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From farm to bottle

A look at how almond beverages are made in California


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Drive through almost any part of the Central Valley, and you're likely to see some of the thousands of farms that make this place the epicenter of almond farming in California. The Golden State is home to about 6,800 almond farms and more than 90 percent are owned by families like the Gardiners.

Farming almonds in Kern County since the 1980s, this third-generation farming family is led by brothers John, Jim and Joe Gardiner, and is now a vertically integrated business—meaning they take things from the beginning to the end for an almond.

It starts in the winter when Jim's bees pollinate the trees. Months later, John harvests the crop using machines that roll through each orchard row and shake the almonds to the ground. The almonds dry naturally in the orchard for up to 10 days before they're collected.

Next, the almonds go to a huller, where rollers remove the hull and shell to reveal the kernel—aka, the almond that we all love. But there's life for the leftovers: The hulls are used for livestock feed and the shells for livestock bedding.

"The beauty of almonds is that everything we bring from the fields, not one ounce of it is wasted," Joe said. "There's a use for all of it."

The next stop for the almond kernels is Treehouse California Almonds, where they are processed into any form the customers wants, including blanched, dry roasted, sliced, diced or slivered. Then some are off to be milled and ground into almond flour, most of which is used by Califia Farms to produce their trademark beverage: almond milk.

Founded in 2010, Califia Farms is one of the fastest growing natural beverage companies in the country—based primarily on the success of their almond drink. The recipe is simple: After mixing their almond meal blend with water and other ingredients, the batches are pasteurized and filled into the iconic bottle. You know the bottle: It features Queen Califia, the mythical namesake of the state of California, on the front. All of this is done at Califia Farms' state-of-the-art facility in Bakersfield, where the team can crank out almost 200 bottles of almond milk every single minute.

Thanks to the special relationship between growers, processors and innovators, the future is indeed bright for one of the Central Valley's most prominent crops. Together, they continue California's tradition of being trendsetters in the world of food and farming.

For more information about Treehouse California Almonds, visit www.treehousealmonds.com. For more information about Califia Farms, visit www.califiafarms.com.


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