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Here's how almonds get harvested in the Central Valley

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Almonds are the top crop in Fresno County and the second-largest in the state, but unless you grew up near orchards, you may not know how they're harvested. "They're okay to drop and they can take a little more of a beating," said Emin Dhaliwal. His company, Pacific Distributing Inc., sells the tree shakers used to literally shake the almonds free from their branches. The practice is fun to watch if you've never seen it: a mechanical arm grabs the trunk of the tree, then vigorously shakes until the ground around it is covered with almonds, still safe in their hulls. Each tree takes a matter of seconds and the settings can be adjusted to be softer on younger trees. "I've heard they used to take tarps out and beat them with mallets," Dhaliwal said when asked how almonds were farmed before shakers came around. The same practice is also used for some other nuts, including walnuts. Dhaliwal estimated that one drive in a tree shaker can shakedown 20-30 acres in a day, and he estimates they've sold about 100 machines in the Central Valley just this year. The high-efficiency is needed when you consider that California supplies 80% of the world's almonds.   "Almonds are the number one crop in Fresno County, number two in California," said Fresno County Farm Bureau CEO Ryan Jacobsen. "One in five almonds are coming from Fresno County, it's an integral part of our local ag industry." The crop has become a solid alternative for Valley farmers who were struggling with other crops in years past. Jacobsen also said he estimates there are about 100,000 jobs directly or indirectly tied to the California almond industry. As far as the harvest goes, it's a process explained by Michael Favagrossa of Favagrossa Farms. "This time of year is the only time a lot of farmers get paid," Favagrossa said regarding the importance of harvest season. "They go all year long hoping and praying that they're gonna make a crop, and this is the time of year they see am I gonna be okay until next year." Favagrossa said he thinks the majority of almond farmers are going to be happy with this year's yield, despite a wet spring that had some worried. He says either way, it should be an improvement on the year before. Harvest season will last until early November.
In The News
// About the Almond Industry

Almond Board Receives Prestigious Award for Outstanding Contributions to Food Safety

For More Information: Ashley Knoblauch aknoblauch@almondboard.com     MODESTO, Calif. — The Almond Board of California (ABC) recently received the GMA Food Safety Award from the International Association for Food Protection, in recognition of the Board’s “preeminence in and contributions to the field of food safety.” The award comes after nearly 50 years of Almond Board-funded research and innovation leading to numerous improvements in the way almonds are harvested and handled to ensure safety. “This award is the culmination of many years and countless hours of work by ABC staff, researchers, and industry leaders to elevate California almonds to an honored, best of class, position in the field of food safety,” said Richard Waycott, president and CEO of the Almond Board. “While much of this work often goes on out of the view of the public eye, this recognition will shed some much-deserved light on the work of the dedicated team of food safety professionals at the Almond Board and our colleagues in the industry.” ABC’s submission for the award detailed nearly five decades of research and advancements in food safety funded by the almond industry through the Almond Board. “ABC is honored to be the recipient of the 2019 GMA Food Safety Award in recognition of our long-term commitment to food safety, and we are truly humbled to be included in the long line of extremely worthy past recipients,” said Tim Birmingham, ABC director of Quality Assurance and Industry Services. “Food safety is a cornerstone of what we do.  Since the early 2000s, ABC has been focused on producing the highest quality, safest crop possible through research, food safety programs and industry-wide education. We will continue to look for ways to improve, and share what we know, to help ensure the integrity of tree nuts and low moisture foods in general to protect consumers around the world.” The most recent advances in almond safety began in 2007 with the establishment of the mandatory pasteurization program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Since the implementation of the self-imposed pasteurization program there have been no reported foodborne illnesses related to almond consumption. “The credit for this award really belongs to the almond growers and handlers who invested their hard earned dollars in the research and the ABC Board of Directors’ willingness to make difficult decisions that put the good of the industry ahead of individual concerns,” said Birmingham. “But while the award is nice recognition, the real payoff is in the foodborne illnesses that have been prevented by the collective efforts of the industry, demonstrating our commitment to food safety from the orchard to the consumer.” The GMA Food Safety Award is sponsored by the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and was presented July 24 at IAFP 2019 in Louisville, Ky. 
GMA Award
News Article
// Quality and Food Safety

Finding a Greater Use of Almond Byproducts

Almonds are having their moment right now. Between the hotly debated almond milk and almond butter or flour products, there is a lot of buzz around the super food. It is deserving of the attention, as the commodity is a power house when it comes to health benefits. They are almost exclusive to California, since the state is the only commercial producer in North America (and the United States is the top producer in the world). With the ever-changing preferences of consumers to be less wasteful, and so many almonds being grown, is there any waste that these tree nuts create? Almonds are technically a stone fruit (closely related to peaches and nectarines), which means that the “almond” is the kernel inside of a shell inside of a hull. So, when you’re eating an almond, it’s been removed from two other layers prior. During the shelling process extra pieces of the almond may fall off as well and will be discarded. This is referred to as “hash.” These aforementioned layers and bits of almonds could be considered waste in the food world. However, with research from the USDA’s Western Regional Research Center, the shells and hulls, and even entire trees are being put to a greater use as byproducts. The Western Regional Research Center in California has been researching alternative uses for almond c0-products for many years, and what the industry has been able to do with this fruit is an amazing display of the agriculture industry’s commitment to ending food waste. Most of an almond’s byproducts are used for other sectors of agriculture. In the poultry and dairy industries, almond hulls (the green outermost layer) are a huge source of feedstuffs due to their high nutrient content and ability to keep feed costs down for producers. Did you know, though, that research is being done to feed hulls to black soldier fly larvae? These insects can then be fed to poultry and fish that are being farmed for human consumption. A few reasons why this is being researched is because the insect is attracted to this clean source of feed and using this feedstock is geographically more advantageous to California as well as more efficient when it comes to producing insect protein versus soy protein. A presentation was done on this topic during the 2018 Almond Conference and dives a bit more into the scientific side of things. Shells and hash are implemented in other ways. Shells are what protect the almond kernel, and hash, as mentioned before, is remnants of the fruit that have fallen off during shelling. If you’re looking for garden bedding or landscape materials, shells might be your go-to; they also happen to be used as livestock bedding. Hash can be used for higher-end animal feed, according to one of California’s most beloved almond advocates, Almond Girl Jenny. There are many other ways the co-products of an almond kernel are used, like grinding up old almond trees and shells to use for “co-generation” plants to produce electricity. A new approach being encouraged by the Almond Board is Whole Orchard Recycling. This just means that the remnants of the old trees are tilled back into the soil where new trees will be planted to improve soil health. Other possible items that can be replaced with almond co-products, like food grade sugars, plastics, and even baby diaper absorbent, are also being researched by The Almond Board of California. It’s important to note that a lot of research is still needing to be done in order to understand the full effects of co-product use, but the industry is hopeful and studies haven’t disappointed yet. Technology, the environment, consumer preferences, and market prices are just some of the reasons behind the need to limit food waste and find more value in the products being grown. While almond products are trending right now, it’s apparent that the industry is working hard to make them a staple in our lives and it appears they aren’t losing momentum any time soon.
In The News
// About the Almond Industry
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