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Thursday, August 19, 2010

$491 Million for Santa Cruz County Growers in 2009

Despite the economic downturn, the aggregate value of Santa Cruz County crops was $491.64 million in 2009, $6.3 million more than in 2008, according to an annual report by the Santa Cruz County Agriculture Commission.

Although total acreage dropped by more than 100 acres, strawberry yield per acre grew significantly during 2009. Strawberry growers brought in $172.58 million, over $12 million more than the $160.38 million they earned 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 by about $1.5 million 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.

"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."

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."

Complete Crop Reports from 2002-2009 can be found at www.agdept.com/crop02.html.

posted by CASFS 2006 @ 8:39 PM

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