This time last week, I was prepping for a 3:30am wake up call to meet a car outside my house that would whisk me away to JFK airport. Where was I headed at such an ungodly hour? If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll already know I had 48 magical hours in Sacramento, California.
I was flown out to Cali as a guest of Almond Breeze (!!!) to tour one of their almond orchards. The entire experience made me feel like a modern-day princess. From the car service to the swanky hotel to the incredibly friendly Blue Diamond staff, I was pinching myself the entire time because I simply couldn’t believe this was my life.
After an early morning flight and a 20-minute layover that I spent running through the airport to catch my connection, I arrived in Sacramento bright eyed and bushy tailed, if a touch crumpled looking. I had a few hours to explore Sacramento, and then all the ladies on the trip were herded into a tour bus to watch a Sacramento Kings game.
Naturally, I ate my body weight in free food, much of which incorporated Blue Diamond almonds in ways I’d never thought possible (almond milk liquid nitrogen ice cream, anyone?). After eating myself silly and chatting the night away with my fellow journalists, I passed out the minute I laid down on my bed.
The next thing I knew, it was time for the real treat: the tour of the almond orchard! Little did I know that just an hour outside of Sacramento lay the most beautiful patch of land I’ve ever seen. We were greeted by some lovely Blue Diamond staff members, the farmer who owned this land (hi Mike!), and some insanely delicious almond flour blueberry muffins.
As we all tucked into the muffins, Mike started telling us a little bit about his orchard and Blue Diamond. What you’re seeing in these photos is just a tiny snippet of the 700 acres of almond trees that Mike and his family farms every year. And yes, you heard that right—we were visiting a family-run farm. Before this trip, I had no clue that Blue Diamond was a co-op. But its almonds actually come entirely from family farms, some of which are now run by third generation Blue Diamond almond farmers. Isn’t that crazy?
As it turns out, there are dozens of varieties of almonds. Depending on the size and flavor of an almond, it will be either be eaten directly, used for almond milk or almond flour, or some other purpose. Having so many varieties actually helps farmers harvest all the almonds since the different types of almonds bloom at slightly different times (even a few days difference is enough to allow farmers to harvest everything in a timely manner).
To harvest almonds from the tree, farmers must shake the trees using a machine called a shaker (you can tell a farmer named it). Then, the almonds lie on the ground for a bit to dry before they’re collected.
The little ecosystem within the orchard was fascinating to me. Mike brings in bee hives to help pollinate the trees, and he has to make sure to rotate the hives to ensure every tree is pollinated. He also built around 50 owl boxes for owls to nest in so they’d act as natural pest control against the rodents that might otherwise gnaw on the poor almonds.
In general, there’s just so much about almond farming that I had no idea you had to think about. I honestly thought you just planted the darn trees and called it a day—you can imagine how silly I felt once I realized how untrue that is.
Throughout the entire tour, I was completely overwhelmed by the orchard surrounding us. This was one of those pesky instances where my camera didn’t do the gorgeous scenery justice. Everywhere I looked, I saw rows upon rows of fragrant almond trees, lined up neatly like pretty soldiers.
The blooms looked a bit like cherry blossoms to me, and I had to resist the temptation to pick them off the trees to press inside my travel journal as a memento of the trip.
And the smell. As soon as I stepped off that bus and took my first whiff of the almond blooms, I knew I’d never be happy with a floral perfume for the rest of my life. The blooms weren’t overpowering; they gave off just the right amount of delicate fragrance.
As if the tour wasn’t already magical enough, we were treated to a Pintrest-worthy lunch in an empty barn. The barn was strung with tea lights and bluebells marked our place settings. On the menu was almond-crusted chicken sandwiches with romesco sauce and a salad with almond milk vinaigrette and a variety of fresh toppings, polished off with a slice of pear tart.
A light, but filling lunch.
And because I just can’t resist free food, I asked Mike if I could pick a few oranges off the orange trees I had seen lining his front drive. With his blessing, the girls and I ran off to oogle the citrus trees and pick a few pieces of fruit for the bus ride home. I came away with two oranges and a grapefruit that was nearly the size of my head. I was tempted to take more, but I only had carry-on luggage…
While we’re here, let’s admire the citrus trees a little bit more. I couldn’t believe how giant they were! Those grapefruits could brain you if you aren’t careful.
After many glances over my shoulder at the gorgeous almond orchard, I reluctantly got back on the bus to head to the hotel.
This is easily the most spoiled I’ve ever been on a trip. What’s been your most magical travel moment? I’m sure you all have some good ones!
I want to give a huge thank you to Almond Breeze for bringing me out to California. I loved hearing more about what you stand for as a company and seeing firsthand how you prioritize the happiness of your farmers.
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