For me? You are too kind.

The Sacramento Bee will be doing a yearlong series on almonds. I can only understand this as meant for my personal gratification, presumably because I was good in a past life. May I suggest some stories I would love to see in this series? I will keep a running list here.

A story on the rise of almonds in our food. I believe our current levels of almond consumption are nearly entirely an artificially created demand. This reveals my crotchety aged self, but I remember when breakfast cereals didn’t have almonds in them and we ate them with cow’s milk, dagnabbit. Trail mix used to be peanuts and raisins, not almonds, white chocolate chips and dried cranberries. Someone at the almond board has done an incredible job and I would love to read more about that person.

A compare and contrast between the original almond growers up near Chico and the new growers (last decade or so) in the San Joaquin. You could get some very nice Quainte Olde pictures of family farms in orchards up near Chico.

Used to be, there were two nut processors in the state, Blue Diamond and um, that other one. Are there more now? What happens to an almond when it leaves the orchard? Are the new large-scale growers vertically integrated?

What happens at the end of the production life of an almond orchard?  There are a lot of irrigation equipment and trees to dispose of.  I don’t suppose those trees can be burned, considering air quality management rules (maybe I am wrong).  So what does happen?  How will that work when three hundred thousand acres of new almond trees age out within five or ten years of each other?

As I look at the quote about Mr. Guadian’s 150 acres, I wonder who is financing the almond expansion.  Who on earth would loan him $500,000 to dig a well, when (I assume) the collateral is land that will become worthless when the well goes dry?  (My guess is that the land is mortgaged as well.)  What bank is doing that?  How is this different from the housing crisis?  For that matter, like the housing crisis, how is the bank prepared to re-possess and clean up tens of thousands of acres of dead almond orchards?

As I think of more, I will leave them here.  Thank you so much, Sacramento Bee!

Another idea! (March 3) How California almonds drove out production in the rest of the world. Was it pure price undercutting? Spain, Turkey, Iran all used to grow almonds. There is a reason those horrible wedding favors are called Jordan almonds. What happened when Californian almonds came into the market?

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “For me? You are too kind.

  1. It would be great to see a comparison of the older northern valley “amand” growers with the mega growers down in the south dominated by Stuart and Lynda Resnick’s Paramount farms. Water is obviously a huge difference since almonds used to be dry farmed in many spots especially around Chico and Paramount and other growers down in Fresno and Kern counties occupy what is technically a desert.

    Almond mania has attracted hedge fund investors, so the old image of the Blue Diamond nut farmer in his bib overalls with a ball cap standing in his grove telling us how wonderful “amands” are has been replaced by men in suits and Beverly Hills billionaires and their darling Senator Feinstein, who pronounce the name of the nut according to Webster.

    Pronouncing the nut “Amands” is a quaint nut farmer joke. They use strange machines with padded forks to grab the trunks and shake the trees to dislodge the nuts. So if you ask about their colloquial pronunciation they will happily tell you that there is no L in almonds because they shook the (((***L))) out of them at harvest.

    You asked where the dead trees go? The trunks and large branches are often processed into firewood and sold in pre-packaged bundles to recover some of the losses.

  2. Matt H

    “I don’t suppose those trees can be burned, considering air quality management rules (maybe I am wrong). ”

    You are probably correct that the unproductive trees can’t be burned in the field, but one thing I’ve seen more and more frequently at my local grocery store are boxes and boxes of firewood emblazoned with “Almond Tree Wood” on the side. Used to be the only boxes of firewood you’d see was the “Hot Wood” brand, which I always presumed to be oak (pretty sure it specifies that it’s a hard wood of some kind), or the austere shrink-wrapped bundles, which also seemed to be oak.

    So this almond wood that I’m seeing now, I presumed to be the carcasses of all those or trees that had to be bulldozed as a result of our “government created drought”. In any case, I think, yes, the trees can be burned, just somewhere other than directly at the orchards.

  3. All I can say is, are you nuts! Hahaha

    Please keep up the good work.

  4. jaylund

    I have been amazed when I travel overseas to find packets of California almonds, even in odd places off the beaten path. Clearly, California almonds are popular globally, and very profitable for Californians.

    To help conserve water in California, I have embarked on a “repatriation” campaign for California almonds. I try to gather packets of almonds from trips out of state and return them to California. I plan to sell their embedded water if the drought worsens.

    Hearing of my plan, a colleague recently brought be a bag of almonds from Thailand, with almonds actually grown in Thailand! I am preparing for an invasion of Thai marines charged with repatriating this embedded water back to its native soil.

    The discussions of almonds remind me that California’s agriculture, like its economy, has been largely export oriented since the days of Richard Dana in the 1830s. This changing economy largely drives how California manages water, and is largely responsible for California’s prosperity. This is a fundamental reality we must deal with as we struggle to manage water for important non-economic purposes as well.

    • @Jay Lund, We must all do our part, but you’re going to have to eat a lot of well-traveled almonds to repatriate a few drops of water. I’m pretty sure most of the water in our almonds never leaves the state except as water vapor vented into the atmosphere. Food safety rules dictate that the kernels be pasteurized, usually by roasting. I have a better idea: buy some of the Stuart and Lynda Resnick’s Fiji water and go pour it in a Westlands irrigation ditch.

      Nice to see you here as a commenter. I love your California water blog.

  5. anonymous

    @ Jaylund: so scarcity has social causes peculiar to certain capitalist modes of production.