Despite a slow start, due to unusually cool growing conditions earlier in the year, Friedenbach/Turmon Farms’ almond trees fared well this past season. They suffered little, if any, damage from navel orangeworm, and diseases weren’t a problem, either, Turmon notes. The orchards responded, for the most part, with higher yields.

“Production in some of the pollinators, mainly Carmel and Monterey, was off a little from 2010,” he says. “But, overall, the 2011 crop was about 10 percent larger than the year before, although nut size was a little smaller. Our Nonpareil yields, which were down in 2010, were outstanding this season.”

Other growers also enjoyed a productive year. When the books are closed on California’s 2011 almond harvest, the industry is likely to have hulled and shelled nearly 2 billion pounds of meat. That’s a sizeable jump from last year’s record-breaking production of 1.65 million meat pounds. What’s more, growers are selling these nuts at prices similar to those they earned for their 2010 crop. In the case of Nonpareils, that’s at about the $2.10-per-pound or higher range, depending on size and grade.

Normally, Friedenbach/Turmon Farms starts harvesting almonds around Aug. 5. However, because of delayed crop maturity, the 2011 was about three weeks later than normal. The last of the nuts were picked up in mid-October. That was after rains fell early that month on some of the Monterey fields and after the other varieties had been harvested.

“2011 harvest was similar to 2010 when we had rain at the tail end of the harvest,” he adds. “Only this year, the nuts were slightly wetter going to the huller.”

Those rains hampered work in the field and at the huller. Because wet almonds dry faster if they are hanging on the tree, crews stop shaking the trees when the rain starts. Wet weather slows drying of nuts already on the ground, increasing the threat of mold and more rain. Rain can also discolor almond shells, rendering them unacceptable for the in-shell market, which usually offers growers a higher price than when sold as kernels.