Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees but Rubies Do

The next time someone tells you that money doesn’t grow on trees you can quickly respond by saying, “But rubies do!” After reading this blog post you will have been informed about the rare and luxurious red walnut. Believe it or not, this agricultural gem is not the result of a genetically modified food experiment but actually from the long process of grafting Persian red skin walnuts with the more delectable English walnuts. The nut that has been produced after many generations of grafting and selection now has a beautiful ruby red skin and the same delicious taste of an English walnut. The long selection and growing process makes these red walnuts an extremely rare commodity in the world of nuts. I have been around walnuts and walnut growers my entire life encountering thousands of acres of trees only to have come in contact with one single red walnut tree and oh was it a sight to behold that gorgeous ruby red agricultural gem. The walnut was considered the royal nut of Persia and was traded along the silk roads to various lands eventually making its way to California by Franciscan monks and eventually the artful genius that crafted such a beautiful creature. If you are wondering how you can get your hands on such a rare, grand creation you can order them here. However, be aware they cost about 31% more than English walnuts based on the price of a 5 pound box. Although that is the price to pay for the creme de la creme of agricultural gems.

Gnocchi+Red+Walnuts Livermore-Red-Walnuts Red-Walnuts

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Farmer’s Fourth of July

Ever wonder how farmers keep pests from getting to their crop and destroying their trees? In the past, a farmer would have to call for an exterminator to set traps or use special equipment to get rid of pests. However, today a farmer has access to some high powered equipment that will take care of any and all of your rodent problems with the simple push of a button. One example of this new technology is the Rodenator. It not only has a catchy name but packs quite the punch. The Rodenator uses the remote detonation of a precisely measured mixture of oxygen and propane to collapse any pests’ tunnels through concussive force. While this does sound very dangerous and more than necessary for the removal of pests, the Rodenator is safe to use and for as little as $2,000 you too can own a high explosive pest removal kit. With all of the negative affects pests have on agricultural production, it is good news for farmers everywhere that a highly effective pest removal system is now available. Without pests, farmers can have healthier crops, more production, and less costly bills from exterminators. These pests come in all shapes and sizes, varying from gophers, ground squirrels, to moles and beyond. Luckily there is one product that takes care of all of them, effectively and humanely. The Rodenator packs a punch and protects a farmer’s livelihood from nasty pests that devistate crops. The following link is a 30 second television advertisement showcasing the Rodenator.

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Al’s Nuts: The Documentary

To help the readers of this blog better understand harvest, I’ve posted a video on YouTube that is a rough collection of clips showcasing the processes of harvest. A short documentary version will be uploaded in the near future but in the meantime, this video should help you get an idea of what most of the harvest machinery does. The video includes pre-harvest clips before the walnuts have been shaken from trees. The knocker/shaker is shown knocking walnuts out of trees. Next comes the sweeper, organizing walnuts into neat rows. The sweeper, made by Flory Industries, is followed by a machine pulled by a tractor that removes sticks and other debris from each row. This machine is made by Exact Harvesting Systems and is called a conditioner. The conditioner is followed by a Flory Industries harvester that’s job is to pick up all of the walnuts from each row. The harvester loads the collected walnuts into a trailer to be transported back to the huller. The huller removes bad walnuts, any remaining debris, and separates stick-tights from walnuts that are ready to be dried. The video then shows the disposal process of the walnut oil and husks. The walnuts that make it through the selection process are then loaded into 5-ton Peerless trailers to be dried. After the drying process is complete the walnuts are removed from the trailers hydraulically to be shipped to distribution centers and eventually be processed and shipped all over the world. The video link is listed below. Tune in next week for more information pertaining to Al’s Nuts!

