The earliest California walnuts were known as “mission” walnuts, named for the Franciscan Fathers who cultivated them in the late 1700s. It is highly probable that the first English walnuts were introduced to California by Mission Fathers around 1770. It was Joseph Sexton, an orchardist and nurseryman who introduced the first commercial English walnut plantings near Goleta in Santa Barbara County in 1867. By the 1870s, modern walnut production had begun in Southern California near Santa Barbara. Over the next 70 years much of the state’s walnut production was moved to the central and northern parts of California.

Today almost all California walnuts come from the Central Valley, the state’s primary growing region. The region’s mild climate and deep fertile soils provide ideal growing conditions for California walnuts. The California walnut trade continues to be a well established, ordered, and structured business, making the California walnut the highest quality walnut available in the world.

There are 37 varieties of walnuts grown in California and internationally. California walnuts supply three-quarters of the world’s walnut trade.

Nearly 100% of commercial walnut production in the United States comes from California. The State of California’s mild climate and deep fertile soils provide the ideal growing conditions for the world’s premium walnuts.


Sustainability is important to the California walnut industry. The California Walnut Board has supported sustainable growing practices through its production research program for over 20 years. The California Walnut Board has been a member of the U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program since 2000. The EPA has recognised California Walnut Board as a silver member of the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program reserved for members that are higher-achieving environmental stewards. In 2014, the California Walnut Board received the California Department of Pesticide Regulation’s highest environmental honour when it was awarded the Integrated Pest Management Innovator Award for the achievements of the Production Research Advisory Council’s Entomology Working Group.

The California Walnut Sustainable Programme focuses on integrated pest management, energy efficiency, water quality, air quality, nutrient efficiency, and food safety. Over the past two decades, the industry has shown reduction in pesticide use, improvements in energy efficiency in walnut drying, and improvement of surface water quality. This includes improved nutrient and irrigation efficiency and improved water quality.

Current research is identifying and testing potential ways the industry could further improve food safety which could contribute to best management practices for walnut growers.

The programme is economically viable for walnut growers, follows environmentally responsible practices and is socially acceptable by improving the quality of life for growers, neighbours, and consumers. The California Walnut Board is committed to investing in research that will help the industry continue to raise the bar for sustainability. The 4,000+ growers and 100+ handlers in the California walnut industry are committed to continuing to produce high-quality, sustainable, nutritious, and safe walnuts for people to enjoy worldwide.


After a 20 year absence in the UK the California Walnut Commission launched a brand new promotional and PR campaign beginning January 1st 2017, following a huge surge in walnut consumption in the UK.

CEO Michelle Connelly who spearheaded the new campaign explains: “The CWC launched a programme in the UK in 2017 to showcase the health taste and versatility benefits of walnuts to both consumer and trade audiences. We look forward to the opportunity to make walnuts more available to consumers through retail, food service and processed food applications.

“The UK has emerged as a strong consumer of walnuts, in the last crop year direct shelled walnut shipments were up an estimated 133% to reach over 8.7 million pounds. This contributed to the UK being the 11th largest export market for California walnuts,” she added.

The 2016 California walnut production is forecast at 670,000 short tons, up 11% from 2015’s production of 603,000 short tons, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. Walnut production continues to grow, in fact the current estimate for 2016 is the largest crop on record at 670,000 short tons, up 11% from 2015.


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