Almond Farming 101
For those that don’t know, Almonds grow on a tree. We start all of our orchards from high quality trees supplied from a local nursery. Almond trees become nut bearing and are ready for harvest after their third season of growing and can produce for over 30 years, if farmed with care. Our Roberts Ferry farm has 3 separate varieties of almonds to ensure proper pollination and to help stager our harvest.
The season starts in February with the almond tree coming out of dormancy, where the orchard transforms from leafless rows of bare trees to an orchard covered in white and pink flowers. Honey bees are contracted through a bee keeper to pollinate all these flowers and hives are spread throughout the orchard to help set an almond crop. After bloom, the nuts and leaves begin to grow and become full size through the spring months. During the warm early summer months, the nut becomes fully developed and the outer hull, a green fibrous layer that grows on the outside of the almond and shell, will split away from the shell and almond meat. This is the signal that our harvest season is ready to begin.
Harvest is composed of 3 main mechanical steps that help to bring the nuts from the tree to the processing plant. It starts with mechanically shaking the tree to release the nuts, where they fall to the orchard floor and begin to dry. Next, the nuts are then swept into windrows by a mechanical sweeper. Last, the almonds are picked up with a mechanical device known as a harvester or pick up machine. Nuts are conveyed to almond carts and delivered to a field elevator that fills industrial sized trailers that deliver our crop to a local huller/ sheller and onto a local processing facility. The entire harvest process usually takes about 8 weeks to complete and is very time intensive.
After harvest, the orchards are pruned and given an application of compost fertilizer and the cold winter months help put the trees back into dormancy. It is here where the trees conserve energy and await next season’s bloom, where the cycle plays out again.