Disclosure: My trip to California was paid for by the Almond Board of California. I was not compensated for writing this post and as always, all opinions are my own.
It’s been about a week since I’ve gotten home from California where I spent a few days on a sponsored trip with the Almond Board of California and I still sort of feel like it was a dream! As a self-proclaimed nut butter addict, I couldn’t have been more excited when I got the invite from the Almond Board of California. A chance to learn about almond nutrition, visit almond orchards and meet incredibly talented dietitians and bloggers? Sign me up!
I’ve decided to document my experience in two separate posts—one all about the almond adventures/education and a second on the rest of my experience…the amazing food, delicious wine and fantastic company.
Here is the list of all the RDs/bloggers who attended this year:
Abbey Sharp—Abbeys Kitchen
Abby Langer—Abby Langer Nutrition
Alex Caspero—Delish Knowledge
Amanda Finks—The Wholesome Dish
Christy Wilson—Christy Wilson Nutrition
Deanna Segrave-Daly—Teaspoon of Spice
Emily Hein— Zen and Spice
Genevieve Nadeau—Nadeau Nutrition
Lisa Lin—Healthy Nibbles and Bits
Lisa Young—The Portion Teller
McKenzie Hall— Nourish RDs
Megan Roosevelt—Healthy Grocery Girl
Meme Inge—Living Well Kitchen
Mitzi Dulan—Nutrition Expert
Patty Mastracco—I Do Food
Rachael Hartley—Avocado A Day
Robin Plotkin—Robin’s Bite
Needless to say I consider myself really lucky to have had the opportunity to meet and learn from these women. They are all doing some incredible things in the food/nutrition/wellness industry, so if you don’t already follow them on social media, get on it!
Now without further ado, let’s talk almonds.
We stayed at the Wine & Roses Hotel and Spa in Lodi, California. I’ll share more on the hotel in my next Almond Orchard Experience post, but it was a perfect retreat for our group. Due to some travel hiccups, I missed the Culinary Demo that kicked off the trip, but made it in time for a beautiful outdoor dinner where I was able to meet and start getting to know the other attendees.
The following day was truly all about the almonds. We spent the morning listening to presentations from members of the Almond Board, as well as the ABC Dietitian, Jenny Heap. I already knew how great almonds are from a nutrition and health standpoint, so I was most interested in hearing about the environmental initiatives (hello, California drought!) as well as marketing strategies and emerging consumer research.
Here’s a quick recap of some of the things we learned…
- California grows 83% of the world’s almond supply!
- 43% of almonds are consumed as snacks
- Ounce for ounce, almonds are the tree nut highest in protein, fiber, calcium, Vitamin E, riboflavin and niacin.
- Almond orchards take up about 13% of California’s farmland, but only use about 9% of its agricultural water supply.
- The Almond Board of California has been funding research to minimize water usage for over 30 years, not just in response to the recent droughts. About 83% of the almond growers use demand-based irrigation and 70% of almond orchards use micro-irrigation, which decreases water runoff and avoids waste. In fact, over the past 2 decades, advances in farming techniques have allowed almond growers to reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33%!
- The lifespan of an almond tree is about 25 years but it takes about 3-5 years before the tree produces edible nuts
- No part of an almond goes unused! We eat the “meat”, the hull is used for dairy cattle feed and the shell is composted for cattle beds and more.
- Almonds and honeybees are BFFs. Every spring, almonds provide bees with their first source of food and the bees are essential for almond tree pollination. Read more on the mutually beneficial relationship here.
After a break for lunch, we were divided into groups for a Snack Challenge. Heather, Lisa, Emily, Patty and I came up with a sweet and spicy snack bar that had almonds, oats, brown rice syrup, cayenne, pumpkin seeds, sea salt and of course…chocolate! We didn’t win, but these bars were really good and I may have to recreate them soon!
Wednesday morning, the group boarded a bus to the Travaille and Phippen almond orchard. Here we got to see first-hand how the almonds are grown, harvested and processed.
One of the coolest parts of the trip was seeing exactly how the machines shake the almonds from the trees when they’re ready for harvesting. Check it out here on Heather’s Insta–she got a good video! Years ago, the orchard workers had to bang on the trees with rubber mallets to shake the nuts free, so this is a huge improvement in efficiency.
Next, we slapped on our hairnets and toured the processing facility.
I shared a cool video on Vine of all the ways the almonds are shelled and sorted. Plus there are workers who eyeball the nuts as they go by on conveyor belts to ensure quality. There’s no way I could handle that job! I’d be dizzy in no time and/or have a mouth full of almonds all day!
Finally, we ended the trip with a beautiful picnic lunch right at the Travaille and Phippen orchard, and I had the pleasure of sitting with Mr. Phippen himself! It was so refreshing to chat with a farmer who is so open and transparent about his agricultural practices and also so passionate about his work. The Pinterest-worthy lunch didn’t hurt either! 😉
That’s a wrap on the official Almond Orchard Experience Part 1 post, but I’ll be back next week to recap more of the food, wine and fitness fun I had while visiting Lodi. BIG BIG thanks to the team at the Almond Board of California for sponsoring my trip and creating such an incredible learning experience for us all.
Have you ever been to an almond orchard? What’s your favorite way to eat almonds? Mine is definitely almond butter by the spoonful! 😉