Orchard Origins

Camp Walnut Grower

Let’s start with talking about how you became a California walnut grower.

I kind of grew up with it, as our family’s been in the farming business with orchards for years. We decided to plant walnut trees in 1983 when my brother Bill graduated from Cal Poly. Part of his senior project was the economics of running a walnut orchard. We planted the Chandler Orchard in 1986. Bill laid out the orchard, planted all the root stock and did all the budding and grafting and stuff to develop that orchard. The Howards and more Chandlers came a few years after that. So all of those things kind of came together and it became a family affair with different family members managing different parts of the property.

What’s your favorite part about being a California Walnut grower?

We got into the walnut business because we really like doing it. I also really like being able to participate in the Commission. You get to understand what’s happening on an industry level. And through our research as a Commission, we’ve ended up with a product for which we can tout all kinds of great health benefits. They have more with Omega 3’s than any other nut. They’re heart-healthy, and can also help with cholesterol reduction, among many other benefits. The fact that walnuts also have these other benefits has been very fulfilling.

Why is being a walnut grower important to you?

Our family has always been connected to farming and orchards in particular. The mindset of an orchard grower is a lot different than that of an annual row crop grower. The commitment is different. When you plant walnut trees, you make a decision to commit to the orchard for 30-40 years. Row crop growers have their own set of problems, but if they make mistakes this year, they’ll get another run at it next year. And so, the level of care and commitment is different.
walnut farmer hands

What do you think is one especially interesting fact about the harvest season that non-farmers may not know or realize?

The whole mechanical aspect of it, like shaking the trees and running the sweeper. Once we start, it’s just continuous. Occasionally, if we get ahead of ripening we might take a Sunday off, if we can. But for the most part, it’s going to run 7 days a week, dawn to dark until it’s done. It’s a very intense period.

Are there any sustainability measure you take?

Our commitment to sustainability is deeply rooted in our California heritage, rich farming knowledge and good stewardship practices for the sake of future generations of walnut growers. It is also informed by science and advanced with the help of new technologies and innovations that reduce our impact on the environment. As an industry, with more than 4,500 growers, we are mindful of the health of water, air and soil around us along with the well-being of the people our business touches each day. As such, we are focused on continuous improvements to lessen our impacts while growing the world’s highest quality walnuts.

What are some other things you wish people knew about walnuts?

How versatile and easy to use they are. Everyone knows they’re great for baking, but you can also use them in spreads, sauces and as meat and dairy substitutes. The concept of food origins is another message we have been trying to get out for years, trying to get kids in elementary schools to know and understand where their food comes from.

Is it important for you to keep the orchard in your family for future generations?

Bill and I are second generation and I have 3 kids. We grew up in Los Gatos where we had the orchard right over the back fence. Our kids didn’t have that. They grew up in a city and the orchards were always far away. They’d visit occasionally but it wasn’t part of their regular routine. So their connection is different than ours. I would love to have it stay in the family.

To learn more about the California Walnut Commission, visit https://walnuts.org/walnut-industry/our-industry/

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