Industry Rallies Behind Fundraiser to Support Nickels Soil Lab

Crain Orchards is a major sponsor and supporter of the Nickels Lab fundraiser, and will continue to provide matching funds for donations on the fundraiser website

The California tree nut industry gathered in Woodland on Dec. 16 for a fundraiser to benefit Nickels Soil Lab in Arbuckle to ensure the important research that has come out of this private research farm will continue long into the future.

More than 100 friends of the tree nut industry attended the Nickels Soil Lab fundraiser at the California Agriculture Museum in Woodland. Calif. Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Farm Advisor for Colusa and Sutter/Yuba Counties and research director at Nickels, called the industry support and donations “overwhelming” as West Coast Nut CEO Jason Scott presented him with a check made out to the Nickels Soil Lab.

Former UCCE Farm Advisor and early Nickels Soil Lab Research Director John Edstrom visits with trustee almond grower Larry Rominger at the West Coast Nut fundraiser for Nickels in December.

Donations go directly into the Nickels Trust account for the benefit of the research facility. Donations are still being accepted on the fundraiser web site at
Nickels Soil Lab is a field research facility and an important resource for the California tree nut industry. Established through the bequest of Leslie J. Nickels, the Nickels Soil Lab (NSL) is a 160-acre, private commercial farm operated for the public good by the Leslie J. Nickels Trust in collaboration with University of California and the Colusa Water District. Nickels has hosted dozens of research projects, delivering real contributions to the knowledge base of California nut growers since the early 1970s. The annual spring field day at NSL highlights the research done there.

West Coast Nut CEO Jason Scott presents a check to Franz Niederholzer, UCCE Farm Advisor, Colusa and Sutter/Yuba Counties and research director at Nickels, at the dinner fundraiser at the California Ag Museum in Woodland.

For years, careful management, timely big-ticket support, good surface water availability and generally good prices have kept Nickels in the black despite higher costs of operating small (2 to 20 acres) research plots compared to larger blocks commonly farmed by growers, Niederholzer said. Nickels’ budget is now in the red. On top of that, NSL doesn’t qualify for crop insurance due to the use of unproven farming practices in research trials, Niederholzer said.

The Leslie Nickels Trust since 2015 has invested in new almond orchards and irrigation infrastructure to help NSL best face an uncertain (weather, markets, water, etc.) future. There are new orchards with salt-tolerant rootstocks and high-value varieties as well as functioning wells. Older orchards with missing trees will be pushed out this winter to cut costs and improve overall returns.

JCS Marketing CEO and Publisher Jason Scott said research that comes out of Nickels has been integral to the success of the California nut industry and West Coast Nut magazine saw an opportunity to help keep that alive for the benefit of the future of the industry.

“Nickels Soil Lab has been the seat of important innovations that have benefited the entire nut industry and it is important all of us who benefit from this industry give back to help ensure it is here for generations to come,” Scott said.

More than 100 industry supporters attended the fundraiser dinner hosted by West Coast Nut magazine.