The Nut Report

Laura Avery gets schooled on macadamia nuts by Jim Russell, who has a grove of 200 macadamia trees on six acres in Fallbrook, California. Then, Ken Kennedy explains how the ongoing drought is affecting his English and black walnut crop in Reedley.

For one week only, we are retiring The Market Report to bring you The Nut Report. Because: ‘Tis the season. Our first stop is Jim Russell, who has a grove of 200 macadamia trees on six acres in Fallbrook, California.

Jim Russell planted his first macadamia tree 30 years ago. Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
Jim Russell planted his first macadamia tree 30 years ago. At the Santa Monica Farmers Market, he is selling the big mac pak, the snack pak, the lunch pak and the family pak. (Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

These days, Russell and his farmworkers go out once or twice a week to gather the macadamias that fall to the ground. Russell says this year’s yield won’t break any records: “In June, we had a major heat wave. My trees had a great set but they dumped about half of their nuts. So I’m going to have a shortened stay at the market because my crop is severely limited.” 

Macadamia nuts from Russell Family Farms. Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
Russell Family Farms sells whole and ground macadamia nuts and macadamia nut flour. (Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

Next, Laura Avery swings by the Kennedy Family Farm stand. Ken Kennedy begins his harvest in early October. Believe it or not, birds help signal when the nuts are ripe enough to be picked. “When those nuts get ripe, the crows will start cawing and the bluejays will start chattering. And you better get in there because they’ll eat eight or ten pounds of nuts a day,” Kennedy says.

Ken Kennedy sells black and English walnuts at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW
Ken Kennedy sells black and English walnuts at the Santa Monica Farmers Market. (Photo by Joseph Stone/KCRW)

Kennedy says his crop will also be short because he didn’t want to sap his community’s water supply and overpump: “We’ve lost a few walnut trees. But as an English walnut tree disappears or dies, usually the black walnut rootstock survives. They’re pretty hearty so I cultivate those and bring the black walnut up.” If you’ve never had them, Kennedy says black walnuts are more flavorful than English walnuts. This year, the oils and flavors will be more concentrated because his trees had to produce nuts with less water.