They may have started as a few pet trees planted by Spanish missionaries, but almonds are now a big, big crop in California, where ideal climate and irrigation have let the nuts bloom into a $2 billion a year business.
On Scott Hunter's farm in the hot, fertile San Joaquin Valley, the limbs on some of the younger trees are having a hard time holding up what he predicts will be part of "a once-in-a-lifetime type of crop" when the harvest begins in mid-August.
"Like any ag commodity, we've been faced with a lot of ups and downs," said Hunter, 37, who farms 1,200 acres of almonds in Livingston. "This year is definitely an up."
The record harvest, along with more growers dedicating acreage to almonds, is expected to solidify California's position as the world's leading producer of a crop that once grew wild in Mediterranean countries. The state already produces 80 percent of the almonds sold worldwide.