The Art of Nut Milking
Apr 01, 2023
Farmer James Hughes comes from a proud line of nut milkers.
"My grandfather started this here nutmilkery after coming back from World War 2. I'm a third generation nut milker and I love what I do."
There's a lot of confusion surrounding milking nuts.
"Milking a 600 kilogram Holstein? That's easy. Milking a 1 gram Almond? That's hard. Tiny little udders," says Hughes. "[City folk are] talking about - 'Nuts don't lactate! Nuts don't have nipples!' I'll show you a nut nipple. Right this way," Hughes directs me.
Walking in to John Hughes's barn, he turns to me with his finger over his mouth, "Sshhhh," he whispers, "We don't want to startle 'em." As we got inside, we heard the chirping of thousands of almond nuts being milked by tandem nut milkers.
"It's comfortable for them," Jack assures me. "They want to be milked...you'll never see a happier nut than a freshly milked nut."
Hughes admits that it took awhile to get their processes more efficient, but newer technology has really changed the nut milking game. "Back in the old days we used to train gerbils to milk the nuts, but they would eat some of our herd. It wasn't ideal. We have 564 of these [tandem nut milkers] running 24/7. It takes about 200 almonds to get a half gallon of almond milk."
"See that right there?" Jimmy points to a 1 oz-sized pail full of almond milk. "That's what you get from a couple of nuts. Looks like milk to me!"
When I asked about an almond's diet, Justin showed me to their pasture. "All of our Almonds are fully organic and grass fed." As he distributes hay to the almond herd he tells me, "This will last 'em a good month I'd say."
I asked Julius about the almonds that make it to the store. "Those are all males. They have no udders at all, and most people go their whole lives seeing nothing but a male almond because we don't let the females off the farm."
Jericho told me that the hardest part of having an almond nut herd is sexing the nuts. "If you don't do that properly it can really cut into your bottom dollar....I don't even really know what I'm looking for when I do it”, Jim Bob confesses. "I had to learn if from my father and he learned it from his father...you just kind of look at the back end of it, and I guess you feel the essence of the nut, and you can just kind of tell if it's a male or a female. When it boils down to it, it's really an art."
Through all the ups and down, Jasper Hughes is proud to be in the nut milking industry. "You know, it's a hard job, but I'm living the dream. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that my hard work went into making this nut milk happen. I wouldn't do anything else."
Original Video produced by Know Ideas Media