By JOHN COX firstname.lastname@example.org Jun 3, 2018
Mike Mason’s not the kind of guy you’d expect to have second thoughts about going all-in on almonds.
The company he built in Wasco 24 years ago, Supreme Almonds of California, receives and packs nuts from 200 local and Northern California growers, then ships them to buyers in about 70 different countries, including the United States. Supreme also farms almonds, employing about 175 people in the combined operations.
But a lot about the almond business nags at Mason lately: groundwater challenges, disruptive weather and criticism that the nut overtaxes the environment. He’s thinking about diversifying into other crops, such as carrots, tomatoes or cotton.
His dilemma — deciding whether to stand by a crop that has delivered so well for so long — touches on a key consideration for Kern’s economic future.
Almonds are one of the county’s most lucrative products, bringing in $1.3 billion in 2016, second only to grapes by total value in Kern.
No other so-called permanent crop covered more local land that year. Between 2006 and 2016, Kern’s almond acreage expanded 76 percent to 224,760 acres, according to county records.
Is it too much of a good thing?