Revenues in Ventura, Santa Barbara County both increased 5% in 2021

Jorge Mercado

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A strawberry farm in Ventura. Strawberries were the biggest crop by revenue in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in 2021. (File photo)

Santa Barbara and Ventura counties saw their total farm revenues increase by 5% between 2020 and 2021, totaling nearly $4 billion in revenue, despite a steep decline in a generally popular fruit, avocados.

The 2021 crop reports for both Santa Barbara County and Ventura County were released in late July, while San Luis Obispo County had yet to release its 2021 crop report, as of August 3.

Together, Santa Barbara County and Ventura County agribusinesses brought in $3.9 billion, up from $3.7 billion in 2020. Santa Barbara County growers generated $1.98 billion in total sales , a 5.1% increase over the prior year, while Ventura County accounted for $2 billion, a 5% increase from 2020.

As usual, strawberries were the top crop in both counties, generating a combined total of $1.56 billion in 2021. Strawberry revenues grew by more than 20% or more in each county.

One of the most significant highlights from the Santa Barbara and Ventura County harvest reports was that avocados experienced one of the largest declines of any crop.

In Santa Barbara County, avocado earnings jumped from $80 million in 2020 to just over $50 million in the latest crop report, jumping from sixth to ninth place on the list. of the most profitable crops in the county.

Ventura County avocado sales increased from $179.7 million in 2020 to $125.9 million in 2021, moving the fruit from fifth to sixth place on the county’s top crop list.

Rick Shade, the owner of Rick Shade Management in Carpinteria, told the Business Times that persistent drought hurt avocado production last year. This matches the report, as avocado production fell more than 50% in Santa Barbara County from 2020 to 2021.

Chris Sayer, the owner of the Petty Ranch in Ventura, told the Business Times he thinks avocados will make a big comeback in 2022.

“Avocado trees tend to fluctuate a lot from year to year, so if they have a very large crop one year, they will have a much smaller crop the next, and so you generally see, over time , avocado production rebound and down,” Sayer said. “We’re likely to see a rebound in production in 2022 and so the value will be more in line with what we saw in 2020.”

One of the crops that had a big rebound in Ventura County was lemons. In 2021, lemons generated $253.7 million in revenue, up from $216.1 million the previous year, remaining the second most profitable fruit in Ventura.

While that’s a sign of recovery for fruit — which is largely benefiting from restaurant sales — Sayer said those revenue figures still fell short of 2016’s numbers, despite the higher acreage. The acreage of lemons in Ventura County has grown from 14,800 acres in 2016 to 18,300 in 2021.

“Ventura County alone produces about two-thirds of the lemons sold in the U.S. market, and so when our county’s production increases by 20%, that has national price implications,” Sayer said. “We really change the market when we have moves like this and the extra production hits the price.”

As a result, Sayer and his team will continue to reduce their acreage of lemons to give avocados more room.

Currently, the split is about 60/40 in favor of lawyers, Sayer said. It’s a dramatic turnaround from the turn of the century, when Petty Ranch devoted about 80 percent of its acreage to lemons.

One thing that was missing from the Santa Barbara County report was a cannabis insert regarding the revenue from that crop, which was included in the 2020 Crop Report.

Cannabis was Santa Barbara County’s second most valuable crop in 2020, with $194 million in wholesale revenue.

A similar number in 2021 would have placed Cannabis No. 2 again, ahead of Wine Grapes and behind only Strawberries, but Cannabis is not officially included in the rankings and revenue totals in the Crops Produced Reports. by Santa Barbara County and other California County Agricultural Commissioners. .

The 2020 crop report was the first time the Santa Barbara County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office has asked cannabis growers about their earnings.

The 2021 report did not survey cannabis producers. Matt Maiten, the assistant sealer for the Santa Barbara County Agriculture Commissioner’s Office, told the Business Times that the office was simply “unable to get the crop numbers for the past year,” citing the lack industry response.

For the agriculture industry as a whole, Shade said the market in 2021 was much better than the year before as COVID-19 restrictions eased and more fruit was able to find its way to restaurants and shops. stores, but other concerns continue to affect farmers into the next year.

“Things after the pandemic have been a double-edged sword. Things are improving, but inflation has hurt,” Shade said. “My fuel prices have doubled in the last year and everything we do is impacted by fuel: tractors, generators. And because the overall cost of living is going up, my staff are asking for more money in a tight job market, so it’s been difficult.

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