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ExploreBard Valley

The best Medjool Dates come from Bard Valley.

Committed Growers

Growing Medjool Dates is a labor of love, a test of strength, and a triumph of human spirit. We invite you to meet the special group of farmers who are dedicated to growing Natural Delights, the finest Medjool dates in the world.

"My truck is my office–working out in the beautiful palm trees. I can't imagine doing anything else."
Dave MansheimBard Date Company
"My truck is my office–working out in the beautiful palm trees. I can't imagine doing anything else."

When Dave Mansheim came to Bard Date Company in 2004, he had already lived several lives.

After an idyllic childhood in rural Iowa and earning a degree in Ag Business, somewhere along the way he became disillusioned: “I was mad at the world. I couldn’t find a farmer’s daughter who wanted to marry me. And I thought anyone who wanted to stay in farming was crazy.”

So he did what any hot-blooded, hard-working young farm boy who didn’t want to farm would do – he joined the Marines. In 1987, the Marines sent him to Yuma, Arizona and he fell in love – with the area and his would-be wife.

Dave got his pilot’s license and did a little bit of everything – crop dusting, flight instruction, and corporate travel; he even owned and operated an air ambulance business for several years.

He and his wife had three kids and they grew accustomed to the warm, outdoor lifestyle of the Yuma desert.

But deep-down Dave was a farmer – and ultimately, it drew him back. In 1995, he began working for a family-owned company that specialized in crop protection. And when there was an open position at Bard Date, Dave took over operations. That was 2004 and he’s not looking back.

“I’m staying right where I am,” says Dave, who also serves as President of the Bard Date Grower’s Association.

Dave believes in doing things right. “My business priorities are doing whatever we have to do to be safe, making sure we are as legal as possible, and making a profit. If we’re successful in those first three things it should be fun.”

I like to stuff the date with a good, firm dill pickle. It was my wife's idea.
Gus NunezImperial Date Gardens
"This isn't just about building something – although that is a wonderful thing – this is about being a good steward of the earth, and growing something good that benefits the people around you."

Gus Nunez will be the first to tell you, that his story is not really about Gus Nunez, it is about his family.

His father, Isabel, and his mother, Bartola, left Durango, Mexico, and came to the United States in the early 50s to make a better life for their family. Isabel, or Izzy, as he was often called – since, as Gus clarified, “he had to go through his whole life with that name” – was a laborer; a hard worker who clicked with his boss from the very start.

Izzy began taking care of some date trees on his boss’s land, just to be helpful, because no one else was doing it. And in so doing, forever changed his family’s destiny for generations to come.

In 1972, he bought his first orchard – 10 acres of the American Dream. Today, the family owns more than 4,000 acres, 3,000 of which are growing Medjool date trees.

Today, the Nunez family is the single largest single grower of Medjool dates in Bard Valley, and perhaps, the whole world.

Gus and his siblings grew up on the farm – it’s all they’ve ever known. They used to joke that their father should have had more kids, because they could have really used the extra help.

The Nunez kids all went away to college, but eventually, they returned to the farm: “We didn’t think we would come back to the farm, but once we were able to understand a balance sheet, we realized, maybe the old family farm has some potential.”

Over time, they each took responsibility for part of the business: Mary, the oldest, is the controller and in charge of the books; Gus, is in charge of sales and marketing, and the baby, Ramone, manages production. And, between them there are 11 extra members of the Nunez family to put to work.

For the Nunez family, dates have become a legacy, three generations deep.

Bacon wrapped and stuffed with any kind of cheese. I like to live on the wild side.
Dave Nelson
"When you grew up like we did, owning land was important. But we aren't real estate people – we are growers. This is what we wanted. We were in the date business."

Dave Nelson was born and raised in Bard, Calif., where he and his family lived above the country store that his dad owned.

From the time he was a young boy, he was surrounded by the date business – whether it was the growers coming in and out of his dad’s store, or if it was working at Barryman Farms, or helping out his best friend’s family, who worked for one of the early date pioneers: (who is the pioneer and who is Barryman Farms and why is Barryman relevant. “I can’t really explain it. I just always had a real appreciation for the world of Medjool dates.”

After graduating from college at Brigham Young University and spending two years in Uruguay on a mission, he came back – speaking fluent Spanish, no less – to the land he loved. He and his brothers had the opportunity to buy 15 acres of date groves. He hawked a car to come up with his share – but he was in.

"When you grew up like we did, owning land was important. But we aren’t real estate people – we are growers. This is what we wanted. We were in the date business."

For eight years, it was more like a hobby, since they didn’t make a dime. But the longer they had it, the more dates they produced. And at some point, it became a viable part of their lives.

Today, Dave doesn’t have time for hobbies. “I’m a farmer with five kids – I work and I go to church and soccer games and basketball games. That’s about it.” And his little date groves are his livelihood. “We have a small farm, but we know our groves.”

