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Storm knocks ‘L’ out of almonds

Losses can run as high as $10,000 an acre

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Storm knocks ‘L’ out of almonds

Almonds' root systems are not that deep, making them easy prey to strong winds, noted one almond farmer.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED January 22, 2010 3:03 a.m.
There will be fewer trees providing a snowy backdrop to this year’s annual Ripon Almond Blossom Festival, thanks to the recent heavy storms accompanied by strong wind gusts of up to 45 mph.

Almond grower Stanley Van der Veen lost “maybe 20” on his 200 acres. Wendy Groen, who farms scores of acres around the West Ripon Road area with son Bill, counted seven trees down. Herman Van Laar reported just four trees lost.

But those were just preliminary counts on Wednesday following the destructive heavy rain storms and punishing high winds that pummeled the area earlier this week. The losses can be devastating to almond growers as each tree –depending upon how old it is – can represent a loss of easily $10,000 an acre.

Wendy Groen was glad to report Wednesday that they just lost seven almond trees. She had room to feel glad. Their neighbor farmer, as of that day, lost 40 of his fruit-bearing mature trees.

“That last bad wind did it,” she said.

The fact that their neighbor’s orchard sits on ground that is four feet higher than theirs and that the ground there is “quite sandy” probably did not help either, Wendy Groen surmised.

“It’s wet, wet, wet. Bill said at noon that he didn’t think there were any downed trees yet,” Groen said of her son who took over the farming of the family almond orchards after her husband died years ago.

Ironically, they just planted 75 more trees to replace the ones that they lost last winter.

“You replant those in January. So what gets stumped now, you can’t plant them in until next year,” she said just after the last storm this week.

“I had a few blow over, but not too bad,” Van der Veen said, but driving around at the height of the storms earlier this week, he saw many orchards that fared “quite a bit worse” as far as trees lost.

“I see a lot (of almonds) around the country that are blown over,” he said after one of his windshield tours of the orchards around the Ripon and Manteca area.

He did not want to lose any time in replacing the trees that he lost with young ones.

“I should be able to replace them as soon as it dried up,” Van der Veen said.

He may not have long to wait. The National  Weather Service is predicting partly and mostly cloudy skies this weekend with a chance for rain to return Sunday.

Van Laar was not overly concerned about his tree losses from the recent storms. The ones that fell were around 30 to 40 years old.

“They were due to go,” he said.

The farmers said the bad weather such as the one that just razed their orchards is not totally unexpected but that some years are milder than others. The rainy weather at this time when the buds are starting to push out is, in fact, quite helpful for their almond crop, Van Laar explained.

“This doesn’t hurt them at all. In fact, it’s good for them (especially since) we got an awful dry fall. Moisture never hurts at this time of the year to get some deep moisture in the soil,” he said.
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