Valley almond harvest underway

FRESNO, Calif.

A strong jolt doesn't bother these Madera almond trees. During harvest, shakers take hold of a tree trunk and just like that the almonds drop to the orchard floor which has been cleared of weeds and bugs.

"The almond is in the shell state so when you shake the tree they'll fall."

But Pat Ricchiuti remembers the late 50's and early 60's when you didn't have air-conditioned cabs on shakers. You did it all by hand. "You would take a rubber mallet and climb into the tree and hit the limbs and that would be the way you got them out of the trees."

Shakers are obviously built for speed. The almonds are left to dry in the orchard for a few days before being swept up.

Once the almonds arrive at the huller/sheller, processing happens quickly. Twigs, sand and stones are removed from the crop.

The almonds are fumigated and sorted by size.

Ricchiuti's almonds from PR Farms are shipped around the globe and used in products like trail mix and candy.

Pat figures it will be a good year for almonds but not a record year as some have predicted.

"We have some reservations on it being the largest crop ever. Our non-pareil varieties are short and that comprises 60-percent of the industry's total nut crop," Ricchiuti said.

The almond harvest lasts for a few months so growers like Ricchiuti don't want to see early rain. "We're on a race. We certainly are. Some varieties are ready. Some are not."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture believes increased demand for almonds will increase production for several years.

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