Walk down the dairy section of your local food store and you’ll notice there has been a substantial increase in almond milk in recent years. Dairy milk sales have been plummeting as society starts to turn to healthier alternatives such as plant-based kinds of milk. The most popular of these new kinds of milk is almond milk.
In 2018, almond milk sales soared to an impressive $1 billion. Since the release of those statistics, nut milk’s popularity has only increased. In fact, most studies project that it will climb by 14.3 percent before 2025.
The growing popularity of almond milk has put almonds in high demand. In the United States, most almonds are farmed in one small section of California that stretches 500 miles. In fact, California is credited with producing 80 percent of the world’s almonds and 100 percent of the supply used in the United States.
6. Pollination Needs of the Almond Tree
Almond trees rely on bees for pollination. The California almond farms rely on massive beehives to meet the pollination needs of their nut trees. However, the region’s environmental conditions are not bee friendly, so maintaining the large hives is a headache for the farmers and often falls short of what the trees need to truly create a robust harvest of the in-demand nuts.
Even the bees dread almond pollination season because it starts early, so the bees have to start their job when they are typically dormant in nature. Their natural cycle becomes disrupted, which puts the hives’ lives at significant risk.
If the season were not enough to endanger the bees, there are the harmful pesticides used by the almond tree farmers, which pose a serious threat to the hive.
The region is also rife with aggressive honeybees, which some farmers use. The non-natural honeybees are imported from overseas and threaten the natural ecosystem.
A weak hive is at risk of parasites that can quickly take control of the bee colony. It doesn’t take much to kill a weakened colony.
5. The Bee Crisis
Bees are dying at an alarming rate not only in the United States but around the world. The Climate Institute found that about 1.6 million bees die every year.
The winter of 2018-2019 was financially devastating for bee farmers, who lost more than a third of their hives. In fact, it was one of the worst seasons for bees in history.
The decrease in bees appears to be due to climate change, harsh chemicals, and pesticides. The endangered species list now features several American bees.
With so many bees in peril, almond farmers are facing a serious concern and financial peril. The crops might not be as large, which will drive the price of the almonds higher and make it more difficult to obtain enough almonds to make the much-in-demand almond milk.
4. Saving the Bees and the Almonds
The Almond Board of California recently made a statement: “As an industry, we are committed to protecting and improving honeybee health.” They went on to state, “the California almond community has funded 125 research projects supporting bees, more than any other crop group.”
The public can also help in saving the bees by refraining from using pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They should also support local farmers. Creating a bee-friendly garden is also a nice perk that helps promote the hive’s health.
3. Water and Almonds
Many people in California believe that almond groves are the downfall of the state. The trees are water hungry, and California has been suffering from horrific drought conditions for years. A single almond needs 3.2 gallons of water.
An acre of almond trees uses 1 million gallons of water per year. Basically, the almonds drink more water than human households in San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Sadly, to meet the water needs of their trees, farmers will often outbid entire California towns to win the water rights.
2. Arsenic and Almonds
In an effort to meet the water needs of their almond trees, farmers are having wells drilled deep into the soil. Many of the wells offer up water that is laden with arsenic. Consuming arsenic has been linked to cancer and heart disease.
The abundant wells in the San Joaquin Valley are causing the soil to sink as the water is being used up. The water-hungry almond trees are upsetting the state’s ecosystem, threatening fish populations, causing wildfires, and threatening native wildlife.
1. Almond Farmers Using Pesticides
Sadly, almond farmers use large amounts of pesticides. As many as nine pesticides have been found in the state’s almonds, with the leader being chlorpyrifos. The Pesticide Action Network found that 35.7 percent of the almonds tested contained dangerously high levels of pesticides that could pose dangers to brain development in children.
Almond milk might seem like a safer choice than standard cow’s milk, but the above dangers and problems cannot be overlooked. Without a doubt, almond farming is not ideal and not without extreme dangers.