FoR Most pEopLE, thE sAME IMAGEs CoME to MINd whEN thEy thINK oF CALIFoRNIA—bEAutIFuL bEAChEs, CELEbRItIEs, ANd FAMous LANdMARKs suCh As thE GoLdEN GAtE bRIdGE. We typically extrapolatethe images of Los Angeles and San Francisco to the entire state; however, just east of these two California anomalies, the beaches fade to farmland, the celebrities transition to field workers andthe metropolis becomes a traditional small town.
Although technically in the same state as its more publicized counterparts, the San Joaquin Valley looks more like the Midwest than stereotypicalCalifornia. Stretching more than 400 miles, it lies between the Tehachapi Mountains and Redding, CA. The valley has been called the richest agricultural valley in the world, accounting for 25 percentof the nation’s agricultural production. Grapes, raisins, wine, cotton, fruit, vegetables and nuts thrive in this unique area. Cattle and sheep ranches also contribute significantly to the valley’seconomy.
Among all these, one crop has exploded in production over the past 30 years to become California’s #1 export— the almond. As the only state commercially producing almonds, and with only onepercent of the nation’s farmland, one would not expect the numbers to be all that impressive. In the 1970s, growers worried they could not sell a 100-million-pound annual crop. That might seem like alot, but it is peanuts compared to today’s 1.6-billionpound almond crop. That is sixteen times
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more than 30 years ago, and eachdelicious little nut has to be weighed. Why has the industry experienced such a boom in California over the past few decades? The old real estate adage rings true: Location, location, location. The state’sunique climate of mild winters and dry, hot summers make ideal conditions for finicky almond trees. With the huge industry growth, facilities that grade, sort, weigh and package almonds have had their...