com.