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San Jacinto Valley Walnuts Are Back!

Updated: Mar 18, 2022

San Jacinto Valley is returning to small-town roots and values. Walnut trees by Washburn Ranch its third leafing in Valle Vista made a great come back, reviving a historic agriculture practice in the San Jacinto Valley. The new grove represents a return of old Hemet.

Please consider visiting the Washburn Ranch Fruit Stand, off Highway 74 east in Valle Vista (Just east of Marshall Avenue en route to Idyllwild) to ask about their walnuts. The stand is open between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday to Sunday.

The young trees that looked like rows of mere sticks in the ground in the spring of 2013 on 190 acres by Soboba Street and Stetson Avenue intersection in Valle Vista, east of Hemet, are now robustly grown, visible to public like a demonstration grove. The other plantation is off Fairview Avenue, away from public view. It's not surprising that people who love the scenic beauty of the valley are cheering. Many longtime residents who used to play in walnut groves near their homes are excited about the crop of their youth. We health-conscious keto-ers are also very happy about this come back story.

We applaud the Washburns for creatively adjusting the nutrients they apply to the soil for walnuts in order to diversify their citrus groves, instead of removing the groves for housing tracts. Now 8 years old, the Washburns' grove is producing great walnuts. Market conditions for the walnut growers are strong, prices are good and the trend is expected to continue. And much like us keto-ers, baby boomers in their 60s and 70s love eating healthful walnuts to retain youthfulness and brain power.

There were many acres of groves on the east side of Hemet and in Valle Vista into the 1970s. Citrus then dominated the area which became arguably the most beautiful orange and grapefruit belt in Southern California. Walnuts once were a farmer's mainstay in the San Jacinto Valley, but market conditions and housing development ended the groves, though there are still a scattering of old walnut trees producing nuts by homes.. The late Mack McIntyre grew walnuts on his west Hemet farm that became the big Sierra Dawn Estates senior development in 1962. The site of the old Hemet High football stadium, which now is the campus of Jacob Wiens Elementary School, once was a walnut grove.

Walnut trees are not harmed by the winter cold. And walnuts are economically feasible too. It costs about $500 per acre to use shaking and harvesting equipment to collect walnuts versus $3,500 per acre to harvest handpicked grapefruit and oranges. A lack of water supplies during the drought years is always a worry, though the walnut trees use about 20 percent less water per acre than the citrus.

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