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What America’s nutty demand for almonds is doing to California

January 20, 2015

Grist

On a sunbaked August morning, off a rural road in the heart of California’s Central Valley, a low-slung tractor rumbles between neat rows of identical, light-green trees. To its right, a plume of dust billows up, thick enough to blot out the sky above the treetops. A chute on the truck sends a steady stream of almonds flying into the trailer hitched behind.

Sweating as I skitter around to avoid the moving tractor, I’m witnessing what has emerged as one of the Central Valley’s most lucrative rituals: the almond harvest. Here in western Fresno County, which generates more than a fifth of California’s almonds, production has more than doubled since 2005. Almonds are now nearly as valuable as the state’s vaunted grape harvest.

Learn more about photographer Matt Black's project documenting the communities affected by the California drought.Learn more about photographer Matt Black’s project documenting the communities affected by the California drought.Matt Black

Another truck has already been through the orchard, armed…

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