Despite the economic downturn, the aggregate value of Santa Cruz County crops grew more than $6.3 million in 2009, according to an annual report by the Santa Cruz County Agriculture Commission.
The total gross production value for the year was $491.64 million, with strawberries holding the top value slot for the year and raspberries coming in second.
“I was surprised the market was as good as it was during the economic hardships that we’re having,” said Vince Gizdich of Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville. “People are still buying fruit rather than forgoing it as a commodity. I think people are thinking fruit is essential for good health. I think that’s what kept the prices going well.”
Market conditions, however, were challenging, he said. “What was interesting about last year’s market was we weren’t making a lot of money per crate but the market wasn’t in the dumpster either.”
Although total acreage dropped by more than 100 acres, strawberry yield per acre grew significantly during 2009. The total crop value was $172.58 million compared to $160.38 million in 2008.
There were about 400 fewer acres in production for raspberries. They also yielded significantly more berries per acre, but the total value dropped year over year from $105.78 million to $104.27 million in 2009.
Raspberry values are decreasing as growers transition to other berry varieties, Ken Corbishley, agriculture commissioner, wrote in his report.
A final category of miscellaneous berries — blackberries, blueberries, currants and olallieberries — contributed $29.34 million, up from $21.08 million in 2008.
Last year’s weather — up until a deluge of rain in the fall — was also a boon to production for most crops.
“The growing conditions last year were really ideal for strawberries,” said Mark Cervantes of Sunset Bay Farms in the Pajaro Valley. “It was a really good year but it could’ve been unusually great for all of us if we hadn’t had that rain. Our margins were outstanding. They could’ve been ridiculously high at that point of year.”
Fertile soil, a climate that allows year-round production and consumer demand for high-value crops keep up overall production values, Corbishley wrote in his report.
“New and innovative production technologies continue to be employed and lead to increased yield and a prolonged growing season,” according to Corbishley.
But it wasn’t a stellar year for some crops.
The apple crop dropped precipitously from a value of $10.13 million in 2008 to $7.18 million. Prices were down, as was acreage.
The Gizdich apple crop was only “light to medium” and Gizdich said they “were lucky to have the apples that we had for 2009.”
Vegetable categories including Brussels sprouts, broccoli and lettuce were all up, but miscellaneous vegetables, a category that includes artichokes, beans, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumbers, herbs, kale, leeks, mushrooms, mustard, pumpkins, spinach and squash, took a dive to $18.87 million from $39 million in 2008.
“That the total value increased significantly does seem indicative of the value of the region and the importance that our region plays in the industry,” said John E. Eiskamp, Farm Bureau president.
This year, with the late rains and long cool summer, might be a little more challenging for many growers. Blackberry imports and the prolonged economic challenges for the country will impact some crop values.
“We’ll probably see yields decrease this year,” Eiskamp said. “We’ll have to wait and see how the year finishes out.”
The 2009 crop report can be found at http://www.agdept.com/crop02.html.
2009 Million Dollar Crops
Strawberries: $172.58 million
Raspberries: $104.27 million
Indoor Cut Flowers: $38.99 million
Landscape Plants: $29.83 million
Miscellaneous Berries: $29.34 million
Other Plants: $23.06 million
Field Grown Flowers: $21.04 million
Miscellaneous Vegetables: $18.87 million
Head Lettuce: $8.05 million
Apples: $7.18 million
Leaf Lettuce: $6.9 million
Indoor Potted Plants: $5.6 million
Livestock: $5.6 million
Broccoli: $4.32 million
Timber: $3.53 million
Wine Grapes: $3.24 million
Total value: $491.64 million
SOURCE: Santa Cruz County Agriculture Commissioner
The 2009 crop report can be found at http://www.agdept.com/crop02.html
This article was first published here.