Almond Harvest

The West Side almond harvest is nearing completion. Above, almonds are off-loaded from a truck on the grounds of Stewart & Jasper, where they will be stored until processing.

The annual almond harvest is in its finishing stages on the West Side, where the 2019 crop has drawn mixed reviews.

In the orchards which blanket broad swaths of the West Side, workers have been moving methodically among the trees to shake the nuts loose, sweep the almonds into neat rows and collect them for processing in a familiar, well-choreographed routine.

“All in all, it was pretty normal,” said Mike Crinklaw, a manager for Craven Farming Co., of the almond harvest. “It was a good harvest. The weather was cooperative, and we have no complaints whatsoever.”

And, he said, the yield was up from a year ago.

“I would say it was a fairly good year,” Crinklaw commented.

Craven crews were wrapping up almond harvest in their Crows Landing and Firebaugh orchards last week, he said, and had already moved on to begin walnut harvest.

At Stewart & Jasper, the harvest continued in full swing.

“If the weather stays the way it is, we will be 90 percent complete in three weeks,” company President Jim Jasper reported last week. “Our harvest got started maybe a couple of days later than last year. It is not the latest we’ve seen, but it is closer to later than to early.”

Jasper said growers are seeing mixed results when it comes to yields.

Those who have larger yields than a year ago are in the minority, he told Mattos Newspapers.

“Some guys are up, some are down and some are really down,” Jasper said. “It is very spotty. Regionally, some are doing much better than others. We always like big crops, and this is not going to be one. With more acreage in production, we should be getting a lot more almonds in.”

Jasper said the returns from the early variety were encouraging, but that production among later varieties has not lived up to expectations.

“Now the pollinators are coming in, which are about 50 percent of the crop, and they are a little bit off, more than we would like to see,” he said.

Some south valley areas are doing particularly well, as are growers along the Interstate 5 corridor south of Los Banos, Jasper noted. On the valley’s east side and in the state’s northern growing areas, however, orchards have not produced well this year.

An uptick in prices over last year will help ease some of the sting for growers whose production is off, he added.

“There is good demand for almonds today, and we like that. With the uncertainty about production, markets are pretty strong even with rumors of tariffs,” Jasper concluded. “If it comes in where we think, it could be a nickel or dime (per pound) more than last year, and last year was not bad.”