This story is a sidebar to the “Almond farming in a changing climate” story originally published in the Sept. 21 edition of the Octagon. Read that story here.
In late spring Jasleen Gulati surveys her blooming almond orchards and doesn’t miss being stuck behind a computer screen at all. But, she wonders, is this sustainable?
Jasleen Gulati has two children at Country Day, freshman Saheb Gulati and senior Nihal Gulati. After 18 years in the corporate world of human resources, Jasleen Gulati started running the newly acquired farm in Davis, California in 2020, four years into the almond trees’ 25-year life cycle.
With that transition, the Gulatis became part of the growing agriculture industry.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. output of almonds has increased from 703 million pounds in 2000 to 2.27 billion pounds in 2018, and farms are expanding to meet demand.
The Gulatis run a smaller-scale operation, managing 400 acres of almonds and operating exclusively using their own well water.
Day to day, Jasleen Gulati handles ordering fertilizer, pesticides and handling nutritional deficits in the soil.
Jasleen Gulati doesn’t live on the farm, so she has to make the trip out to Davis three times a week to meet with the farm manager.
“I’m more active. I used to have a corporate job where I was sitting in front of a computer for hours a day. I’m out of the house more. Now the whole family gets to go out on the farm a couple times a month,” she said.
Saheb and Nihal Gulati live an hour away from the farm so they haven’t been very involved in its operation.
So far, Nihal Gulati has helped set up the internet on the farm.
The family’s move to almond farming isn’t without challenges. As the drought continues, water concerns endure. The Gulatis are fortunate enough to have private wells but new groundwater regulations are going to lead to big changes on the Gulati farm when the wells’ water levels dip from heavy use.
Jasleen Gulati worries about the sustainability of their farm and plans to diversify the crops they grow.
“I’ll give you this stat, one gallon of water corresponds to an almond,” she said, “and one pound is 370 almonds. We are considering growing pistachios because they are intuitive to farm and less water-intensive.”
Jasleen Gulati is a member of the Blue Diamond Growers Cooperative, which is headquartered in Sacramento.
The Gulati family sells its entire harvest to the Blue Diamond Cooperative.
Looking into the future, Jasleen Gulati plans to expand and buy more land.
“You grow food for yourself by getting out and seeing nature. Seeing nature work right in front of you, it’s just beautiful,” she said. “We see the trees completely shed its leaves in wintertime, see bloom come in March, and you see it fruiting. In eight or nine months you see a lifetime, it’s just amazing.”
— By Adam Akins