Pecan plant expands in Ivanhoe

HNH Nut Co. plans to more than double its processing facility, deliveries, shipments on Hwy 216

@TheSunGazette

IVANHOE – The pecan industry’s comeback in California took another step earlier this month.

On Nov. 14, the Tulare County Planning Commission approved the expansion of a pecan processing facility in Ivanhoe. The facility is operated by HNH Nut Co. at 31881 Road 160 just south of Ivanhoe.

The current processing facility is located on 4 acres and has been in operation since at least 1994 on land owned by James Hamilton. The area includes an 8,000-square foot building for processing, a 1,200-square foot office and a 4,000-square foot gravel parking lot. The pecans are currently dehydrated at the adjacent Hamilton Ranch facility and then transported next door to HNH Nuts to be sized, cracked, mechanically shelled, graded, packaged and shipped. Shells are provided to neighbors and Monrovia Nursery for soil amendments such as mulch. The northern and western four acres of the property are planted with nut trees.

Blake Houston, owner of HNH Nut Co., said Phase 1 of the expansion will add another 13,000 square feet to the processing plant, 2,200-square foot loading docks, 7,000-square foot area for processing, as well as an additional storm water drainage pond. Phase 2 will include the construction of a 10,800-square foot cold storage facility and Phase 3 will add a 2,000-square foot breakroom for employees. Three employees work year round at the site with an estimated 20 seasonal employees during harvest.

“Our facility has been around for 30 and we are purchasing it from Hamilton Ranches,” Houston told the commissioners.

Houston says his facility handles pecans from about 1,200 acres of the 4,000 acres in California overall. He said his company already processes about 2.5 million pounds of pecans per year. Just under 900 acres of pecans are grown in Tulare County, according to the Ag Commissioner/Sealor producing about 1.2 million pounds last year. Houston also pointed out that the City of Visalia will begin harvesting 400 acres of pecans next year and that an additional 1,500 acres of pecans are being planted in California each year.

“This is an important to the pecan industry,” Houston said.

The Visalia-Clovis area is the heart of California’s pecan producing area which is a narrow strip from Chico south to Bakersfield. The first commercial pecan orchards in California were planted in the mid-1970s in the Visalia-Clovis area, according to the California Pecan Growers Association. Planting slowed in the 1980s and production suffered in the early 1990s resulting in the removal of many orchards statewide. California is now the 7th largest of 14 pecan producing states, based on the last five years of production. New orchards are being planted every year, but much more limited than in the 1970s.

Planning commissioners were concerned with the expansion causing heavier truck traffic on Road 160 (Highway 216), but Houston said the facility will only have an average of 18 trips daily in the offseason, including four deliveries, four shipments, and six trips for employees, and a maximum of 52 trips seasonally, with most of those going next door to be dehydrated prior to being processed.

Because the processing occurs indoors, the staff report said the facility will provide a buffer between the dust and noise generated at the dehydrating facility next door. Houston added that the facility operates in compliance with Global Food Safety Institute (GFSI) regulations and is a food-safe facility registered with the Federal Food and Drug Administration. The facility is audited annually by the FDA.

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