Walnut Farmer Talks Family’s Founding of Crows Landing

Walnut Farmer Norman Crow has Deep Roots in Stanislaus County

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

California Ag Today recently had the chance to interview Norman Crow a walnut grower and owner of Orestimba Walnut nursery in the Crows Landing area of Stanislaus County.

We asked him about his walnut harvest. “I think everything is going to be late this year. But it looks like a good crop,” Crow said.

“It’s very interesting because the market for the first time in several years is good. There’s no carryover from last year, so, we’re going to see maybe a 25% increase in price,” Crow said.

Crow explained that walnut plantings are not out of control compared to almonds and pistachios. “So we are very optimistic. Plus the dollar is weaker, there is no carryover and there is strong demand for walnuts

Crow is a descendant of Walter, Crow who came out to California from Missouri in 1849 – obviously, for gold. And he had eight children.

“I’m the descendant of one of his eight children, which is John Bradford,” Crow said. “He was my great-great grandfather.”

“And soon after arriving, my family bought Orestimba Rancho, which was a Spanish land grant. It was about 5,000 acres along Orestimba Creek that goes from the San Joaquin River, up the canyon, to the west of I-5.

Orestimba is a Yokut indian word for “the meeting place”.

“My family began farming barley, and they needed to get it to the buyer,” Crow explained.

The Crow’s built two riverboats, which pulled barges, loaded with sacks of barley. The landing was a warehouse on the San Joaquin River. That’s how it was eventually named Crow’s Landing.

“And then, a good family friend of ours, Jack Grisez took care of the ranch for many years, but they actually had a bean warehouse here that’s called Grisez Warehouse,” Crows said. “ Jack Grisez supplied all the dry beans to the GIs during WWII. He was one of the primary packers of beans. So, WWII came along and people started growing – there was a need and a demand and there was money to be made growing row crops. So some of them grew beans, tomatoes and other crops. And others operated dairies in the area.

In 1865, the Crow family began planting walnuts using seeds that the family brought from Missouri. They were from black walnuts, and today there are still may black walnut trees in the area.

And while walnut plantings were expanding throughout California, Norman Crow established a commercial walnut nursery on his ranch and named it Orestimba Nursery, which lies on Orestimba Creek.

Besides farming walnuts and operating a nursery, Crow noted that his family operates two walnut hullers in the area.

Initial Walnut Irrigation Can be Delayed

Walnut Irrigation Research Update

By Brian German, Associate Broadcaster

 

First springtime walnut irrigation can be delayed, according to a UC Cooperative Extension team in Tehama County working on some fascinating research regarding irrigation practices. Allan Fulton is an Irrigation and Water Resource Advisor who covers Tehama, Colusa, Shasta and Glenn counties. “We actually just finished one of our irrigation experiment harvests this weekend. It was looking at early season water management decisions, basically deciding when to begin the irrigation season,” Fulton said.

allan_fulton
Allan Fulton, UC Cooperative Extension Irrigation Specialist

Growers typically begin irrigating their walnuts sometime between late April and early May. In order to be as thorough as possible in their experiment, Fulton and his team have been pushing the limits beyond what most growers would ever consider. “We had some treatments that got no irrigation until almost the end of June,” Fulton explained.

Now in its third year, the research experiment is generating information that will provide a variety of benefits. “The whole motivation is to avoid possible injury to the trees from irrigating too much, too early, from lack of aeration and damage to the root system,” Fulton said. Delayed irrigation, while having no impact on yield or nut size, can also provide a bit of water savings. “We’re trying to look for the sweet spot,” with less intensive early season irrigation in favor of root health, tree health and disease prevention.

California walnut orchard, walnut irrigationThe research is being conducted in the northern Sacramento Valley primarily using the Chandler variety of walnut trees. Fulton has spent some time working in the San Joaquin Valley as well and understands different weather conditions can be a significant factor when applying their findings to other regions. “Our spring rainfall is quite a bit different than other walnut growing areas. Usually we’ve got an added source of water that sometimes you might not have in the southern San Joaquin Valley,” Fulton noted. From his experience, he suggested growers could usually wait until “the first week of May in most years, before really getting pressed for irrigation.”

The location of the research exposes groves to the opportunity to receive “more rain during the dormant season with a better chance at a deeper profile in moisture before you ever break dormancy,” Fulton said. More regional rainfall is possible in the spring as well, while the trees are growing.

The information gathered so far indicates growers should not jump the gun on springtime irrigation, particularly if there is still any kind of standing water issues. “The data is starting to suggest that you’ve got some room. You don’t have to irrigate at the first sign of heat; you can use a little bit of the stored moisture coming out of winter,” Fulton said. He also noted “It’s a lot more difficult to recover from a damaged tree with a sick roots system,” than it is to recover from a lack of early season irrigation.