Friday, May 17, 2013

Walnut Orchard Tour

Today is Walnut Day so in anticipation for this fun celebration, a couple local food bloggers and I toured a walnut orchard in Winters. The farm we visited is called Lester Farms and the Lester family has been farming on this land since 1975. Their family is a multi-generational farming family with their first farm in the Santa Clara Valley in 1883.

While the walnut harvest doesn’t begin for another few months, we were able to get a first hand look at the orchards as well as the machines used to harvest the nut. Here are pictures of a shaker and a sweeper:


On our tour we learned how the walnut industry has been finding more and more ways to become even more efficient. Over the years walnut farmers have spent millions of dollars upgrading irrigation systems to sprinklers and drip. One of the largest problems with walnuts is overwatering. Thus, water management is a large focus in the industry at this time. 

After getting a look at walnuts in the field we were off to tour a packing facility with Mariani Nut Company. Inside the packing facility we were able to see how the machines shell the walnuts and even break them down according to size and color. There were halved walnuts (mainly used for snacking), chopped walnuts (used primarily in salads & pastas) and finely chopped walnuts (most likely used in baking).

Did you know that California produces 99% of the Nation’s walnuts? The only country that produces more walnuts than the US is China. However, China consumes all their walnuts domestically so California ships over additional walnuts to China to help meet their demand.

We would like to thank Lester Farms, Ramos Family Farms and Mariani Nut Company for showing us around!

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