In the chill of winter, while much of Stanislaus County's farmland rests, its tree nurseries are hard at work.
This is the time of year that they harvest bareroot trees and ship them to farmers for fruit and nut orchards in California and beyond.
Stanislaus has become a leader in the production of almond, peach, cherry and other deciduous trees, along with grapevines. They were seventh in gross income among the county's farm products in 2008, bringing $68.9 million, according to the county crop report.
For most trees, the process takes a little more than a year. Seeds sown in autumn produce small stems that are grafted the next spring to cuttings from established trees with the desired traits. The grafted trees grow for several months, then are dug up and shipped in winter.
The county has about half a dozen large nurseries that do this kind of work, along with others that produce plants for home gardens.