" In February we kind of had our jaw down on the ground ready to throw in the towel, looking like, well it's gonna be a year with not much production", said Butte county farmer Ed McLaughlin. Luckily for almond farmers, that's no longer the case. The heavy spring rains and uncooperative mother nature had almond farmers thinking there wouldn't be any almonds left come harvest. But as it turns out, the extra rains actually stretched out the pollination time, and helped bees in the process. " Consequently with it being stretched out like that, they were given more hours to work and it looks like to me from my orchard that it's one of biggest crops that I've seen", said Chico walnut and almond farmer Jeff Cripe.
Chico farmer Jeff Cripe isn't alone. Almond production in California is expected to break records this year. It's predicted California farmers will producers nearly 2-billion pounds of almonds, up from last years 1.6-billion. " It's gonna be right with the biggest or potentially the biggest, and there's actually a need for it, the markets have all increased", said McLaughlin.
And much of that increase is thanks to health benefits that come from almonds. " There's an awful lot of good PR out there right now about the health benefits of nuts, almonds certainly are a recipient of that", said Cripe. McLaughlin adds " That's been a long term effort by the almond growers in California to spend some money on research".
California is the largest producer of almonds in the U.S., and roughly 75 % are exported to other countries like China and India, who are only helping the high demand for almonds grow even higher. And to farmers, that's music to their ears. " Things have surprised us, and I guess gods looking out for us", said McLaughlin.
The wet spring has pushed back the harvest a bit. Farmers aren't expecting that to begin until mid to late August, but they say the wait will be well worth it.