On a blistering hot September day, Larry and Landon Viani were harvesting the last of this year's almond crop at their eastern Merced County ranch.
Well, almost the last of the crop.
The Vianis were harvesting Carmels, a type of almond that's one of the last varieties of the year to be harvested. Larry Viani picked up the nuts with his specialized tractor, while Landon Viani drove the almonds to a bigger truck that will take the nuts to the huller.
Still on the ground, waiting to be dry enough to pick up, were Montereys, the last of this year's nuts.
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"They have to be dry enough to go to the huller," Larry Viani said, picking up a handful of the Montereys. "When the hulls are dry enough, they snap," he said, showing how the Monterey hull only bent, with no snap in it.
The Viani family has been growing almonds since 1940, when almonds were still fairly new to the county. Larry Viani said his grandfather and father had grown fresh market tomatoes, and the harvest was usually done by the end of August.
"That left September and October, just about the time the almonds were ready, so they decided to plant almonds and get two harvests a year," Larry Viani said.
The Carmels the Vianis were harvesting are a good eating nut, Larry Viani said. "They have a good flavor, they're not used for processing -- they're for eating."
Harvesting almonds starts with a tree shaker shaking the tree to make the nuts fall to the ground. The nuts are swept into windrows and then left for three and six days, until they are dry enough to go to the huller.
"This year, the cool weather kind of put us behind," Larry Viani said. "Usually, these would be dry in three or four days, but it's been almost two weeks for this batch."
Landon Viani is the fourth generation of his family to grow almonds, and that's not all he does with his time.
Landon Viani also runs a feedlot in La Grange, along with his grandmother's ranch in the same town, and he also runs an alfalfa ranch in Minden, Nev. Plus, he's about to graduate from Fresno State with a degree in plant science.
The whole family works hard. Larry Viani also raises alfalfa, oat hay, wheat, beef cattle, and registered Angus bulls.
"I love this life," Larry Viani said. "It's been good to us. It's a family farm, and I want to keep it going."
Landon Viani has no plans to get out of the agriculture business, although he's thinking about becoming a chemical salesman.
"I get a lot of satisfaction producing food for the world," he said.
Especially at harvest time.
Reporter Carol Reiter can be reached at (209) 385-2486 or email@example.com.