California almond farmers are really good at growing almonds, and truly exceptional when it comes to growing them in a sustainable1 manner. For decades, California almond growers have shown their adaptability by investing in scientific research, data-driven innovation and new technologies that put them ahead of the curve in sustainability, water efficiency, productivity and environmental responsibility. Their hard work built the almond industry into one of the state’s great agricultural and economic success stories, contributing more than 100,000 jobs and $11 billion to the state’s economy, according to the University of California Agricultural Issues Center2.
Today, almond farmers have to be as good at sharing our story as almond farming. The industry continues to communicate through a variety of channels including the press, social media, advertising, blog posts, outreach and rapid response on emerging issues, and sharing facts about the industry even more widely. While the historic drought brought some heightened, and at times, hyperbolic scrutiny on agricultural water use, the fact is that the almond industry has a long history of efficient water use and sustainability. The latest activities by the Almond Board of California provide context and accurate information designed to give people a more accurate and complete picture of the industry, and agriculture generally.
The information generated by the Almond Board, as well as media interactions by many individual growers and processors telling their personal stories, revolves around a longstanding commitment to independent scholarly research that guides beneficial changes in almond production.
The recent announcement of $2.5 million in new research grant funds is just the latest in two decades of financial support for studies leading to major improvements in planting methods, water-efficient irrigation, responsible pesticide use, honeybee health and other aspects of next-generation farming.
Another recent announcement highlighted results of a new UC Davis Life Cycle Assessment study showing that with the re-use of co-products like hulls, shells and prunings, almond orchards can be carbon neutral or even carbon negative in the context of California’s ongoing battle to reduce greenhouse gases3.
During this drought, water use is rightfully front and center. We get it. We live here too, and many of our growers are third and fourth generation farmers who are invested in the land and their family’s future in farming. That’s why the almond farmers have widespread adoption of modern irrigation systems that can identify where water is going in an orchard down to the square inch. These research-based irrigation methods helped almond growers reduce the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33 percent over the past two decades1. The industry’s larger footprint has not increased water used in agriculture in California which held steady since 2000 and actually declined over a longer period, according to the California Department of Water Resources.
Recent news coverage has begun to tell a more complete story:
- The drought through the eyes of an almond farmer (The East Bay Pioneer)
- Is California Sucking the Almond Industry Dry? (Fox Business)
- Evil Almonds? California's Drought Villain Is a Climate Change Hero
In addition to regular communication activities and milestone event announcements, the Almond Board of California this summer launched a modest advertising program on selected public and local radio stations in California. These ads highlight the industry’s progress to reducing water consumption and its continuing efforts to do more.
A number of growers have also entered the media spotlight to speak out about the importance of using the latest methods in irrigation and other farming practices, as well as their multi-generational stewardship of the land. Growers featured in recent media coverage include Joe del Bosque of Firebaugh, Jim and Jason Jasper of Newman, Dave Phippen and Nick Gatzman, of Manteca, Brent Boersma of Ripon, Daniel Bays of Patterson, Jenny Holtermann of Wasco and Tom Rogers of Madera,
The communications efforts are bearing fruit. YouGov, an independent market research firm, surveyed Californians in May, finding an overwhelming majority – 91 percent – support the state’s almond industry. Consumers remain confident in the health benefits of almonds, and when presented with a full picture of the industry’s efforts to reduce water usage, their attitude remains positive.
Almond growers are proud of their work and they have a great story to tell. We’ll continue to engage the public through a variety of channels to ensure everyone is receiving the facts about almonds.
1 California Almond Sustainability Program definition: Sustainable almond farming utilizes production practices that are economically viable and are based upon scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees. The result is a plentiful, nutritious, safe food product.
2 University of California Agricultural Issues Center. The Economic Impacts of the California Almond Industry. December 2014. http://aic.ucdavis.edu/almonds/Economic%20Impacts%20of%20California%20Al...
3 Kendall A, Marvinney E, Brodt S, Zhu W. Life cycle-based assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in almond production. Part 1: Analytical framework and baseline results. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2015; doi:10.1111/jiec.12332.http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/jiec.12332/
Kendall A, Marvinney E, Brodt S. Life cycle-based assessment of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in almond production. Part 2: Uncertainty analysis through sensitivity analysis and scenario testing. Journal of Industrial Ecology 2015; doi:10.1111/jiec.12333http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/enhanced/doi/10.1111/jiec.12333
4 University of California. UC Drought Management. Feb. 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 66 – Crop yield in response to water. 2012. Almond Board of California. Almond Almanac 1990-94, 2000-14.