How do you source nuts?

Manzanita works with private landowners across California’s North Coast and pays them for harvest rights for every pound of dry usable Acorn and Bay Nut  we harvest. Our crews work from late August to early November and work hard to sustainably retrieve nuts that would have otherwise been left to rot unharvested.

Landowners have to pay property taxes on privately held lands each year and that means they must generate revenue from those lands. By helping them monetize intact and healthy oak forests, we support the preservation of this critical habitat.

Do you leave enough for animals

Yes. Acorns fall continuously from late August through December across California and millions of pounds are left to rot uneaten by humans or animals every year. On average we harvest less than half the total acorn harvest of any given tree, leaving the rest in place for wildlife.  We are also using cutting edge bioacoustics to carefully monitor the impact on wildlife before, during, and after the harvest to make sure we do not negatively impact wild species.

Beyond just not doing harm, we are actively benefiting wildlife. Our harvest is done on privately owned oak forests, and payments for harvest rights to landowners actively support keeping these forests healthy and intact. A landowner that can’t generate revenue from their lands is likely to sell them, and a forest that is cut to make way for orchards or suburban sprawl provides no food for wildlife. 

How much water does it really save?

Wild acorn is grown with no irrigation at all, compared to almond which can consume up to a gallon of water per nut and an average of 377 gallons a pound. The almond industry in California consumes 17% of all water usage in the state. We save 754,000 gallons of water compared to almond for every ton of food we produce from native tree nuts growing wild in intact forests.

In 2024 we expect to save around 40 million gallons of water, as compared to producing the same amount of food from Almond and other conventional nut crops. By 2030, we hope to be saving more than a billion gallons a year.

Are you taking food from native people?

No. We only harvest on tribal lands with the explicit consent of the tribe and we pay them for any acorns we harvest. We do not harvest on publicly owned lands since many tribes conduct harvests in federal and state-owned forests. 

Our code of conduct for third parties we buy from explicitly prohibits disrupting or competing with tribal harvest operations.

What is acorn’s nutritional profile

Acorns are a complete protein and contain a full set of amino acids used by the body to synthesize muscle tissue. 

Acorn’s nutritional profile varies from species to species, but on average 1 ounce of raw acorn flour contains

  • 110 calories
  • Up to 2 grams of protein
  • Up to 9 grams of fat
  • Up to 4 grams of fiber
  • 0 grams of cholesterol
  • 11.5 grams of carbohydrates
  • 11.62 milligrams of calcium
  • 17.58 milligrams of magnesium
  • 22.40 milligrams of phosphorus
  • 152.81 milligrams of potassium‌
  • Fiber: 4 grams
  • Vitamin A: 44% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Vitamin E: 20% of the RDI
  • Iron: 19% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 19% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 12% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 10% of the RDI
  • Folate: 8% of the RDI

Acorns oils are considerably higher in unsaturated fat compared to saturated fat and this helps improve cholesterol levels and even protect against heart diseases like atherosclerosis.It also helps to protect obesity and other heart diseases caused due to saturated fats. The low glycemic index makes acorn flour ideal for people with diabetic or pre-diabetic symptoms or anyone trying to lose weight since it does not provoke the same insulin response as wheat flour.

What does it mean to be a cooperative

Manzanita is incorporated in the State of California as a “General Cooperative” and is owned mostly by its employees. 51% of the shares of the company are held in a common pool owned equally by all vested employees. The remaining 49% is owned by our diverse founding team of 6 and by community investors. Over time, we will buy back stock from investors and add it to the common pool, but for now selling stock is critical to raise the funds we need to launch.

This structure ensures we will remain focused on our mission to make farms habitat and bring food production into balance with ecological systems over the long term and never have to sacrifice that mission for the sake of short term profits.

We operate as a democratically run organization and any person in a leadership role is subject to an annual “confidence vote” by the people they lead. Leaders who lose the confidence of their teams are replaced. Many decisions are made by voting within teams and leaders are seen primarily as facilitators whose core responsibility is to support their teams and enable everyone to do their best work.

How are you funded

So far, startup funds have come from investments by our founding team, grants, and loans. We are actively seeking new investors during this ramp up period and can accept investments of as little as $1,000. 

We hope to source a large share of startup funds during our initial ramp-up from investment by tribal governments so that we can pay dividends back to them over time as we move toward profitability. For information on investing with Manzanita, please reach out to invest@manzanitacooperative.com

Are indigenous people involved in Manzanita Cooperative & how?

Yes. Our harvest operations are led by Rich Bolton, a registered member of the Chukchansi tribe, and our first outside shareholder was the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center (CIMCC). CIMCC’s executive Director, Nicole Lim, also serves on our Advisory board and provides ongoing support and advice. 

