To some, California has long had the reputation of being a little nutty. Now, a fourth-grade class in Merced is trying to make it official.
Earlier this year, students from Margaret Sheehy Elementary School launched a letter-writing campaign urging their local state legislators to draft a bill making almonds the official California nut. After all, almonds are big business in California, valued at $4 billion and creating more than 100,000 jobs. Besides, California has lots of other “official” stuff like the state flower, bird and rock. Heck, we even have a state lichen.
It didn’t take much convincing for Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who agreed to take up the cause. The students and their teacher, Marc Medefind, traveled earlier this month to Sacramento for a hearing before the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee. They even brought the mascots from the Modesto Nuts minor league baseball team, Al the almond, Wally the walnut, and Shelly the pistachio. Sorry, no pecan mascot yet.
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“We discovered that we were underrepresented because we don’t have an official state nut,” Medefind told the Merced County Times. “Other states, such as Arkansas, Texas and Missouri have state nuts but not California.”
Gray’s bill almost sailed through without much debate, expect for one small wrinkle. The legislators representing districts that grow pistachios, walnuts and pecans – all major crops in California – wanted in on the “official” designation.
So, in the spirit of political compromise, Gray and the students agreed to share the glory. The bill, as amended, makes almonds, walnuts, pistachios and pecans the official state nut.
“They took it well,” Gray said. “And frankly it was a good civics lesson for them. Creating legislation is not always simple and sometimes you have to compromise to get what you want. But at the end of the day, we are still celebrating almonds along with walnuts, pistachios and pecans.”
Gray’s bill, AB 1067, was overwhelmingly approved by the committee and later by the full Assembly. It next goes to the Senate later this summer.