Selfie seekers trespass to capture almond orchards in full bloom, sheriff gets involved

It's a new kind of pest in the fields. Solano County farmers are being swarmed by selfie-seekers.

The sheriff is even being called to kick people out of orchards that are in full bloom. 

"We had a padlock on our gate but that disappeared," said longtime almond grower Joe Martinez, who says he's never seen anything like it. "Unannounced surprise visits, here and gone, and there's no way I can watch all these acres." 

Solano County has about 18,000 acres planted in almonds.  

With trees covered in pale pink flowers, admirers ignore signs that say 'No Trespassing' or 'Private Property'. 

They are invading the orchards for an Instagram moment.

"It has really surprised us, and it seems it came out of left field," said Martinez. 

Photos of people posing amid almond trees flood social media.

"They set up shop, almost as though it's theirs," said Deputy Cully Pratt, of the Solano County Sheriff's Department. 

Now the sheriff's department is sharing those photos too, warning on Facebook the trespassers are breaking the law, and subject to a misdemeanor fine up to $1,000.

"There are different websites devoted to when and where to see the bloom, and how to get here," said Pratt, noting that people come from all over the Bay Area, some accompanied by professional photographers.   

"Kids are running around, they're taking photos, their dogs are here, they set up picnics and they even went as far as having a bottle of wine, having lunch and leaving their trash," said Pratt.  

The veteran deputy who patrols the rural ranch land has been confronting interlopers and trying to keep roads passable on weekends. 

"Cars are lined up on the side of the road, lined up into the orchards five or six rows deep, and taking up the narrow shoulder," said Deputy Jim Currie. 

Normally, the crimes he sees in agriculture are theft of livestock or equipment.

This is a different crowd. 

"Ladies dressed up in skirts and heels and men in dress shirts," said Currie," and most of the time it's families but they do some damage."

Unauthorized visitors have broken irrigation lines and gotten their cars stuck, needing towing. 

Currie worries about liability to the land owners if someone gets injured, and the hazards of photo shoots among pesticides.   

"We had people in the field while trucks were out there spraying." 

Right now, more warnings are being issued than citations, in hopes people get the message. But many are resistant.  

"They feel entitled, they say we'll just be a minute, we'll be out of here soon, we're not hurting anything," said Currie.   

The almond bloom lasts from mid-February to mid-March, a short window for those seeking that perfect shot. 

"It's renewal, it's life, my favorite time of year," said grower Martinez, who understands why the stunning bloom is such a desirable backdrop.

He just wishes those who come to see it would stay in their cars, and snap pictures safely from a wide spot in the road.  

"Be a nice guest!" admonished Martinez, with a smile.

Debora Villalon is a reporter for KTVU. Email Debora at and follow her on Twitter @DeboraKTVU