The annual Ventura County, Calif., crop report shows that strawberries are still the top crop, in terms of value. ( Courtesy Ventura County Agriculture Commissioner's Office )

Strawberries remained the top crop in Ventura County in 2017, and the county’s 10 leading crops in terms of value are mostly fruits and vegetables.

The Ventura County’s Crop & Livestock Report 2017 details changes in value for different fruits and vegetables. Kale, riding a wave of popularity in recent years, dropped off the top 10 list in 2017, replaced by cabbage. Celery moved up a slot to No. 3, switching places with nursery stock.

The 10 leading crops in Ventura County in 2017, with values in millions from 2017 and (2016), and ranking last season:

  1. Strawberries $654.3, ($654.9, No. 1)
  2. Lemons $258.6, ($276, No. 2)
  3. Celery $210.4, ($202.4, No. 4)
  4. Nursery stock $198, (206.8, No. 3)
  5. Raspberries $166.7, ($171.2, No. 5)
  6. Avocados $118.7 ($129, No. 6)
  7. Cut flowers $49.9 ($48, No. No. 8)
  8. Tomatoes $47.5 ($48, No. 9)
  9. Peppers $45.8 ($61.1 No. 7)
  10. Cabbage $33.9 ($29.5; not on list)

Other million-dollar crops in the county this year, and value in millions, include kale ($31.6); total lettuce ($29.9); cilantro ($25.1); and blueberries ($20.8).

Organic fruit and nut production in Ventura County continued to grow in 2017, with total value going from $133.4 million from 5,019 acres to $167.1 million on 6,260 acres, according to the report.

Organic vegetables and herbs in Ventura County, however, dropped, from $40.7 million from 2,290 acres in 2016, to $30.2 million from 2,500 acres.

Throughout the report, growers tell their stories on how the Thomas Fire affected their operations in the last year. The fire broke out in early December and lasted just over a month, burning homes and affecting lemon and avocado production. At the time, it was the largest wildfire in California history, but it has already been surpassed by fires this summer. According to the report, the stories/testimonials serve “as a tribute to the strength and resilience of Ventura County’s agricultural industry …”

“Avocados take several years to come into production,” Deborah Brokaw Jackson of Brokaw Ranch Co., said in the report. “Even if we could replant right away, we are looking at about six years to full recovery.”

She said about 40% of the company’s avocado trees — 60 acres —are unlikely to make a full recovery, and nurseries in the region won’t have trees available until 2021 due to demand.

Gordon Kimball of Kimball Ranch said his operation’s recovery will also be long-term.

“The challenges we are facing due to the Thomas Fire are economic losses and financing the operation going forward,” Kimball said in the report. “Not all of the costs scale down by the reduction in tree count. Then there’s getting the replacement trees since the nurseries were sold out two years before the fire.”

 
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