It’s harvest season in California, and growers are excited about the increased production of two longtime regional staples.

First up: the mighty walnut. More than 99% of America’s walnut supply comes from California, where fertile soil and temperate weather conditions allow walnut trees to flourish. The majority of those nuts are grown in in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, where the walnut harvest usually begins in late August and continues through the end of November. This time of year, growers will be looking for walnuts whose outer green hull has dried up and started to split, which is a tell-tale sign that the walnut is mature and ready for harvest.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service has forecast 2023’s walnut production at 790,000 tons, which marks a 5% increase from last year’s production of 752,000 tons. This increase occurs in spite of a decreased number of bearing acres. (2022’s bearing acreage was 400,000, with 2023’s estimated 385,000 bearing acres representing a 4% decrease.) The numbers are encouraging for growers and consumers alike. Since 2008, the yearly production California-grown walnuts has risen dramatically, with 2023’s estimated production nearly doubling the statistics from 2008.

Also experiencing a surge in production are tomatoes. California produces 95% of the country’s tomatoes, as well as one third of the supply worldwide. Most of the state’s production takes place in the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys, specifically counties like Solano, Merced, Sutter, and Stanislaus. It’s a thriving agricultural commodity worth about $1.18 billion, with a major planting period that stretches from late January to early June and a harvesting season that ranges from late June to October.

This year, the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s forecast for the contracted production of California-grown processing tomatoes is 12.9 million tons, with an average of 50.8 tons per acre. This production forecast is roughly 23% more than 2022’s contracted production of 10.5 million tons. Additionally, the projected harvested acreage of California tomatoes grown under contract is higher this year — 254,000 acres, to be exact, which is a 13% increase over 2022’s numbers.

California’s tomato crop nearly took a nosedive in early 2023, when an historically wet winter and spring delayed the planting season by multiple weeks. On the other hand, ample water supply and record-high prices helped increase contracted acreage as the weather improved. The harvest began in mid-July, which is several weeks later than usual, but is expected to continue through October. Due to the late crop, shipments are expected to catch up with — and ultimately succeed — numbers from the past five years, assuming weather conditions remain relatively dry.

What does all of this mean for growers? A healthy and extended harvest, for starters! For consumers, it means a broader selection of their favorite fruits and nuts, which will hopefully result in tastier meals, too.

Comments are closed.