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ALMONDS IN BLOOM

It’s raining but area farmers are smiling

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ALMONDS IN BLOOM

Early Wednesday morning, a bit of sunshine escaped through a break in the clouds that quickly evaporated the raindrops on the petals of these almond blossoms on West Ripon Road.

ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin


POSTED March 7, 2013 2:00 a.m.

It’s raining, the almonds are blooming, but the farmers are smiling.

Drenching winter rains and blooming almond orchards don’t generally go together. They are not good news to any grower especially during peak blossoms season like this time. Inclement weather does not bode well for the year’s crop.

But the last couple of days’ precipitation, and more showers coming this way today, are eliciting smiles on almond growers’ faces. Why?

“We’re more desperate for rain than we are for blossoms. We’ll take the rain,” said Ripon/Manteca almond grower Dave Phippen Wednesday.

Richard Phillips of P&P Farms on South Union Road in Manteca heartily echoed Phippen’s sentiment.

“Right now, we need the water more than the blossoms,” Phillips said, noting it has not rained for a long time.

As a matter of fact, he said, “I can use a little more rain.”

The rains that fell overnight initially worried Ripon almond grower Stanley Vander Veen. When he got up in early Wednesday morning, “I thought this day would be a bad day, but it’s been actually good,” he said later in the afternoon.

While the sky was overcast, he noted that the temperature stayed at a warm 60 degrees which was good as far as coaxing the bees out of the bee boxes scattered throughout the orchards to pollinate the blossoms.

“That’s the temperature they like,” Vander Veen said.

Also, said Phillips, most of the almonds are past their bloom time which was another reason he and other farmers are not so worried about the rain. Yes, many of the blooms are still out, but “there are no more buds” in the early-blooming varieties, he said.

“The late varieties are just about in full bloom right now. Actually, it’s been a pretty good bloom,” Phillips said, assessing the quality of the blooms this year. There are probably only about 20 percent of the varieties that are in bloom right now, he added.

The early almond varieties that are about done blooming are the Sonora, which is the very first one to send out the buds. Then come the Fritz, followed by Nonpareil. The late ones are the Mission, Butte, Padre, and Ruby varieties.

California experienced its all-time weather record of the driest January-February in recorded history during the beginning of 2013. The Golden State also ended the year snow-starved which is significant in that the northern Sierra’s snowmelt feeds the largest reservoirs in California – Shasta and Oroville reservoirs – which are the main sources of state and federal water supplies.

Mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in 60 degrees coupled with showers are the weather order for today, according to accuweather.com.

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