California's Almond Orchards

The California almond industry is attracting the interest of beekeepers all over the country. The almond orchard's demands for honeybees is so strong that many beekeepers in Florida have actually defaulted on their contracts with local watermelon producers to bring their bees to the west coast where they lease their hives and bees to the almond growers.

Almonds were first found growing a long way from California's sunny landscape. The first almonds were found in China and central Asia. Franciscan Padres first brought almonds to California in the middle of the 1700's, before the American revolution. It wasn't until the early 1900's that almond lovers discovered that California's Central Valley had the perfect growing conditions for genetically improved almond orchards. Nearly a half million of the land in California are devoted to growing almonds. It is estimated that there are 5,500 almond growers in the state of California.

Today, California is the only place in North America where almonds are successfully grown for commercial use. The reason that California is so successful for almond producers is the climate conditions required for the almonds to grow. Almond trees love hot summers and cool winters. Almonds don't grown in areas that are cold. Because almond trees are not self-pollinating they require the use of honeybees in order to produce almonds. Every February, when the almond trees are in bloom, beekeepers set-up beehives in the orchard, so that the almond growers can enjoy a lucrative harvest. The inability to self-pollinate forces almond producers to plant multiple variety's of almond trees to hope to get a successful crop for the year.

Almonds are harvested when the split in the shell widens enough for the nut to dry. This typically happens between the middle of August into early October. When the hull is completely open its time for the almond harvest to begin.

When its time to harvest the almond crops, orchard owners have the orchards swept so that they are completely free of trash and waste. Once the orchards are debris free, the mechanical tree shakers are brought in for action. The mechanical tree shakers gently shake the almond trees. The almonds are left on the ground to finish drying. When the almonds are dry they are swept into rows where they are gathered by a machine and deposited in the huller.

Nutritionally almonds have a lot going for them. There are only seven grams of fat in one ounce (a single serving of almonds is one ounce). Almonds do not have sodium and are cholesterol free. Almonds are an excellent way to get magnesium and vitamin E as well as a great source of Riboflavin, Phosphorus and Copper.

75 percent of California's almond crop is exported. For California's almond orchards to do good they must rely on honeybees for the pollination.