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Nuttin but Theivery

Harvest is one of the busiest times of year, not only for farmers but for thieves as well. This is because once an orchard has been knocked so that all of the walnuts are on the ground, thieves will come in and pick as many walnuts as they can to sell without permission from the farmer. This can be dastardly for farmers because these are lost pounds that could have been sold for a profit. Most of the time at the end of harvest however, if someone asks a farmer if it would be okay to pick windfalls (walnuts that have fallen via wind/or what’s leftover from harvest) from an orchard, the farmer allows. This is sometimes a paid service while other times a farmer may be feeling generous and allow the person picking up the windfalls to do it for free. Unfortunately, some people still try to pick walnuts that haven’t been harvested yet without permission. This can be a nightmare for farmers with small crops. Luckily, there is now an ordinance that doesn’t allow anyone to pick a farmer’s windfalls until after November 4th. The party that plans to pick the walnuts must also register for a permit to sell walnuts that have been picked if that amount is under 2,000 pounds and must pay the farmer for these nuts. This ordinance is in affect to deter walnut theft during harvest. Another highly sought after item produced by the walnut tree is the burl. This is often close to the stump of the tree and is primarily used for woodwork because of its beautiful designs and patterns. These burls can often sell for hundreds to thousands of dollars. Due to the hefty price tag, these are highly sought after by thieves. If a farmer has taken out an old orchard, for example, the trees are usually cut into pieces to be sold as firewood and the stumps are extracted from the orchard to be sold or ground up for easy bulk removal. The high amount of stumps removed at once are hard to take care of immediately, thus giving thieves opportunities to steal the burls. Tune is next week for more information regarding Al’s Nuts! Attached below is a picture of a black walnut burl.


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Nut Lovers Rejoice

Ever eat one or twenty-three of grandma’s chocolate brownies with walnuts and feel a little guilty? No, never? Ever want seventy-seven more so you could eat one hundred of those warm, gooey, delicious creations worthy of an Olympic gold medal? Yes, always? Well now you can pat yourself on the back and buy yourself a novelty trophy of a bowler with a custom caption (because that’s all the novelty store had in the trophy department that Tuesday you went in) because walnuts are full of things that are great for you! While the excessive amounts of chocolate might not be too health friendly, walnuts are packed full of omega-3 fats and other nutrients that are great for heart health. This is great news for lovers of grandma’s chocolate brownies with walnuts because even while you’re consuming large amounts of sugar, the walnuts will provide you with nutrients to help counteract your brownie addiction. Walnuts have been known to lower cholesterol, improve heart cell function, reduce risk of excessive clotting, and lower the risk of excessive inflammation and these are only cardiovascular benefits! Walnuts are also a great source of vitamin E. This data was taken from the George Mateljan Foundation. With all of the health benefits of walnuts, they seem like the perfect addition to any meal, dessert, or just a la carte. So the next time your grandmother tells you she’s sending you home with a gallon zip-lock bag of her famous walnut brownies, don’t feel bad but rejoice and cancel your next check up with your doctor because walnuts are great for you! Okay, definitely don’t cancel your next check up with your doctor but do enjoy a couple of those delicious walnut brownies. The key is moderation, however, remembering such advice is hard with a plate of Olympic dessert gold in front of you. Bon appetit and stay tuned for more information pertaining to Al’s Nuts and everything walnuts!

hhl walnut-brownie-4

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Old vs. New

A farmer sometimes has to make a tough decision; keep an old orchard that has less production than an adult orchard but still produces a small amount of nuts or take out the old orchard to plant new trees that will take five to seven years to produce a profitable crop. With the high costs of spray, equipment, and taxes, this can be a very difficult decision to make. Not to mention the cost of tearing out and replanting an orchard. This can also be an especially challenging decision to make in a drought year because new trees need water to grow correctly into healthy adult trees. While an old orchard may provide some production in the present, in the long run, a new orchard is the way to go. After the five to seven year lapse of production, there will be a steady fall of nuts with a standard crop yield (external variables permitting). With today’s modern GPS planting, chances are that a new orchard will have more trees per acre than an old orchard because of new research in the field of plant science. Plant science is the study of agricultural, ecological, and environmental industries. An efficient way to go about replacing orchards is to replace one at a time. Since orchards are usually purchased on separate plots of land at different times, the trees are usually different ages. So once an orchard becomes old, it may be replaced by a new orchard and once the five to seven year cycle is up a farmer has less worry of low crop yield. Tune in next week for more information regarding Al’s Nuts!

