Fresno’s Assemi family preps exit from farming, shops $2bil sale of farms, pistachio business

One of Fresno’s wealthiest farming families could be getting out of the business, listing all of its farms and ag businesses for sale in a confidential listing acquired by The Sun.

Fresno’s Assemi family, one of the region’s largest in the ag business, is looking to divest from its farming operations, seeking a buyer for tens of thousands of acres of farmland, as well as Touchstone Pistachio Company, a major nut processor it owns.

The move comes as Farid Assemi – who has headed up the family’s farming operations – has faced declining health over the past few years and an intense intra-family legal battle over control of the family’s farming enterprise.


The big picture: Both Maricopa Orchards, the Assemi’s principal farming trade name, and Touchstone are up for sale by the Assemis, according to a confidential presentation for potential buyers obtained by The Sun. 

  • Maricopa Orchards has around 52,000 acres of land which has been used to farm pistachios and almonds. Touchstone has the packing and shipping operations for the family’s farming business, including a processing facility in Terra Bella and another one planned in Fresno County. 
  • The combined company up for sale is being dubbed “Project Green” by the Assemis and investment bank Cascadia Capital, which was retained by the Assemis to sell the company. 
  • Sources with knowledge said the value of the combined entities and their assets sits at roughly $2 billion.
  • “Project Green is a rare opportunity to own a premier integrated and scaled platform with superior water rights in the best agriculture-growing region in the country,” the presentation reads. 
  • The Assemis are considering offers for the company as a whole, as well as individual assets, the report states.

Go deeper: Of the 52,000 total acres up for sale, there are around 28,000 acres that are currently planted with almond and pistachio trees. 

  • Project Green has a hulling and drying capacity of 60 million pounds, silo storage capacity of 73 million pounds and processing capacity of 75 million pounds. 
  • The land also includes around 10,000 acres of fallow ground currently situated under solar panels. 
  • The Terra Bella processing facility spans 40 acres and is next to a 39-acre wastewater application site. 
  • Touchstone was contracted for $172.3 million revenue last year, a jump from $121.7 million the year before and $131.3 million in 2021. 
  • Maricopa Orchards has around 40 full-time employees and around 120 temporary employees, while Touchstone has around 250 full-time employees. A full buyout or piecemeal acquisition of assets held by the two firms would likely have significant impact to the roughly 400 employees.

The deal under your feet: Purchasing Maricopa Orchards would also give the buyer water rights across seven water districts in the Central Valley. 

  • More than half of the company’s ranch assets are in Westlands Water District, while around 30 percent are in Semitropic Water Storage District. 
  • In Westlands, Maricopa’s water demand is around 75,000 acre feet annually and has 24,000 acre-feet stocked up in owned banking capacity. 
  • Maricopa has a demand of around 19,000 acre feet of water in Semitropic. 
  • The other water districts Assemi land is in are the Central California Irrigation District, Laguna Irrigation District, Panoche Water District and Southern San Joaquin Municipal Utility District. 

The backstory: The Assemi family has long been in the almond and pistachio farming business, first with Maricopa Orchards in 1989 and more recently adding Touchstone Pistachios, which started in 2019 as the family divorced its pistachio operations from The Wonderful Company and billionaire Stewart Resnick. 

  • The jury awarded the Assemis with close to $39 million in damages, although the jury also awarded Wonderful around $11.4 million in damages because the Assemis did not deliver pistachios in 2019. 
  • Shortly after the verdict was handed down, Kevin Assemi – the son of Farid Assemi and former President of Assemi Group and former CEO of Maricopa Orchards – filed a lawsuit against the family
  • Kevin Assemi filed the lawsuit against his father and uncles, Farshid Assemi and Darius Assemi, alleging 31 civil claims, which include breach of contract, unfair business practices, wrongful termination and malpractice. 
  • Part of the lawsuit centers on an alleged fraudulent attempt by Maricopa representatives to secure a $13 million loan with Kevin Assemi’s company to make an initial payment on a $500 million loan. Per the lawsuit, Kevin Assemi prevented this loan from being issued by notifying Federal bank regulators of alleged fraud.
  • The lawsuit also stated that family business scion Farid Assemi was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2021 and Cerebral Degenerative Ataxia shortly thereafter.

Big hits for Valley farming: The Assemi family’s unloading of farming assets comes amid a beating for big-time farm operations in the San Joaquin Valley.

  • Prima Wawona, once America’s largest stonefruit grower, filed for bankruptcy in 2023 four years removed from the acquisition and merger of two Valley giants – Gerawan Farming and Wawona Packing – by private equity player Paine Schwartz.
  • Another private equity backed farming giant, almond grower Trinitas Farming, declared bankruptcy last week as almond prices collapsed and its production fell sharply.
  • Unlike the other two farming collapses, which were led by private equity operations, the Assemi exit would be the first of its size, scale, and scope to be done by a family-owned operation in recent memory.

Correction: A previous version of this article said a Fresno County jury largely sided with the Assemis against The Wonderful Company and Stewart Resnick over a grower bonus, rather than the co-op payment.

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