Although the total value of Ventura County, Calif., agriculture products fell slightly in 2016, with a 4.2% drop, the top four crops — strawberries, lemons, nursery stock and celery — all made some gains over the previous year.
The Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner’s 2016 Crop and Livestock Report, released the second week of January, provides a comprehensive look at how specific agricultural sectors change from year to year in the county.
Raspberries and avocados, in the fifth and sixth spots, saw significant drops. Raspberries dropped two slots from 2015, because of a reduction in acreage, and avocados saw a 30% drop in value as early-season fruit competed with an abundant supply of imports, as well as drought and heat affecting the California crop.
Overall, the county’s fruit and nut crops led the way, at $1.28 billion ($1.36 billion in 2015), followed by vegetable crops at $556.68 million ($583.28 million in 2015.
The top-10 leading crops in 2016, (and 2015 value), were:
- Strawberries, $654.90 million ($617.83 million);
- Lemons, $266.98 million ($259.54 million);
- Nursery stock, $206.84 million ($195.82 million);
- Celery, $202.36 million ($194.76 million);
- Raspberries, $171.16 million ($228.22 million);
- Avocados, $129 million ($188.82 million);
- Peppers (bell and chili), $61.08 million ($54.16 million);
- Cut flowers, $48.04 million ($48.52 million);
- Tomatoes, $47.99 million ($50.47 million); and
- Kale, $29.5 million ($38.09 million)
If different lettuce varieties were a single category instead of three categories — head ($807,000), leaf ($21.07 million) and romaine ($8.13 million) — they would have made the top-10 list.
In the report Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales writes about the demand for ag labor, which has been increasing with tighter border security since Sept. 11, 2001, along with increased deportations. A former farm worker himself, Gonzales said the county competes against other areas of the state that have more affordable housing and overall cost of living.
“Although the historical dispute in Ventura County has been over agricultural land and how best to protect it for future use, and the last few years of drought have really shown that water is our limiting agricultural factor, the more recent scarcity of farm workers in Ventura County may be the defining limit,” Gonzales wrote in the report.