Here there are rows upon rows of green–some 70,000 lush acres of water-hungry pistachio and almond trees. ... Their oasis has plenty of water, the result of relentless opportunism that has given their orchards access to more water than nearly any other farm during the worst drought on record in California’s history. The Resnicks use at least 120 billion gallons a year, two-thirds on nuts, enough to supply San Francisco’s 852,000 residents for a decade. They own a majority stake in the Kern Water Bank, one of California’s largest underground water storage facilities, which they got fairly but sagely from the government 20 years ago. It is capable of storing 500 billion gallons of water. They have also spent at least $35 million in recent years buying up more water from nearby districts to replenish their supplies. ... their company, renamed Wonderful in June, owns 32,000 acres of California citrus, flower-delivery service Teleflora, POM Wonderful pomegranate juice and Fiji Water, which collectively brought in $3.8 billion in sales last year. ... The Resnicks met in 1970 when Stewart came looking for marketing help for the janitorial business. He led her on, and after several meetings she bluntly asked whether she was going to get the account or not. Also divorced with children, he told her that he wanted to start a relationship instead. They married and in 1979 bought Teleflora, a failing flower-delivery service. ... Stewart bought his first parcel of farmland in California’s central valley in 1978 as a hedge against inflation. Lynda then took the fruits and nuts of their labor and marketed the heck out of them.
In recent years, nut theft has exploded into a statewide problem. More than 35 loads, worth at least $10 million, have gone missing since 2013. The number and style of the thefts—quick and professional, as if the characters from Ocean’s Eleven had descended on the Central Valley—have drawn the attention of federal organized-crime investigators and prompted the creation of a regional task force. ... California grows the majority of the world’s almonds and is the second-largest producer of pistachios and walnuts. Many environmentalists blame their cultivation for exacerbating California’s drought—nut trees are thirsty plants. ... The man tasked with finding missing nuts in Tulare County is sheriff Mike Boudreaux, and in 2015 he faced a growing problem. That year, thieves had stolen six shipments, valued at $1.6 million, from area processors ... food and beverages overtook electronics as the most commonly stolen cargo in 2010. ... food is the easiest target in an ocean of easy targets. A private investigator and transit-company owner from California named Sam Wadhwani said that he had tracked cargo thefts of tires, Xboxes, computer equipment earmarked for the military, baby formula, tampons, and iPhones. Inventing a fake trucking company is easy, he said, as is impersonating a legitimate one. The only people in the shipping industry responsible for verifying truckers are brokers, who connect customers with trucking companies. ... the situation is further complicated by the fact that many nut processors have avoided contacting the police, worried that reporting thefts could jeopardize future business.