By Florencia Tagliavini, Nutritionist
Did you know that 80% of the world´s supply of almonds is produced in California? This sunny state is one of the few places with the perfect Mediterranean climate needed grow almonds.
As more people are turning to plant-based diets, consuming more plant-based milks (almond milk being the most popular) - the almond industry is growing and it becomes vital to ensure that with growth comes the responsibility to keep producing with our planet's health in mind. Luckily we don't have to worry about that as California's almond farmers are leaders in sustainability.
California's community of almond growers is composed of about 6800 almonds farmers - over 90% are family farms, many owned and operated by third- or fourth-generation farmers who live on the land and plan to pass it down to their children (1).
This community is committed to using sustainable agricultural practices "that are economically viable and based on scientific research, common sense and a respect for the environment, neighbors and employees", as the California Board of Almonds states.
Here are a few ways that the almond community has taken responsible action to minimize environmental impact:
Everything in the orchard is put to use - getting the most out of the resources so nothing goes to waste. The almonds grow in a shell, protected by a hull, on a tree. The shells become livestock bedding, the hulls are used as dairy feed and the trees which store carbon are transformed into electricity at the end of their lives. The almond community is embracing the zero-waste approach and investigating new possible uses for almond co-products in different industries such as the pharmaceutical, food, and automotive industries.
Water footprint is one of many ways to quantify environmental impact - as is a carbon footprint. A water footprint estimates the amount of water used to produce a product or crop. Research-based farming improvements and water-saving technologies have helped California almond farmers reduce the amount of water it takes to grow one pound of almonds by 33 percent over the past 20 years (1). They are constantly investigating new technologies and irrigation practices to ensure water is used in the most efficient way possible as well as researching sustainable water resources. This community has been exploring on-farm groundwater recharge which if successful, due to the vast amount of almond orchards, could play a key role in California's sustainable water future (2).
California Almond Sustainability Program
Is a program led by the Almond Board of California that provides education about sustainable farming practices while facilitating continuous improvement. This foundation supports the industry by investing in constant independent scientific research.
There has been a global concern about the health of bees since the populations have been declining due to various reasons. Losing bees can have tragic consequences since they are crucial pollinators for more than 90 percent of the nation's flowering crops, including apples, nuts, avocados, broccoli, peaches, blueberries, and cherries. The future of our food depends heavily on bee pollination. Almonds depend on bees as they are essential to pollinate the crop and bees depend on almonds as they help strengthen beehives.
The Almond Board of California has taken extraordinary steps to be good partners to beekeepers in promoting bee health. They have funded more honey bee health research than any other crop group with more than 100 research projects since 1995 (1).
- University of California, 2010. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2012. Almond Board of California, 1990-94, 2000-14.
- University of California Agricultural Issues Center. The Economic Impacts of the California Almond Industry. December 2014.