Cache Creek Farm
16634 County Road 98
Woodland, CA 95695
Telephone: (916) 622-2364

A Three-Ring Circus
The Cache Creek Farm at Saturday's San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market is a complex place and very busy place. In addition a steady stream of customers stopping by to taste and buy the raw almonds and walnuts that are Cache Creek's main products, you'll find a large display about the BIOS program and a bevy of bears cavorting around the stand.

Sally and George Oliver take part in the operation the 40-acre family-owned almond and walnut orchard located about 25 miles from Sacramento that George's parents bought starting in 1929. Today, with trees varying in age from 40 - 80 years, George feels that he virtually grew up with most of them. George and Sally became part of the orchard's operations in the 1950's and today, George manages the orchard and handles the wholesale side of the business, which comprises the main sales outlet for their nuts, while Sally and her brood of teddy bears tend to sales at the Saturday Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market in San Francisco. (Stop by the Cache Creek Farm stand at the Market to read the story of the growing Cache Creek teddy bear family or ask Sally to give you a rundown on the latest developments in the brood. It's too complex to include here! Also, be sure to pick up a copy of Sally's "Space Report -- Black Holes (San Francisco Market Bears) -- 1997".

Only Two Types of Nuts and Only Raw
Cache Creek Farm offers mainly raw nuts at the Market: 2 varieties of raw walnuts (Black and English) and 3 varieties of raw almonds (Mission, Nonpareil and Neplus). Small "teaser tasting" bags of sweetened walnuts and almonds are also available while the supply lasts.

Raw Black Walnuts: $9.00/lb.

Raw English Walnuts and all Almonds: $4.00/lb.

How to Read the Almonds
It's fairly easy to distinguish between the two varieties of walnuts since the Black Walnuts have a characteristically darker skin than English Walnuts. But to the untrained eye, it is virtually impossible to distinguish between the 3 almond varieties unless you see them side by side and know what characteristics to look for:

Variety

How it Looks

How it Tastes

Mission

Strongest tasting of these 3 varieties. It' s nutty flavor with hints of almond extract flavor make this the best nut for eating raw. This old-fashioned variety surprisingly outsells the other 2 varieties at Sally's stand by a ratio of about 15:1.

Nonpareil

Buttery flavor. Light skin distinguishes it from the other 2 varieties. (Sally advises blanching the raw nuts to remove the outer skin and dry roasting them at 200 for 2 hours to bring out their characteristic buttery flavor.)

Neplus

Creamy flavor and somewhat creamy texture. Darkest skin and largest nut of the 3 varieties. Excellent for general purpose cooking; they become sweet when cooked.

Sally explains that pre-packaged almonds found in supermarkets can be any of these varieties, but are usually Nonpareils. After talking with her about the different characteristics and best use for each variety, I'll certainly be more attuned to selecting the right variety for my cooking uses in the future!

From Harvest to Table
Harvest time for almonds and walnuts each lasts about 6 weeks. Almonds are first to ripen and harvesting takes place from August through mid-September. Harvesting of walnuts takes starts in early October and lasts through mid-November. Trees are shaken by a mechanical harvester to release the nuts which are then brought directly to a shelling station at the farm. After shelling, the raw nuts are stored in plastic bins at an off-site cold storage room where they will remain until they go to market.

Sally explained that the higher price for Black Walnuts is because the Olivers cannot shell these walnuts using standard shelling equipment at the Cache Creek Farm. The shells of black walnuts are so hard they require special processing equipment which the Olivers don't own. The cost of contracting out the shelling accounts for the more-than double price for Black Walnuts.

Cache Creek Turns to BIOS
In 1994, Cache Creek Farm enrolled in the BIOS program (Biologically Integrated Orchard Systems) initiated by the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF). The program aims to encourage family farmers to manage their orchards with less chemical inputs by teaching them how to the apply 7 farm management techniques based on working with nature:

1. Practicing good winter sanitation and mummy destruction.

2. Planting cover crops which attract beneficial insects and improve water filtration.

3. Monitoring pests.

4. Applying environmentally friendly insecticides.

5. Using a dormant oil spray to control of certain insects.

6. Introducing beneficial parasites.

7. Harvesting promptly.

The Olivers are so pleased with the results they've achieved through the BIOS program that they have devoted about half the space of their stand at the Market to a display about the BIOS program.

June 1997

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