The Koehnen Family Farming “Four” Generations
Integrity, hard work and determination were many qualities that Carl Koehnen demonstrated in his business and in everyday life. Those qualities have been passed down through all four generations of our family business.
Bill Koehnen (Carl’s oldest son) used to oversee the nuc making process. Today he checks in daily on how the day-to-day operations are going and is doing well at almost 90 years old. His son Mike is the company president, he oversees the financial aspects of the business as well as various other business matters. His son Steven is involved in the farming of almonds and walnuts (with Kalin) and is working alongside his dad learning the overall aspects of our business.
Bob Koehnen (Carl’s youngest son) until his passing in November of 2014 oversaw the queen rearing. His wife Yvonne still sews all the beekeeping veils and sleeves for all our employees and oversees our weekly harvest lunches. Kalin, Bob’s oldest son, oversees all farming aspects of our business and Bob’s youngest son Kamron oversees all beekeeping aspects of our business. Kamron’s wife Julie takes care of all the package bee and queen orders and scheduling during our bee season. Reed, Kamron’s son, is working alongside his dad learning all he can about the bees.
Originally, C.F. Koehnen was in the bee business for honey production, packages, and queens (90 percent of his package bees and queens were exported to Canada). Due to the changing landscape of the area (orchards replacing fields) honey production had been dropping. As a result, Carl, who had been bee breeding all along, built up his queen-breeding business. This is still our focus today.
Until the Canadian border closed in 1987, like many other California queen and package producers, we dealt almost exclusively with Canadian beekeepers. Over the years we've shipped to many foreign countries, including France, Germany, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Mexico, and Costa Rica, although we no longer ship internationally.
After the border closed, we shifted our focus to the U.S. market only. Today our bee buisness is focused in pollination, queen bees and package bees.
Before moving to Glenn County in the 1920’s, along with his beehives, Carl grew 5 acres of walnuts in French Camp. The first walnuts planted at our present location of Glenn County were in 1955. In the 1960’s, oranges were grown near our headquarters. Today, walnuts make up approximately half of our total nut farming, with our walnut hulling & drying taking place onsite of which we provide this service for other local farmers and ourselves as well.
The first almond farming project began in 1979 when C.F. Koehnen & Sons purchased a ranch in Butte County. This has expanded considerably and now makes up approximatley the other half of our total nut farming. Our first almond huller was built in 1985 and the most recent renovation and expansion to our almond hulling facility was in 2017. Today we harvest, hull and shell all of our own almonds as well as those of other local farmers. Our almonds are then processed nearby at Riverwest Processing, which the Koehnen family owns in partnership with the Paiva family.
How the Business Started
Our business began in 1907 when Carl Fredrick (C.F.) Koehnen and his brother Albert, were commercial catfishermen in Tracy, California, where they acquired their first bee colonies. In the late 1920’s, Carl and his brother went their separate ways and Carl moved to Glenn County. The area then was primarily undeveloped and honey production was easy due to open land and they huge grain fields that turned yellow with star thistle after harvest.
In 1927 Carl purchased 20 acres on which he built the warehouse, then in 1928 he built his home and married Anna, his wife of 50 years. The warehouse is still in use today at our headquarters, in the town of Ord Bend, surrounded by almond and walnut orchards just yards from the Sacramento River.