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Manteca-Ripon growers harvesting almonds
An almond shaker at work at Bill Groen’s almond orchard in Ripon during last year’s harvest - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin Correspondent

The apparent quality levels of this year’s almond crop based on yields received to date “have been quite good,” according to the latest news from Blue Diamond Reports.
That’s the good news.
The not-so-good news comes from Manteca and Ripon growers such as Bill Groen, Larry Haworth, and Shannon Vrieling of Vrieling Farms. Groen of Ripon noted that about two to two-and-a-half percent of his almond yields are down this year from 2018.
His early Sonora and Nonpareil varieties were just shaken this week waiting for the next step - gathering the dry nuts on the ground into windrows.
The down figure estimate given by Vrieling who, with cousins Brian and John own and operate Almond Orchard Development - Management and Leasing - is about double the figure estimated by Groen.
Manteca dairy farmer and almond grower Larry Haworth was out of town when his almond trees were shaken about two weeks ago and has not received any exact yield figures. However, based on eyeball estimates of his almond trees this year, he also noted that he is experiencing lower crop quantities this year.
That decrease apparently was due to the rains that fell in February when the trees were in full bloom. Heavy rains is one of the critical factors affecting crop yields in the fall. Harmful insect infestation and drought are other reasons.
Six years ago, at the height of the record drought in California, almond growers were very worried. Scattered all over the Central San Joaquin area were signs carrying the bold, blue message in capital letters, PRAY FOR RAIN, which gravely illustrated the growing worry among farmers.
Those worries turned to smiles during the blooming season this year in February. The rains fell and the crops perked up. Even the few days of downpour days prior to the widely popular Ripon Almond Festival in February while they were bursting with buds did not pose any serious harm to the nut trees.
To the growers’ great relief, the early varieties — Sonora and Nonpareil — did not manifest the slightest destruction on the delicate petals. The other varieties — such as Carmel, Butte, and Monterey — at the same time, were all on the brink of a full-flowering explosion at the time.
Of the two earliest varieties, Sonora and Nonpareil, the former starts blooming first, followed in a matter of days by the latter. Interestingly enough, that order is reversed come harvest time, with Nonpareils being ready for harvest before the Sonoras.
It’s these two early varieties that are being harvested to date. Harvest will continue through the month of October when the later varieties will be harvested.
“While the industry experienced less than ideal weather conditions this spring, California remains the best place in the world to grow almonds,” said Holly A. King, Kern County almond farmer and Chair of the Almond Board of California Board of Directors in the Blue Diamond Reports.
“As leaders in California agriculture and producers of 82 percent of the world’s almonds, we have made a public commitment to grow almonds in better, safer and healthier ways, protecting our communities and the environment. We feel a great sense of obligation to responsibly produce a healthy food accessible to people around the world,” she said.

Almonds rank third in
San Joaquin County crops
Almonds rank third in San Joaquin County’s top 10 commodities in the 2017 Annual Agricultural Crop Report — the latest available to date — submitted by Agriculture Commissioner Tim Pelican to the Board of Supervisors. It was valued at $362.7 million that year, an increase of 3.98 percent from the previous year.
Almonds was behind grapes, the county’s number one commodity, which was valued at $395.5 million that year, followed by milk with a value of $387.4 million which showed an increase of 6.95 percent from the year before. Pelican reported that “the gross value of agricultural production for 2017 was over $2.5 billion, signaling an increase of 8.13 percent from 2016 value.”
Added Pelican in the 2017 report, “San Joaquin County is heavily agricultural with farmland spreading over 58 percent of the County. More than 3,580 farms cover 518,000 acres and raise everything from asparagus and grapes, to livestock, bees, fruits, nuts, tomatoes, and many things in between. Our unique climate and geography as well as our rich soil and diverse water resources allow us to grow over 250 commodities throughout the year and result in San Joaquin County being one of the most abundant agricultural regions in the world.”