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The World is Full of Nuts

Due to today’s age of technology and ease of transportation, walnuts can be shipped to countries all over the world. In the past two years alone, Hong Kong has imported about 181 million pounds of walnuts. If we were to include the rest of China with this figure, the total amount of walnuts imported would be 244 million pounds of walnuts. These statistics were obtained from the California Walnut Board. The price per ton between 2013 and 2014 was about $3650 and with the 122,000 tons exported from California to China alone made the equivalent of $445,300,00 for the walnut farmers of California. In the state of California, farmers produced 488,993 tons of walnuts, that’s the equivalent of 977,986,000 pounds of walnuts. This is why California needs agriculture, it’s one of the largest economic factors in the state. Walnuts are enjoyed worldwide, leading to many interesting cuisines that incorporate walnuts into dishes. From grandma’s brownies to my favorite Chinese dish of honey walnut shrimp, walnuts have worldwide popularity. Walnuts are one of the largest cash crops in California. The walnuts of California are international travelers. They come from walnut trees on California farms, usually taking a tree about 5 years to produce enough walnuts for harvest. Once the nuts are harvested, they go through a cleaning and drying process. The nuts are then shipped out to distributors by the ton and from the distributor they are shipped all over the world. It’s funny to think about how many people worldwide have seen my nuts! Tune in next week for more information regarding everything walnuts on Al’s Nuts.

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Rain: The Best & Worst Thing for a Farmer

Unless you are a farmer, you might be thinking, “How could rain be nothing but good for a farmer?” You’d be right in thinking that a farmer needs rain to prevent drought conditions and have plenty of irrigation water throughout the year to keep a crop healthy. However, rain, from a farmer’s perspective is the best or worst thing that could happen to them all based on timing. Rain is the worst thing that could happen to a farmer if there is rain during harvest. With wet ground, tractors and various harvesting equipment can’t operate efficiently by becoming stuck in the mud under their own weight. Rain is extremely detrimental during harvest if there is rain between the time an orchard has been knocked and between the time that the nuts are harvested. If this scenario were to happen, the walnuts sink into the mud, becoming stuck and virtually impossible to remove efficiently by means of heavy machinery. The walnuts once wet also can become moldy. This means that a few days of rain can potentially destroy a whole year’s work of raising a crop by means of making the walnuts impossible to harvest and making them turn rancid from the wetness. Currently in California, we are in a drought and went many months without rain. However, last week in the middle of harvest of course, we started getting rain. Thankfully it wasn’t enough to prevent machinery from getting back into the fields for too long. We luckily didn’t knock any trees keeping the walnuts from becoming stuck in the ground and going bad. Keep your fingers crossed for no rain for about another month! Tune in next week for more information pertaining Al’s Nuts!

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The Hi-Tech Farmer

Nut farming has changed radically in the past 70 years with the implementation of technology. In the 1940’s and 50’s a small farm of about 20 acres of walnuts used to be worked by about 15 people for about 2 months just to complete harvest. Crews of workers would climb into trees while using rubber mallets to knock nuts loose. These nuts would have their husks peeled off by hand before being placed into sacks. Husking by hand is a very tedious task not only because of how tightly the husks can stick to a walnut’s shell but also from the stains secreted by the husk that marks anything it comes in contact with. The walnuts are then taken to be dried. Back in the old days, a farmer would put the walnuts in chicken wire cages to be dried by the heat of the sun. After drying, the walnuts would be placed into 50 pound sacks for shipment. The manual labor was usually done by the farmer’s family to keep the cost of labor low. In today’s day and age of technology however, a farmer can harvest 20 acres of walnuts from start to finish in 1-2 days. This is because of new technology available to farmers. A farmer can now efficiently dry 5 tons of walnuts in 18-24 hours depending on the variety of walnut. Workers no longer have to spend laborious days climbing and knocking trees, a machine called a shaker can knock most all the nuts out of a tree in under 30 seconds. Instead of crews of workers rushing to clear a field of debris and sticks before walnuts could be picked up, there are now machines called conditioners that leave nothing but nut in clean rows before a machine called a harvester picks the nuts up. Rather than tediously husking walnuts by hand, there is now a machine that removes the husks from walnuts with ease, speed, and efficiency before being sent through an electronic sorter that sorts through nuts separating and removing the good from the bad faster and more efficiently than a traditional sorting team of 4-6 people. Today’s farmer now also ships out 20-25 ton semi-truck trailers to distributors for sale. The life of a farmer has greatly improved due to technological advances in agricultural equipment. Who would’ve thought that a walnut farm could be so hi-tech?

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Interview: Farmer Al

Here is an interesting interview with a local farmer from Modesto, Al Spina, in which we talk about everything walnuts. This interview can be heard by clicking the following hyperlinked text, then clicking “view in store”, and finally by clicking “subscribe”. Tune in next week for more information regarding Al’s Nuts!

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