It takes a gallon of water to produce one almond. And that's not the most insane fact about the hedge-fund-fueled race to plant thirsty trees in the middle of a catastrophic drought.
ON A SUNBAKED AUGUST MORNING, off a rural road in the heart of California's Central Valley, a low-slung tractor rumbles between neat rows of identical, light-green trees. To its right, a plume of dust billows up, thick enough to blot out the sky above the treetops. A chute on the truck sends a steady stream of almonds flying into the trailer hitched behind.
Sweating as I skitter around to avoid the moving tractor, I'm witnessing what has emerged as one of the Central Valley's most lucrative rituals: the almond harvest.