Sharing the 2014 Ventura County Crop Report. #VCCropReport

crop report

This week saw the release of the 2014 Ventura County Crop Report. As always, it sheds some light on a part of our economy that many residents are not that familiar with. I hope people will grab their own PDF copy ( 2014 Ventura County Crop Report) , spend a little time with it, and even share the report and impressions with their friends and neighbors on Social Media.

Here are a few of my observations that I hope will put Ventura County agriculture in perspective for people. I’ve included some tweetable tags for those who would like to share… Acknowledgment appreciated, but not required if shared.

Ventura County is more productive than many states. 2014’s record of $2.14 Billion in crop sales would place our county ahead of nearly half the states in the US.

#VCCropReport : $2.14 Billion in Ventura County crop sales supports local economy

Strawberry dominance diminishing? While still the county’s #1 crop, strawberries saw a drop in acreage from 2013 to 2014…a trend that is continuing in 2015.

#VCCropReport : 2014 Strawberry acreage to 11630 from 13555

The #2 Spot highlights our crop diversity: In 2014, Lemons were the second highest value crop. For the preceding 5 years? Avocados, Lemons, Raspberries, Celery, and Nursery Stock.

#VCCropReport : #2 crop for last 6 yrs: Lemons, Avocados, Lemons, Raspberries, Celery, Nursery

#VCCropReport : More than 50 crops break the $1M barrier #CropMix

Highly productive farms: Take a few minutes to think about some of the per acre production figures in the charts. 18.7 tons of lemons. 26.2 tons of strawberries. 63.5 tons of cucumbers. 89.7 tons of tomatoes. Ventura County farmland is insanely productive.

#VCCropReport : Why we grow lemons here: 18.7 tons per acre not even a record. Life doesn’t give Lemons. We do.

Different crops: Ventura County grows a lot of different crops, but few of the ones that people most often think of. Only 444 acres of corn in the county, out of 90,000+ irrigated acres.

#VCCropReport : Only 1/2% of our farmland is growing corn. #NotInKansasAnymore

A lot of rangeland, not a lot of cows. Ventura County has more rangeland than irrigated farmland, but we don’t raise a lot of livestock. Our ranchers provide great stewardship for this land, and that is important to all of us. But they don’t get paid a lot for the service.

#VCCropReport : Total 2014 Livestock sales $7.9M. Cilantro $23.3M #NuffSaid

Anyone taking the time to dig will certainly find other facts of interest. Please share them! But a  final note: Every year when the Crop report comes out, I run across someone grumbling about how much money farmers are making. If this might be you, please remember that the report only shows the sales… it doesn’t show expenses. Nearly every one of these dollars was spent, much of it locally…labor, supplies, water, utilities, professional services and property taxes. A farmer’s profit margins are lower than nearly every other business. Thanks for understanding.

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A Look at the Crop Report

One of the principle reasons I maintain this blog is to provide perspectives on Ventura County farming to those who aspire to learn more about it. The release of the annual county crop report provides a great opportunity  for that discussion. This link will take you to an article I wrote for Totally Local VC about 4 crops changing the face of Ventura County farming. Another great resource is our local Farm Bureau, where I am proud to be on the Board of Directors. At the link below, you can get recent editions of the crop report, and a good FAQ on our local farms. http://farmbureauvc.com/crop_report.html

A Lesson on People: Herb and Warfare

When I decided to start writing on a regular basis, I thought it would help teach me a little about my self. There is nothing like being confronted with your own words from time to time, as any politician can appreciate. I also thought the conversations it might spark would teach me a little about other people. As of 8AM Sunday morning, I can declare success in that department.

That is when my home phone rang. On the line was a very sincere sounding women thanking me for my editorial. It seems the piece I posted here as “An Open Letter to Mr. Bill Nash” had been picked up by the VC Star on the op-ed page. She was very glad that someone took Bill Nash to task for his column. I accepted her thanks, but pointed out that neither his piece nor mine was entirely serious. “Oh, I know” she continued, but “I don’t know what makes him think he can say things like that. People like him are destroying America.” By this point I was really back on my heels. I had been mentally prepared that some people might miss the joke and think me a humorless sourpuss who was being unfair to a hard-working writer. I didn’t imagine that anyone would take it seriously AND agree with my purported point of view. If not taken as satire, my piece could only have come from a very angry and unstable mind. Nonetheless, I got one Sunday morning “Amen”. Not sure where to go with the call, I tried to find a gracious but prompt exit.

As I walked among my trees checking the sprinklers later that morning, the incident gave me a lot to think about. I guess there is an audience for every kind of crazy out there. I thought I was spoofing the extreme language and remedies that we seem all too ready to embrace these days, only to find a disciple. Thankfully, I just recieved the one call, so for now it doesn’t seem like I’ve started a movement.

To sum up: (CAUTION: NO SARCASM OR IRONY INTENDED IN THIS PARAGRAPH)

Bill Nash seems like a great guy who just happens to not like cilantro (unfortunate) and believes it is overused (he may be right.) These are the serious points of his column, and everything else in it was at least partiually in jest. I do like cilantro, and am willing to give Bill 5 pounds of avocados. These are the only facts in my letter. He is not heading us to a cilantro civil war. I don’t think chefs are “notoriously irresponsible.” OK, maybe my assertion that cilantro and avocado have both benefited from California cuisine is true. But in general, this was a work of fiction.

(RESUMING NORMAL SENSE OF SATIRE)

So, my brothers and sisters in herbal arms… the battle is over, the war is won! Let us resume the eating of our pungent leafy herb in peace and good will to all, and malice toward none. Excepting of course, godless parsley growers… but that’s just common sense.

An Open Letter to Mr. Bill Nash

I was alarmed to see that the Star would print such a blatantly inflammatory piece as Bill Nash’s call for an anti-cilantro jihad(“Request to chefs: Hold the cilantro – far from his plate” Ventura County Star 5/20/09). As he notes in his article, cilantro is a significant cash crop in Ventura County. The farmers who grow this tasty herb are, for the most part, perfectly responsible American citizens, just like you and me. To blame a whole industry for the culinary excesses of a few bad actors (chefs are notoriously provocative and irresponsible), seems like the kind of polarization that could truly tear this community apart. Please, let us not give into Mr. Nash’s name-calling and innuendo… surely this is the path to civil war.
To lay my cards on the table, I am a farmer. But lest I be accused of being in the pocket of “Big Cilantro”, I should note that my primary crop is the very fruit that Mr. Nash claims to prize above all: the noble avocado. I guess this is why this issue hurts my soul so badly. Surely, he must realize that it has been the same fusion cuisine movement that made cilantro omnipresent that has made avocados a household staple. So while I am not a cilantro partisan (although I do partake in moderation), I can’t allow him to denigrate the responsible use of this perfectly legal herb in particular and California cuisine in general. Indeed, doesn’t his dangerously extreme position threaten not just the Avocado, but our entire American way of life?
To avert catastrophe, I am electing to be the larger person, and reach out to Mr. Nash. Sir, you may consider this letter a coupon redeemable for 5 pounds of avocado from my ranch, provided they are in season. Enjoy them in good health. All I will ask is that we hear no more of this divisive talk of conflict between our fine American fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

Chris Sayer

Avocado Farmer and Recreational Cilantro User