During an exclusive tour of an almond huller and sheller operation recently the manager stopped the vehicle, got out, and began walking around a piece of equipment that should have been running, but wasn’t.
Workers were standing nearby, and a truck, that should have been unloading 45,000 pounds of almonds, sat as the driver talked on his cell phone in tones of frustration.
“You might want to say something about this in your magazine,” the manager said as he got back in the vehicle holding a two-foot long piece of lumber.
“Was it something I said?” I joked as he tossed the lumber in the cab.
Apparently the piece of lumber was the culprit that had three people standing around and a relatively new piece of equipment sitting idle, rather than everyone busily going about their day as almond harvest was under way.
“The stick,” as I’ll call it, apparently got swept up from an almond orchard and deposited into the hopper bottom trailer of the big rig that delivered the nuts to the huller/sheller. That stick – a two-by-two about two feet long – found its way to the plant where it did what foreign objects that size efficiently do when placed in machines designed to move materials much smaller.
It stopped the machine.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened, and the manager – visibly upset but maintaining his cool – took “the stick” with him as evidence for the orchard owner, who apparently has delivered other foreign objects to the plant in his loads of almonds with similar results.
“He’s done this before,” the manager told me as we drove back to the office where he assured a couple other managers that he was going to call the almond grower with notice that the bill is in the mail.
Because almonds are shaken to the ground and allowed to dry a bit before being swept up and taken to a plant where their shells and hulls are removed before further processing it’s not difficult to transport rocks, dirt, twigs and other materials with those nuts to the plant.
Given that the growers pay freight charges based on weight, it would seem logical that they would want to keep dirt, rocks and other materials out of those trailers and pay just to haul their almonds. It’s amazing how a little bit of dirt will jack up the weight of a big rig.
The message from my manager friend is poignant. Keep the foreign objects out of the loads so that unnecessary processing delays and costly mechanical failures can be kept to a minimum. Likewise, consider the freight charges of hauling commodities and do what’s necessary to eliminate the rocks, dirt and debris from the loads so that you don’t pay to unnecessarily haul that stuff around.
Perhaps this is yet another reason for the almond industry to consider harvesting nuts in catch frames like pistachios and avoid paying to move dirt and rocks from orchards to the nearby sheller and huller.