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Mark Nessia

An almond harvester picks up the almonds that have been shaken off the trees. The process takes about a week because the almonds must dry after being shaken off.

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Mark Nessia

Terry Nachtigall drives his Polaris Ranger XP up and down his almond orchards to check on the irrigation system.

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Mark Nessia

Almonds are dumped from the nut cart to an elevator, where twigs are weeded out and the almonds are poured into trailers to be transported.

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Mark Nessia

A worker drives a cart full of harvested almonds to an elevator where they are loaded into trailers to be shipped.

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Mark Nessia

Terry Nachtigall cleans out residue in the irrigation system in his orchard.

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Contributed

Yurosek Farms has been growing pistachios in Kern County for more than 25 years.

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Yurosek Farms has been growing pistachios in Kern County for more than 25 years.

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Michael Riccomini

Yurosek Farms has been growing pistachios in Kern County for more than 25 years.

If you think Kern County is full of nuts, you don't know the half of it. We are the prime region for California nut production, and California is the No. 1 nut provider in the nation.

And with export markets increasing, nuts show no signs of slowing down. Here are some of the people and places in town leading the way.

Terry Nachtigall

Fresno-native Terry Nachtigall began his career as an elementary school teacher then switched to agriculture after "marrying the farmer's daughter" and moving to Wasco in 1983, he said.

With 140 acres of almond trees, Nachtigall Farms produces almonds for the wholesale market.

About 22 percent of the almonds grown in California come from Kern County.

"And we are very fortunate that we have the climate to grow them so successfully," Nachtigall said.

There are challenges to growing nuts for a living, including the availability of water for irrigation, the cost of fuel for the equipment and the unpredictable elements of nature, Nachtigall said. One bad windstorm at the wrong time of year can knock blossoms off the trees and substantially reduce the year's harvest yield. But unlike cotton, which Nachtigall farmed for 20 years, almond trees don't have to be replanted every season, and they can continue to produce well into their 20s.

With all the research being done on the health benefits of almonds, Nachtigall said, "It's really fun and satisfying to grow something that's good for you."

Jennifer Rogers Etcheverry

My Husband's Nuts

Myhusbandsnuts.com

Jennifer Rogers Etcheverry, also known as "The Farmer's Wife," married into the farming business in 1989. As the Etcheverry's new almond crop matured, the market declined. In a moment of frustration, she said to her husband, "What do I have to do, go sell your nuts for you?"

Jennifer's brother suggested they name the new business "My Husband's Nuts," and the rest is retail history.

Out of a modest 200-acre farm, the Etcheverrys still package and label all products by hand, and are currently selling in 20 states.

The almonds come in four flavors: butter toffee, natural smoke, chili con lemon and onion garlic, as well as raw. Jennifer's focus on the retail side of the business has created for her a side job as a public speaker, and she continues to be amazed and grateful for the support of the people in Kern County, she said.

Yurosek Farms

Yurosekfarms.com

Yurosek Farms has been growing pistachios in Kern County for more than 25 years. From the tree to your table, Yurosek takes special care of its product every step of the way, including slow roasting the old fashioned way to ensure the quality and flavor of their gourmet pistachios.

In addition to salted and unsalted, Yurosek Farms has three varieties of flavored pistachios: garlic, jalapeno and chili lemon.

Pistachios are one of the heart-healthy nuts that may help to reduce the risk of heart disease. And with 49 nuts per ounce serving, they are a filling and delicious source of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

As an added benefit, shelling and eating pistachios one by one forces you to slow down while eating, and feel full faster. Nutritionists call this the "pistachio principle."