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Harvest goes back into full swing
Windrowed almonds soaking in the rain on Thursday will have to wait for a few days before they are picked up and hauled to the hullers. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

With the weather back to a warm 79 degrees today following Thursday’s showers that brought 0.51 inches of rain, the almond harvest goes back into full swing with some farmers busy spreading the soaked nuts in windrows on the ground to speed up the drying process.

It was a day of mixed blessings for area farmers. With the record drought gripping California and seriously threatening the Golden State’s multibillion-dollar agricultural industry, many farmers were breathing a sigh of relief, albeit a guarded one, but hopeful nonetheless. On the other hand, with the harvest season at its peak in the almond and walnut orchards as well as in the vineyards, growers had a very serious reason to be concerned.

Area almond farmers are still just half-way through their harvest. Still, they had this year’s early harvest to be thankful for which allowed many farmers to get most of the nuts out of the orchards and into the hullers when the rain came down. An unusually warm and a record-dry winter produced the early blooms in early spring which, in turn, pushed the harvest season two weeks ahead of schedule.

While the rain Thursday was anticipated, what caught some off guard was the intensity of the downpour.

“It’s really been pouring out here. They said it was going to rain today, but not this much,” said Ernestine Phillips of P&P Farms on North Union Road early in the morning on Thursday. She and husband Richard, along with their two sons and daughter, are almond growers as well as owners and operators of a huller that provides hulling services to several growers in the area.

The downpour was heavy enough large puddles formed in front of their home in the middle of one of their orchards. The Phillips did not anticipate the surprise heavy downpour and, in fact, planned to continue picking up the windrowed almonds that day. Now, they have to spread the saturated almonds on the ground and wait for them to dry, which could take a few days, before they send out the pick-up machines and haul them to the hullers.

Almond harvest is expected to be all done, including the later varieties, by the middle of October.

David Roorda was among the happy farmers who were extremely thankful of the rain on Thursday, and for good reason.

“All of my almonds are in, and right now I’m putting the alfalfa in the barn. So I’m very happy with that as well,” he said with a grateful chuckle. At the same time, he sympathized with all the other farmers whose newly cut alfalfa were being saturated by the rain.

“I love the rain. This rain is a blessing,” said Roorda who, along with other area farmers concerned about the persisting drought, earlier this year planted dozens of placards all over these parts of San Joaquin County with the message, “Pray for Rain,” accompanied by a Bible scripture. Many of these signs can be found in front of rural homes and along corn and alfalfa fields in rural south Manteca and west of Ripon.

“God is the answer to our prayers. I believe that. I’ve seen it happen all the time, and I’m very thankful,” he said.

The weather for the rest of the week and on through the end of next week will be in the high 70s and even in the high 80s, which is good news to farmers as they finish their harvest-season chores. The continuing fair weather likewise bodes well for the annual Manteca Pumpkin Fair slated the first weekend of October. With 90 degrees predicted for the first day of the fair on Saturday, Oct. 4, the popular community event will be off to a happy running start. Those participating in the 1K and 5K Faustina Rosas Pumpkin Run sponsored by the Manteca Unified Student Trust will not have to worry about any foul weather raining on their parade, with a high of 90 degrees predicted for that day. The MUST run has been the traditional kick-off event for the Pumpkin Fair for nearly a decade.