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Crop Report: Strawberries Still King in Santa Cruz County

A burgeoning raspberry production is drawing higher prices, and organic crops were valued at over $27 million last year.

Strawberries still reign king in the Pajaro Valley, but a high-value raspberry crop is growing in both production and income, according to the annual Santa Cruz County Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report, released this week by the county Agricultural Commissioner.

"The highest valued crop in Santa Cruz County remains strawberries," Agricultural Commissioner Mary Lou Nicoletti wrote in the crop report. "Raspberries, the second highest valued crop, commanded high prices."

The annual synopsis of agriculture value in the county is compiled from producers, packing houses, shippers, marketing boards and grower organizations. It is not an exact science, and the values in it do not represent profit, Nicoletti noted.

However, the crop report is a good gauge of what's happening in the fields.

Strawberries netted a gross production value of more than $198 million in 2011, about a $1 million increase over the year prior. Raspberries gross value was more than $132 million, up from nearly $92 million in 2010, according to the crop report.

The gross production value of agricultural commodities increased about $33 million from 2010 to 2011. Last year's production value was $565,740,000.

Million Dollar Crops Value Strawberries $198,259,000 Raspberries $132,414,000 Indoor Cut Flowers $34,398,000 Field Grown Flowers $33,000,000 Misc. Vegetables $32,717,000 Blackberries $29,429,000 Other Plants $27,000,000 Landscape Plants $24,000,000 Apples $2,736,000 Brussels Sprouts $9,899,000 Lettuce, Leaf $6,740,000 Livestock $6,570,000 Lettuce, Head $6,445,000 Indoor Potted Plants $4,200,000 Timber

$2,845,000

Wine Grapes $1,607,000

Innovation, in concert with the region's fertile soil, long growing season and consumer demand for high-value crops helped the local agriculture economy.

But rains during the peak production season hurt strawberry crops, and the cold wet spring impacted wine grape growers, according to Nicoletti.

Some highlights from the crop report included:

  • Timber harvest fell by nearly half, from 13,359 million board feet in 2010 to 7,731 million board feet last year.
  • Brussels sprouts production increased by more than 1,000 tons as the value of the crop grew $144 per ton. Overall, the crop value increase from $7,525,000 in 2010 to $9,899,000 in 2011.
  • Apple production, once the premiere crop in the Pajaro Valley, remained constant around 2,200 acres worth about $13 million.
  • There are more than 90 organic growers in Santa Cruz County with over 3,500 acres in organic crops. They have an estimated value at over $27 million.
Summary of Crop Report Values Value Strawberries, Raspberries and Other Berries $363,157,000 Apples, Wine Grapes, and Other Tree Fruit and Vine Fruit $14,679,000 Vegetables $55,801,000 Nursery Crops $122,598,000 Livestock and Animal Products $6,570,000 Timber and Field Crops $2,935,000 Total Value $565,740

The complete report is attached on the left.

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