We hope to raise a significant portion of our funds during our current fundraising round from tribal governments as well, giving them an ownership stake and allowing us to pay dividends to the tribes as we grow.

Tribal governments also receive significant discounts for bulk purchases in order to make sure that traditional foods are more accessible and affordable than they have been in the past. 

We are also actively seeking to build relationships with tribal jobs programs across the North Coast as we scale up operations and are committed to working as good neighbors and allies to indigenous Californians.

What do you mean when you say you’re “developing native species for agriculture?” Are you doing genetic engineering?

We do not use genetic engineering at all in any aspect of our business.

Every crop used for agriculture around the world began as a locally native species that was subjected to selective breeding over time – for example wheat, rice, corn, rye, oats, and other grains started as grasses with edible seeds. This process often started out as unintentional – for example oats and rye started out as essentially common weeds in wheat fields until early farmers realized that their seeds were also edible. Native Americans were particularly adept at this process, and more than half of the crops eaten today around the world are originally native to the Americas; including tomatoes, corn, peppers, potatoes, and many more. This process has usually been slow, taking centuries or even thousands of years. 

Over time, the wide abundance of available crops suited to different climates – and the ability to radically alter climate through dams, drainage, and so on – meant that it was easier to develop an existing crop than to domesticate new ones and so domestication efforts have become vanishingly rare – there are less than a dozen in the last century but that list includes JoJoba oil, Kernza (a grain), and blueberry; which was developed from an eastern cousin of our native huckleberries between 1893 and 1916 by Elizabeth White using what was then considered to be cutting edge breeding techniques.

As far as we know, we are the only company in the world working to actively domesticate new climate-adapted crops. Our process to do so is essentially identical to the process used for thousands of years, but with the benefit of modern tools to map genomes and do genetic testing at every generation so we can carefully control the process and condense a selective breeding program that might have previously taken decades or centuries into a few years. Unlike historical domestication efforts, we are also actively working to make sure that the new crops retain their habitat value for native pollinators.

Why do we need new crops?

Adapting climate to suit non-native crops has real costs for native species. In California, the damming of rivers and diversion of water to support agriculture is one of the biggest reasons our salmon are now almost extinct. Overpumping of groundwater to support non-native crops is collapsing and destroying aquifers across the central valley and the long term result of that unsustainable practice will be desertification. This is one of many local examples of the same mindset and process that has created the existential threat of climate change which now threatens all of humanity.

Instead of adapting the ecosystem to agriculture, we want to adapt agriculture to work within the larger ecosystem. We look to the tremendous biodiversity of western native species as a resource to be safeguarded and preserved for future generations. Many of these species have provided food for humans for thousands of years and can continue to do so far into the future.  Doing the work to domesticate them and make them easier to grow with larger yields while leaving their climate adaptations and habitat value intact provides a real alternative. Instead of diverting rivers and killing salmon to water almond orchards or grow alfalfa for cattle feed, we can grow native and native-derived crops that require little or no irrigation and can feed people sustainably while supporting our native pollinators and other species.

There is a better way to do agriculture in the west. We’re going to prove it. 

How do the work around domestication and the work with wild foods fit together?

Manzanita is unique in that, instead of building our business around a single product, we are building it around a biome. While our Wild Foods and Rapid Domestication programs begin as separate initiatives, over time they will converge.

Much of Northern California’s orchard land was formerly Oak forests while many farms were formerly grasslands. Oak forests in particular were targeted for clearing and replacement because of their high quality topsoil. Our first goal is to stop this deforestation by proving it is possible for landowners to make money from intact wild forests. But we’re not stopping there.

By adapting native plants for agriculture, we invite nature back into the farm and create habitat for our native pollinators. Growing multiple crops together mimics naturally occurring plant communities and allows the species to benefit each other, while providing an abundance of pollen sources spread out over the course of the entire year. We will intersperse native trees, like Oak and Bay nut, at an appropriate density to mimic native forests and grasslands while reducing carbon emissions. Carefully monitoring and restoring native soil biomes allows us to grow plants that rely on the microorganisms they’ve evolved alongside for millennia, and we build and rebuild soil over time using principles of regenerative farming. Regular controlled burns, conducted in partnership with indigenous communities, control invasive species, improve soil health, and prevent out of control wildfires. 

The end result will be a polyculture growing system that blurs the line between farms, orchards, and forests – a cultivated wilderness that serves nature as much as it serves humanity. While much of this work is still in planning stages, we are making rapid strides forward and have a clear vision of where we are going and the tools to get there.