Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

almonds

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

As the U.S. trade war with China continues, farmers in California’s Central Valley are feeling the pinch.

Jay Mahil is one such farmer: he grows almonds in Madera, and is the fourth generation in his family to do so. He says he normally exports a lot of his crop overseas to China, but with the trade war, he and other nut growers are starting to get edged out.

“You know, some of the other countries have been capitalizing on this, especially Australia,” says Mahil.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Almonds are a nearly $3 billion industry here in the San Joaquin Valley—but without honeybees to pollinate the trees, there would be no harvest. By some estimates, as much as 90 percent of the country’s bees are trucked to California for the almond bloom.

On this week’s Valley Edition: We look at how pesticides may be contributing to honey bee deaths, and what that means for the $3 billion dollar almond industry. We also look at how the bankruptcy filing from utility provider PG&E could derail the state’s renewable energy goals.

Later, we take some time to explore the arts and culture scene by visiting an art gallery in Bakersfield and talking to a Fresno writer with a new collection of poems.

Ezra David Romero

This year a handful of farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have new crop. But it's not something you'll find at your weekend farmer's market. Instead it's carbon. A new program funded by the state's cap-and-trade initative aims to help farmers add cover crops to their fields, with the idea that more carbon will be stored in the soil in the form of organic matter. It's part of the state's effort to fight climate change.

By some measures, Stewart Resnick is the biggest farmer in California. His empire of almonds, pomegranates, pistachios and citrus covers over 120,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley. Known today as The Wonderful Company, Resnick and his wife Lynda have grown their multi-billion dollar fortune on products like POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Wonderful Halos mandarin oranges. And despite California’s drought, in recent years they’ve kept growing, thanks to shrewd management of their most precious resource - water.

Kerry Klein / KVPR

It’s springtime in the valley, which, for many of us, means it’s time to clear the weeds out of our backyards. The same goes for growers, but the landscape of industrial weedkillers is changing. A California judge recently ruled that the main ingredient of the popular herbicide RoundUp must be labeled as a carcinogen. Now, another popular herbicide is facing some scrutiny over its health impacts as well.

Weeds kill crops. Kurt Hembree says that’s because they’re pernicious moochers.

California Farmers Already Adapting To Climate Change

Mar 29, 2016
UC Regents

UC Davis agricultural economists say climate change is affecting what crops are planted in California. Ed Joyce reports from Sacramento.

The study looked at 12 crops in Yolo County, using 105 years of local climate data and 60 years of county planting history.

UC Davis agricultural economist Dan Sumner says warmer winter temperatures would reduce "chill hours," potentially reducing yields for some crops, while extending the growing season for others.

And that could cause growers to change planting practices.

Almond, bees
Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Beekeepers flock from all over the country to California every February and March for bloom. During this time of year over 80 percent of the nation’s commercial bees buzz around the central part of the state pollinating almond trees. But as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports an advancement in almond breeding could decrease the need for these bumbling insects.

Billions of honeybees are gathering nectar and pollen from almond flowers around the state to feed their colony’s young.

 

Valley Public Radio

This week on Valley Edition we hear from KVPR Reporter Jeffrey Hess about how the Fresno Bridge Academy is helping Valley families out of poverty. We also hear from Dean Florez who was recently  appointed to the California Air Resources Board. Reporter Jeffrey Hess also explains the poppy super bloom taking place across California.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

All across California fields of almond orchards are white and pink with blossoms and bees are actively pollinating the crop. But this story isn’t about the pollination process; it’s about how Californians actually say almond. FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports there’s a long-running debate over what's the right way to pronounce the word.   

Jenny Holterman is an almond farmer in Kern County, but she doesn’t grow almonds.

“I farm am-ends,” Holterman says.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

California farmers sold crops worth a record $54 billion, according to new numbers released from the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The annual crop report is for the 2014 year. The numbers show a 5 percent increase in crop value versus the previous year, despite the drought. 

This week on Valley Edition we are joined by Fresno Police Department Sheriff Sergeant Steven Castro to talk about how the force is using technology to determine the threat score of potential criminals. Fresno Bee Reporter John Ellis also joins the program to chat about California politics.

Ezra David Romero / Valley Public Radio

Drive anywhere in Central California and you’ll see fields of almonds.  Some people wonder if the growth of the almond industry is sustainable. And as FM89’s Ezra David Romero reports the price of the nut just may have met a slippery slope.

  

By now most people know that almonds use a lot of water, about one gallon per nut. Most growers are relying on groundwater even more this year because their surface water has been cut off because of the drought. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports that brings a different problem all together, one that an “Almond Doctor” is trying to solve.

From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

Raw Almonds Might Not Be As "Raw" As You Think

May 12, 2015

  When you’re talking about raw almonds the product may not be quite what you think. All California almonds, which would be virtually all the nuts in the country, are either heat-pasteurized, or sprayed with a fumigant. The processes are intended to prevent food-borne illness. But, some almond aficionados say the treatments change the flavor, and mislead consumers. Lesley McClurg in Sacramento has the story.

In a warehouse near Newman, California millions of almonds are heated in huge metal containers.  

Brown Defends Delta Tunnels Project, Agriculture Industry

May 7, 2015
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Gov. Jerry Brown says opponents of his Delta water tunnel proposal should just “shut up.” He spoke to the Association of California Water Agencies in Sacramento Wednesday.

One day after the State Water Resources Control Board set mandatory reduction requirements for every local water agency, Brown thanked the agencies for helping California through the drought.

And then, he turned to what many in the room believe is their future water source: two tunnels underneath the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to move water south.

Klearchos Kapoutsis / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode

You may have heard by now that it takes one gallon of water to produce just one almond. And those are considered fighting words in drought-stricken California, which produces 80 percent of the world's supply of the tasty and nutritious nut.

So when almond grower Daniel Bays hears that, he just shakes his head.

Almond Rush Raises Tough Questions During Dry Times

Apr 7, 2015
Lesley McClurg / Capital Public Radio

Conveyer belts carry millions of kernels through sorting machines in a giant processing plant in the western San Joaquin Valley near Newman, California.      

Jim Jasper: “So the almonds go in there.”

Jim Jasper is the president of Stewart and Jasper Orchards.

Jim Jasper: “We can speed this up… we can slow it down…”

Last year the facility hulled and shelled more than 40 million pounds of almonds -- most of which were headed overseas.

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