Revised November, 2021.
Two major varieties of walnuts are grown in the United States—the English walnut and the black walnut. The black walnut is primarily used as the rootstock for English walnut cultivars.
English walnut acreage continues to climb, extending the trend of increased tree nut acreage in the United States. California represents virtually all almond, pistachio, and walnut production in the United States. (Fruit and Nut Report, 2015)
Per capita consumption of walnuts has been on the rise. In 2016, the per capita consumption of all walnuts was 0.43 pound.
The United States produced walnuts on 380,000 acres in 2020, 15,000 acres more than in 2019. In 2017, 189,000 tons of in-shell English walnuts were sold, while 195,000 tons of shelled walnuts were sold (NASS, 2018). The 2012 Ag Census reports nationwide most orchards are family owned or individually held farms (ERS, 2021).
Walnuts are typically sold as a snack item or for use as an ingredient in candies, cereals and baked goods. More than 54 percent of walnuts are sold as shelled (NASS 2020).
Current studies indicate that walnuts are full of nutrients which both enhance health and prevent cancer. (AIRC.org). Industry-supported research found that walnut consumption provides health benefits because it is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E and other antioxidants associated with a healthy heart and a potential reduction of cancer cell growth (ERS 2005). The publicity surrounding these results has helped stimulate walnut demand.
United States walnut production has been steadily increasing for several years. Recent economic conditions have slowed the process of that growth, but overall growth still continues (California Walnuts, 2018).
Top destinations for walnut exports include Germany, Turkey, China, Japan, and Spain (California Walnuts, 2018).
Value Added Options
Export market development activities have expanded distribution and fostered product development which has led to increased use of walnuts in the snacking, baking and processed food sectors.
Added markets may be, but not limited to, farmers’ markets, specialty grocery stores, wholesale purveyors, pre-packaged food processors, vegetarian food processors, ethnic markets, and restaurant food purveyors.
Helpful enterprise budgets for English walnuts:
- 2015 Sample Costs to Establish and Produce English Walnuts using Micro Sprinkler Irrigation in the Sacramento Valley, University of California Cooperative Extension.
- 2013 Sample Costs to Produce Organic Walnuts (Terminal Bearing Variety) using Sprinkler Irrigation in the North Coast of Lake County, University of California Cooperative Extension.
- 2009 Sample Costs to Hull and Dry Walnuts in the North San Joaquin Valley, Sacramento Valley and Lake County, University of California Cooperative Extension.
American Institute of Cancer Research, Research studies.
California Walnuts, 2021.
Global Agricultural Trade System, Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), USDA.