How We Harvest
Almond harvest is an action-packed, exciting time of year! Ever wonder about the journey that little nut took from the tree to make its way to your mouth? This is how we harvest!
Beginning in July when the fuzzy outer layer of the almond, called the “hull,” starts to dry and split open it’s imminent that the melodies of harvest will soon meet the ears of California farmers. This is naturally called “hull split”. Then from August to mid-October Central Valley orchards are hopping– it’s the busiest time of year for almond farmers and handlers.
Almonds are harvested with an array of specialized equipment though farmers and their employees are still vital to carefully orchestrating and timing each stage of the process. It takes a concerted effort of highly-specialized equipment and the expertise of skilled technicians, operators, farmers, and farm managers.
Take a tour and see for yourself how almonds are harvested:
First a machine called the “shaker” comes. It clamps onto the trunk of the tree and vigorously shakes so that the almonds fall from the branches.
The almonds spend a week or so bathing in the California sunshine, allowing the almond kernel time to dry down to that perfect crunch before the next harvest stage. This natural process harnesses solar energy rather than using large dryers which require electricity and additional transport.
Then you’ll hear the low rumble of sweepers. As the name implies, these vehicles assemble the nuts in tidy rows across the orchard.
Finally, a piece of equipment called a “harvester” or “pick-up machine” comes along to lift almonds off the ground, sucking them up like a vacuum into a cart that is pulled behind. That cart then makes it way to the edge of the orchard where a conveyor belt transports them up into an awaiting tractor-trailer.
After the almonds leave the field, they go to a huller/sheller facility where the kernels pass through a roller to remove the hull, shell and twigs or other debris. Those co-products – the hulls and shells – don’t get put to waste. Instead they are used for dairy feed and livestock bedding, respectively.
Next stop is the handler for sizing, where the almond kernels drop into separate bins according to size, and sorting to ensure a safe and quality food product.
After sizing and sorting, almonds are kept in controlled storage conditions to maintain quality until they're shipped off to your local store for purchase or sent to be made into your favorite chocolate, cereal, energy bar, or many other products we all love.
Want to learn more about how almonds are grown and harvested sustainably? Check out this blog post.