That's SLO Weird

Paso Robles used to be the Almond Capital of the World. What happened?

Before wine was king, Paso Robles had almonds

A century ago, Paso Robles, California, was known as the Almond Capital of the World. Almond crops dominated local agriculture until about the 1960s, when almond farming moved north. Paso is now better known for wine.
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A century ago, Paso Robles, California, was known as the Almond Capital of the World. Almond crops dominated local agriculture until about the 1960s, when almond farming moved north. Paso is now better known for wine.

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Did you know that Paso Robles used to be the almond capital of the world?

It’s true: Back in the 1920s, no place grew almonds like Paso.

The city, which today is better known for oak trees and fine wine, started out producing wheat in the late 19th century before transitioning to orchard crops in the early 1900s, according to a Paso Robles city historic resources survey.

Almonds became one of the area’s most successful crops: One Paso Robles homesteader, Michael Gerst, even won a prize at the 1906 World’s Fair for having the best almonds in the world, according to the city report.

1974 12-27 almond harvest.jpg
Almond leaves and nuts fall to ground as Fernando Tabin operates mechanical tree shaker. ©The Tribune/ Larry Jamison published 12-27-1974 Larry Jamison The Tribune

Paso Robles became known as the “Almond Capital of the World” around 1920. At the time, the city had 25,000 acres of almond trees, according to the Paso Robles Historical Society.

Two years later, the Farmers Alliance building was built on Paso Robles’ west side. The building was originally used to process almonds and eventually closed in 1975, according to Tribune archives. (The building was bought by Ray and Pam Derby in 2010 and is now home to Derby Wine Estates.)

Almonds’ time as Paso Robles’ king crop lasted through the 1950s and 1960s, when the area reportedly produced 90 percent of almonds sold in the United States, according to the city report. However, in the 1960s, the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys started producing more of the nuts, and eventually outproduced Paso Robles.

And the “Almond Capital” title? Well, that moved north too.

Sacramento and Ripon, a town northwest of Modesto, are both now known as the “Almond Capital of the World,” according to a recent Sacramento Bee story.

But almond trees still dot the North County landscape, and local company Paso Almonds started out selling products made from almonds grown in Paso Robles, though now their almonds come from the Central Valley.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported where Paso Almonds’ nuts come from.

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