Valley's almond harvest underway, crop smaller this year

Several commodities are now in season - including almonds, the Valley's most valuable crop.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2022
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The summer shakedown is underway in orchards all over Central California. Almonds, the Valley's most valuable crop, are now in season.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The summer shakedown is underway in almond orchards all over Central California.

Despite the triple-digit temperatures, work continues.

Crews often start earlier in the day to avoid the hot sun.

Several commodities are now in season - including almonds, the Valley's most valuable crop.

Craig Arnold of Arnold Farms in Atwater says he's always relieved to reach this point of the season, when nuts are harvested off the trees before they're swept up and collected.

"So far, they look pretty good. So far, they're coming off the tree nicely. It's a little early to guess at a crop size, but we're happy with what we're seeing so far," he says.

The family farm has been in business since 1909.

But now more than ever, a dwindling water supply threatens its existence.

Arnold was able to get by with partial water allocations and pumped well water to bring this crop to harvest.

"Definitely, the drought has caused a lot of angst. We're watching water a lot closer than we used to. We're really focusing on being as efficient as possible," he says.

The almond industry brought in three straight record crops ending with a 3.1 billion pound harvest in 2020.

Freezing temperatures during the spring and a third year of drought resulted in a smaller crop this year.

"In the general area of Fresno County down to Tulare County, it seems like we're off around 15%," says Central California Almond Growers CEO Mike Kelley.

Kelley says almond production on the Valley's west side was down 35%, same with Kern County, but there might still be a silver lining.

"If the crop is off, the backup that's going on in the inventory warehouse, it's hopeful that will somewhat increase the price of the almonds," says Kelley.

Back at Arnold Farms, Arnold is also harvesting sweet potatoes and peaches so the work is never done.

"Sweet potatoes are one of those hard ones because they're all underground. It's really difficult to tell what the yield is until we get them up," he says.

The sweet potatoes are sold at stores on the West Coast.

But Sweet Arnold Farms aka Sweet AF now also offers direct sales to consumers.

Arnold says you can now order fresh peaches, flavored almonds and sweet potatoes online.