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Strawberries Still Top Crop as Santa Barbara County’s Ag Value Surpasses $1 Billion

Annual report shows the sweet fruit grew to a gross value of $441 million in 2012, making up the bulk of total production

Strawberries are still Santa Barbara County’s top crop, and they led agricultural production to a $1.29 billion year in 2012, an 8.1 percent increase over the previous year.

Growth in strawberry acreage, yield and market price resulted in a $441 million gross value, and the $75 million increase over 2011 made up the majority of the county’s overall growth in production, according to the annual crop report released Monday by the county.

The county’s other highest-grossing crops are broccoli, with $131 million gross value, wine grapes at $91 million, head lettuce at $66 million and avocados at $56 million.

Wine grapes had a “very difficult year” in 2011, but increased total production by 6,766 tons last year for a growth of $14 million in total value.

Agricultural Commissioner Cathy Fisher said Santa Barbara County’s success in agriculture comes from its crop diversity.

More than 40 crops — vegetables, fruits and flowers — reported gross receipts of more than $1 million in 2012, with the top five commodities all producing more than $55 million.

“As the financial picture worldwide slowly improves, so does the demand for our fruits and vegetables,” Fisher said. “Agriculture continues to fuel the local economy, and through the multiplier effect, agriculture and related activities had a total contribution in 2012 of more than $2.5 billion.”

It’s the seventh year in a row the county’s agriculture produced more than $1 billion in gross value. Twenty years ago, the county had $500.5 million in agriculture production value, which the strawberry crop alone is getting close to now.

Most of the money is made in vegetables, fruits and nuts, but farmers and ranchers also produce nursery products, field crops such as hay and straw, seeds, livestock, poultry and apiary (bee) products.

Click here to read annual crop reports dating back to 1916.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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