California walnuts are grown in one of the most fertile lands on the planet, the “Central Valley”, with nutrient-rich, deep clay soils and over 300 days of sunshine annually.
It’s a long road from planting a walnut orchard to delivering fresh, delicious walnuts for retail, food service or food manufacturing applications. Each step in the process from propagation, to harvest, to packer, and finally to market is handled with care and attention. In California, there are over 4,800 walnut growers, a large majority being family farms, many of which have been in the walnut business for several generations.
Walnut production needs commitment and patience, and orchards are dedicated exclusively to walnut production. After a walnut sapling is planted, it takes five to seven years for it to grow into an adult tree suitable for harvesting. It grows on average 15 meters in height and has a broad, majestic crown of 12 meters in diameter.
Harvesting begins in late August, when the drying green hulls start to split (allowing the in-shell walnuts to be removed), and continues until late November. First, the orchard floor is swept clean. Then, mechanical shakers vigorously rattle each tree and thousands of walnuts fall to the ground. The walnuts are carefully swept into windrows to allow mechanical harvesters to pick them up for cleaning.