How did you become a
My wife’s family owns Lindauer
Family Farm in Red Bluff, California.
About 15 years ago, we saw a need for
the next generation to take over the
family farming operation. I left my
job in the corporate world and pursued
the opportunity to become a full-time
California prune and walnut farmer.
What kind of plums make
the best prunes?
The best prunes come from plums with a
high natural sugar content. Most California
prunes come from the improved French
variety of plum. Prune plums generally
have a natural sugar content between 25%
and 35%, whereas a plum you would buy at
the store and eat fresh is only at about 15%.
The natural sugar content is what allows
the plum to dry properly.
What does a typical
workday look like?
I meet with my crew first thing in the
morning to talk through responsibilities for
the day and ensure that everyone has the
proper tools and resources to accomplish
assigned tasks. Depending on the season,
daily responsibilities may include soil
analysis, irrigating, fertilizing, leaf analysis
and/or pruning, among others. I also spend
time each day thinking about what the
next day, week and month look like to be
prepared for what lies ahead.
What’s challenging about
being a farmer?
The biggest challenge is working with
nature and its unpredictability. There are
many factors that we can’t control, such
as weather and pests. You have to learn
to adjust as necessary and understand
what you can control and let go of what
you can’t. There are also challenges
within the industry. You need to learn
what licenses and permits you need as
well as what tests and inspections are
mandatory in California.
It is tremendously satisfying to begin
with a fresh field, prepare it for planting,
and then watch it grow from sticks in
the ground to a full orchard. It is also
satisfying knowing that I am growing
healthy food for people to enjoy. I also
personally love being able to work
outside in nature. You are never doing
the same thing for too long, which keeps
Who buys your plum crop,
and then what happens to it?
Lindauer River Ranch is part of a co-op
with Sunsweet Growers Inc., Yuba
City, California. All our prunes go to
Sunsweet as soon as they are harvested
and dried. From there, Sunsweet
prepares them for market, packages
them and sends them out for retail.
What do you want chefs to
know about prunes?
California prunes are versatile. They
complement savory and sweet dishes,
and can be whole, diced or pureed. They
can improve the moisture content in
ground meats and improve the shelf life
of many products. California prunes also
offer quite a few health benefits and can
improve overall diet.
LET’S TALK TO MICHAEL VASEY ABOUT …
MICHAEL VASE Y IS PRESIDEN T OF LINDAUER RIVER RANCH, RED
LET’S TALK ABOUT … california prunes
Talk about the public
perception of prunes.
I believe perceptions of California
prunes are changing. People no longer
only associate prunes with digestive
health. But, the problem is, people just
aren’t thinking about prunes. Prunes are
not a household item. However, people
are starting to see the value of a healthy
snack that lasts a long time.
Do you have a favorite dish
using California prunes?
My favorite California prune recipe is
36 Lady Prune Cake, especially with
whipped cream frosting. The story of
the 36 Lady Prune Cake dates back
generations, and it is a family favorite.
I also love to eat prunes with walnuts as
a snack. The flavors complement each