News from the Farm | October 16, 2023


The week before Hoes Down, in addition to all the general prep, we also harvested our walnuts!

We grow 12 acres of walnuts. These are large, beautiful old trees that were on the property when the farm was purchased in the 1980s. As a result, they don’t include newer varieties (like Chandler, which currently makes up about a third of all walnuts grown in CA) and the trees are more spaced out, and larger than more recently planted, high-density orchards. Most of our trees are Serr with some Tehama and Hartley.

How do you harvest walnuts? The short answer is, we shake them off the tree. The entire process is a bit longer though:

First, we prepare the orchard. We stop watering, mow the cover crops, clip any low-lying shoots coming from the rootstock (all walnuts are English walnuts grafted on heartier local black walnuts – more info here), and generally clean up the orchard to remove the amount of debris on the ground.

Then we shake! If the trees were smaller, the shaker would grab the trunk, shake the tree a few times, and then move on. With our larger trees, we have to shake a few limbs.

After the walnuts are on the ground, the sweeper sweeps the nuts into windrows.


Then the harvester (the blue machine) lifts the nuts off the ground. It has a picking head on the front which leads to an elevator that goes to a receiver cart (red). During this process, some hulls (the thick green outer coating) get knocked off, as well as leaves and sticks.

Last, the nuts are removed from the receiver cart and go into a trailer.


But the process still isn’t done! The walnuts are covered with a thick green hull that covers the brown shell that we’re all used to seeing and that needs to be removed. We send our walnuts to a huller where they remove the hulls, then wash and dry the walnuts.

Then they come back to us for shelling and sorting. Our sheller (a machine) cracks the shells and then sorters (people, not a machine) remove bad nuts. Most walnuts in California don’t go back to the farm after they’re hulled. They’re sent to large processors where they’re shelled and sorted using much more machinery and then are sent to stores and processors in the US and around the world. You can see the entire process in this video.

And that is how you harvest walnuts!

– Elaine Swiedler, CSA Manager