I have often argued that “local” agriculture supports “mainstream” agriculture. One element of my theory is that specialty crops that are grown for niche markets and local channels find their way into the mainstream. Farmer’s Market growers validate new crops and create demand; Larger growers then take them to scale and introduce them to mainstream distribution channels.
Looking into Ventura County crop reports for another project, I spotted some data that appears to support this theory. In 2004, Tangerines accounted for about $882,000 in crop sales. By 2009, this had jumped to nearly $3,000,000. While unable to examine their source data, I think I can offer an explanation for this growth. In 2004, the sales are almost all attributable to the Ojai Pixie Growers. But by 2009, tangerine acreage was showing up around the county, destined to mainstream markets. Considering that these “mainstream trees” are still quite young, I’d anticipate that tangerine revenues will continue to rise sharply.
As finally, it is worth noting that our top crop in the County (strawberries), was a seasonal, niche crop when introduced to the Oxnard plain in the 1950’s… a plain still dominated by lima beans and sugar beets.