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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Farmers are gamblers

Farmers are gamblers. We all gamble every day and hope that we are profitable at the end of the year. We gamble with mother nature, politics, environmental changes, natural disasters, life events and the list could go on. There are a number of factors that go into making our farm successful that we have no control over. Water is the biggest gamble lately. But farmers still wake up every morning and tend to their fields with the same aspirations of making a living with a successful crop.

Almond farmers are no different. Our crop is very unique and depending on where you farm throughout the state, your challenges vary. Some farmers are doing better this year and have less water issues. Some farmers are hurting from water and have more challenges in their areas.

On our farm this year, our crop looks light. On our farm and in our area, the crop looks down roughly 15-20%.  Most varieties seemed to have fewer nuts than average this year. The amount of meat when compared to the hull and shell is also smaller, meaning the kernel itself is lighter. Both of these lead to smaller yield.

This year and the past couple years, our winters have been quite mild. Almonds require a certain amount of chill hours or cold temperatures to produce a nut. Without the required chill hours, the flowers are less frequent. With less flowers, there will be less nuts.  With too many nights above the threshold degrees and with too many warm days during winter months, the trees didn't know if it was winter or spring. Confused trees are stressed trees.

Considering our water situation and the increased costs of getting water, we all hope for more income coming in. But if the trees have been stressed and aren't getting as much water, I guess it is no surprise they didn't produce as well. It is just a roll of the dice.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why California grows so many almonds

Over the past several months, there has been quite the finger pointing and blame on agriculture for water use. Farmers have been depicted as an evil villain. Almonds specifically are being targeted and shamed. I find it odd that farmers are being blamed for water use. Not just because I am a farmer, but because I am a consumer. And last time I checked, so was everyone else. We all consume the food that farmers grow. But instead of thanking the farmers for growing our food, we are blaming them for using too much water. Suddenly, everyone is now an expert on farming and think they all know best on what inputs crops need.

In most articles and stories I have read over the past several months, farmers aren't even given a chance to defend ourselves or provide our side of the story. Honestly, I am tired of defending myself and why almond farmers use water. Everything uses water, all food needs water to grow, all people need water to live, all organisms need water to thrive. We all may be a little wasteful from time to time, but no one is pumping water just for the fun of it. I guess that's what I don't understand. Do these blammers actually believe farmers are just wasting water for the heck of it? We pay for our resources, we pay for resources we don't receive,
we eat our crops, we sell our crops to make a profit. Why would we be wasteful?

Farmers have turned to all types of irrigation efficiency models to help them cut back on water usage.To be honest, we have to. And we had to invest in it a long time ago. Those that didn't look at water efficiency years ago, aren't around today. They ran out of water, lost their crops and aren't able to farm anymore.

But I am tired of telling this story again and again. We farm to feed people. We grow the crops we grow, because they are best suited for our land. Some think California shouldn't even be growing almonds in the first place. We are a desert, a desert shouldn't be growing food. Some say, they are going to boycott California food all together. I would tell them they need a lesson in California agriculture. Well let me educate you on why California is home to 99% of all almonds grown in the United States and 85% of all almonds grown in the world. 

California is home to one of the few Mediterranean climates in the world. Well, you know how everyone likes to visit California for the sunny weather and mild cool winters? That is the same reason almonds like it here too. California's Central Valley generally have mild winters with foggy days allowing trees to reach dormancy periods and enjoy a winter rest. But these trees can't be too cold for too long because they bloom in early February and wake up for spring. I don't think almonds would like the cold mid western snowy winters or the blizzards of the North East. The California mild winters are perfect for them.

It isn't just the California winter that is pleasing to almonds though. The California summers are hot and sunny allowing the almonds plenty of days to produce almonds in the sunshine. Almonds enjoy the sun, but it is gets too hot it will roast the almonds, so those Arizona 120 degree days would kill an almond tree. Trust me, I had a cousin in Bullhead City try to grow a few almonds trees a couple years ago....they didn't last through the summer. California summers are such right!

California is lucky to have the perfect combination of mild winters and dry summers to help almonds thrive. We are blessed to be able to find such a great fit for almonds to grow in. Other countries have tried and while some other Mediterranean countries are able to produce almonds, none do it quite as well as California. So let me know how easy it is for you to find those non-California almonds. You will be searching for a long, long time.

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Almond Meltaway Cookies

These adorable little boys agreed to be guest bloggers for these amazing almond meltaway cookies they baked. I happen to be friends with their aunt who is an avid baker and lover of all things almonds. No, I would say that is an understatement, she is a quite the expert baker. She is known for baking cakes just because or fixing up a plate of macaroons on a random night. She loves to be in the kitchen. So, when I saw that she was teaching her nephews how to bake and to use almonds as the ingredients, I just had to feature these cuties!

The boys loved to make these cookies but they might have enjoyed decorating them even more! These tasty cookies were decorated with brightly colored almond frosting, blanched and whole almonds as well as the ever-popular "we need more!" rainbow sprinkles! Because let's be honest, we all need more sprinkles in our lives!

These cookies have great flavor thanks to the almond extract in the cookie dough as well as frosting, making them extra nutty! Who doesn't love an extra almond punch in their delicious cookies? This recipe is also great for kids because you don't have to refrigerate it before you use it. No more waiting to roll out the dough, which means you can enjoy them quicker!

So, what are you waiting for...

Until Next Time,
Almond Girl