That’s how they harvest almonds in the San Joaquin Valley with one difference – they don’t spread a tarp. In the past, they’d shake the trees and then come in along behind them with a vacuum to suck up the nuts. The shakers nowadays are shaker/vacuum combos.
My pyscho neighbor Bruce used to work as a shaker, and when the nuts were coming in he’d work 20 hours a day for weeks straight, making himself enough money that he could live comfortably the rest of the year. Motherfucker was a zombie though when he was shaking – we’d leave for work about the same time and I’d see him staggering out to his truck with a cooler full of 3 meals and snacks for the day, along with 3 thermoses of coffee. If you tried to talk to him, all you’d get in return was a grunt.
Shakers were in high demand – it’s not something that just anybody could do. Besides the long hours during harvest, a shaker has to know how to maneuver to keep from running over too many nuts and he has to know exactly where to grab the tree and how long to shake it to avoid breaking the tree. Couple all that with the fact that the operator is reclining in a cockpit about 6 feet long, 3 feet high and 3 feet wide for up to 20 hours a day minus meal and potty breaks and you can see why they’re paid so well.
What the video doesn’t show is the incredible amount of dust that comes off the trees when the shaker goes to work. Seriously, when you haven’t had rain in 6 months, you’re going to get a dust cloud like you’ve never seen before. It looks like a forest fire from a distance and will damned near close a road with zero visibility. The dust is bad enough that it causes lung ailments that are so unique to the Valley that it has a special name – Valley Fever.