Almond Board of California (ABC) and the California almond community continue to use innovations and responsible practices during harvest to protect California air quality without sacrificing production efficiency, and help ensure that future generations will inherit land and orchards that have been managed responsibly and sustainably.1
Almond harvest is a three-step process that involves a shaker machine that shakes the nuts from the tree to the ground, where they dry for several days; sweeping the almonds into rows with a sweeper machine; and then picking them up off the ground for transport to a local processing facility. Harvesting almonds naturally creates dust, but there are many steps the almond community is taking to reduce dust and protect air quality.
Newer almond harvest equipment is specifically designed to reduce dust, and existing harvest equipment can be adjusted to reduce dust by matching orchard conditions, reducing speed, or strategically planning the path equipment takes through the orchard.
“At my family’s operation, employees are trained on how to set the sweeper to move as little dust as possible,” said Randy Bloemhof, a partner at Bloemhof Custom Harvesting in Kern County. “With our sweepers, we are doing fewer passes, thus reducing the percentage of dust created during the process but also doing the same job with a third less of the work.”
Jim Percy, a 25-year almond farmer in Fresno, is in his fourth year of using low-dust equipment, and embraces harvesting innovations on his 140 acres of almonds. “When you can eliminate 60 to 70 percent of the dust, it’s less in the atmosphere,” he said. “I know if I can do my part in making less dust, that’s what I want to do.”
Almond harvest equipment companies also do their part to innovate. Flory Industries, Jackrabbit, and Exact Corp. all work closely with farmers to develop innovative strategies to reduce dust.
In addition, ABC has developed a series of harvest dust resources to provide guidance on how to best adapt harvest practices and equipment to local orchard conditions. These resources include a Managing Dust at Harvest technical guide, tool kit, and educational videos. The videos and tool kit are available in both English and Spanish, and all the materials are widely distributed within the California almond community.
Furthermore, ABC, equipment manufacturers, Almond Alliance of California, and others have worked to make funds available from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) through its Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) for almond farmers who use harvest equipment proven to significantly reduce dust.
“Almond farmers are sustainable in the truest sense of the word because they are committed to preserving the land and natural resources for the next generation,” said Doug Flora, vice president of Exact Corp. “I believe that most almond farmers, by nature, are innovative and proactive. Together, we’re all looking for ways to be better neighbors. Everyone should want to live by an almond orchard.”
1What defines California Almond sustainability? 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.