And the personal touch is important to Dave, who believes in striving for the best quality – not for the economics of it – but for the satisfaction of growing really, beautiful dates.

“Almost every day, of the last 30 years, I have loved the date business.” And that, regardless of a bad year or a bad crop, is what they call satisfaction.

The date that is sopping wet, right off the tree, one that you couldn't ship, because it is too soft.
Steve McCollumSun Garden
"At some point, I had the realization that when you are farming you are never, ever done. You aren't punching a time clock. It’s not 9-to-5 work. This is a way of life."

Steve McCollum grew up in a small farming community in Handler, Arizona, but he did not expect to become a farmer himself, in fact, quite the opposite. His dad was an architect and he went to Arizona State University to study real estate.

But as these things happen, in 1985, there was an opportunity to invest in an 80-acre farm and he and his family gave it their all.

It was a way of life that suited him. Steve helped grow Sun Garden – one of the oldest date operations in Bard – and sell the company in 2004. He stayed on to help the new owners expand it and today, continues to manage some of the oldest date gardens in the Bard Valley.

“I love completing the cycle. You work hard, you go through the whole process, you finish and season and you produce and sell a good crop. The gratification of going through another season.”

Steve has two sons of his own, one of which is currently working at the farm. He won’t tell them whether or not to go into farming, he’ll simply give them some advice that will apply no matter what they choose to do: “What you put in, is what you get out. The more you do, the more attention you give, in the end, you will see better results.”

Solid advice for farming and life.

Stuffed with walnuts or fresh fruit
Glen Vandervoot
"If I take care of the fruit, the fruit will take care of me."

When Glen embarked on a career in farming dates, he underestimated the risk, and the amount of waiting – but he also had no idea how rewarding it would be, that it would provide for so many families, or that he would still love it so much after all these years.

After growing up with a father in the dairy business and studying agriculture at the University of Arizona, in 1985, Glen had the opportunity to partner with his father on their own venture: dates.

“My dad invested with a couple other guys – one knew how to grow the dates, one knew how to sell them. It seems a little crazy now – but I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

They worked those 80 acres and kept growing and today – 29 years later – they have more than 700 acres and 140 employees.

“I’m proud of what we’ve built. And it’s not just one farm – it’s new buildings, and expanding facilities, and building companies, and selling parts of companies. I get to see things growing every day. It’s a real blessing.”

Glen still loves to be outside, watching things grow and learning new things. He is passionate about growing good fruit – and he puts in the time and effort every day to make sure that happens: “I know when it’s right. I know the results. I am out there everyday.”

He knows first-hand that, especially with dates, a lot of patience is required but delayed gratification can be a beautiful thing

Stuffed with some sort of nut butter or cream cheese with a fresh Serrano pepper.
Ron HillRoyal Dates
"To me, farming is not a job – it is a lifestyle. I don’t think I would be able to do it if this was just a ‘job.’ I found something that I love and that keeps me motivated."

Some of Ron Hill’s fondest memories are of following his dad around on the farm – riding on the tractor, planting seeds and watching them come up; he learned early on about the hard work of the fields and the celebration of the harvest.

Ron and his family were homesteaders, living on a small family farm in Bard, Calif., where they raised cotton, wheat and alfalfa.

He idolized his father and his father told him not to go into agriculture. So he went to college at Cal Poly, and stayed on the coast working for a fertilizer company.

“I stayed on the coast for five years. I tried. But my body could not get used to wearing a jacket in the summer.” Eventually, Ron simply missed the harvest too much.

Well, that and a hefty dose of stubborn. Ron is constantly trying new strategies, improving growing methods and trying to improve upon his crop from the previous year.

“When I started farming dates in 1996, our fruit was known as some of the darkest, most moist fruit around. I do everything I can to maintain that reputation and improve upon it. That’s where my stubbornness really comes in.”

Today, Glen and his wife, live with their two dogs in Yuma. Ron loves the heat and getting outdoors whenever he can, and of course, “his children” – the Medjool dates.

Freshly picked off the tree
A Unique Microclimate: bard valley's majestic date gardens

Location is Everything

Nestled where California and Arizona meet, Bard Valley lies in a beautiful, sun-drenched corner of America’s Southwest. Our Medjool date gardens are watered by the Lower Colorado River as it makes its way to the Gulf of California. Warmed by the ever present sun, nourished by the high water table and proximity to the Colorado River, this is the home to the finest Medjool dates in the world.

The Yuma Medjool Date Festival

Every year Yuma, Arizona celebrates the Medjool date with a weekend of fun for the whole family.

Music, arts and crafts, kid's events, cooking demonstrations, date garden tours and wonderful food and fun await you, every year in November.

This year's festival is November 15, 2014.


Save the date!

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