Walnuts continue to be the dominant crop in Butte and Tehama counties, and with the recent harvest wrapping up ag officials are announcing the walnut buying period. Walnuts bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the north state every year. Tehama County set a new record last year with a 20% increase in profits and its first $100,000,000 crop, and this year looks to be another good harvest. Bianchi Orchards in Los Molinos averages about 2 tons an acre, and this year their yield was more than 120 tons.
"We didn't really have any damage from outer elements, so there wasn't an extreme amount of sunburn or anything like that. So the crop looked really great," says Katie Bianchi.
But the valuable crop has also seen its share of problems lately. Due to the rise of walnut prices in recent years thieves are seeing an opportunity to take the walnuts right off the orchard and make some serious cash. Butte, Glenn, and Tehama counties all recently adopted a new ordinance to deter people from illegally accessing orchards and then selling nuts before they're harvested. Non-processing buyers can purchase walnuts, but they are required to record proof of ownership when purchases are made.
"I'm really excited that they are recognizing that there is an issue and they're doing what they can to protect those farmers," says Bianchi.
Ag officials are hopeful the new policy will cut down on thefts, yet growers can't help but remain cautious for fear of being a potential victim.
"It's always out there. You never know when someone is just trying to look around, but what you can do it put yourself in a situation that you know you're going be safe and your crop is going to be safe," says Bianchi.
The chandler walnut harvest usually happens in mid to late October, but some growers were able to start at the beginning of the month. The walnut buying period officially opens tomorrow.