Olivia Wenger of Paso Robles, California, is keeping a close eye on the drought situation. Her family farm is Limerock Orchards, which includes 23-acres of heirloom English walnut trees. The trees were planted nearly 45-years ago, but never irrigated. The family is keeping with the “dry farming” tradition and letting nature do the watering for them.
Olivia says the trees are showing some drought stress, but there is a benefit to not being pampered over the last 45-years.
"Those roots have really had to go down deep and they’ve had to really stretch to be able to get enough water to survive," says Olivia. "It’s nice, because they’re sort equipped for this kind of thing, but there’s only so long obviously that we can go without rain. We’re crossing our fingers that we get something this year, but for now they’re hanging in there."
She says in a good year, the trees will produce 10-to-20-tons of walnuts. In the past, they sold the nuts on the wholesale market. But because of the dry farming and organic practices, they found they had a unique niche and a quality product. When it comes to flavor, not all walnuts are created equally.
Olivia says in 2009, the family decided to create their own walnut company and try some different things on their own.
"We started with roasted walnut oil, and then we also do shelled walnuts, we do walnut brittle and some other flavored walnuts, chocolate walnuts and things like that," says Olivia. "So we’ve sort of been experimenting. One of the products that’s actually really popular is our walnut butter, which you don’t see a whole lot."
Their tasting room also pairs the walnuts with wine from a neighboring vineyard.
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