A field worker arranges boxes that hold strawberries on a farm on San Andres Road in Watsonville. —photo by Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

MONTEREY COUNTY—Monterey County agriculture’s gross production value bounced back by 4.8% in 2021 to just over $4.1 billion, despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that also resulted in supply chain shortages.

This increase represents a $190 million rise from 2020, when the gross production value was $3.9 billion, announced Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales.

“It is important to note that the values represented in this report reflect gross value of agricultural commodities grown in Monterey County, and does not consider costs associated with labor, field preparation, planting, irrigating, harvesting, distribution and other production activities,” Gonzales said in the 2021 Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report, which was released July 12. “As is always the case, we saw some crops increase in value while others decreased in value.”

Once again, strawberries took the top spot as the most valuable crop in 2021 at $968 million, a 4.9% increase from 2020 as a result of increased acreage, yield and pricing.

Leaf lettuce continued as the second most valuable crop at more than $741 million, an increase of 4.1% in part due to an increase in production and a slight increase in value. Head lettuce remained the third most valuable crop with an increase of 5.4% from 2020 to a value of over $451 million.

Despite a 9.4% decrease from 2020, broccoli maintained the fourth-place ranking at $309 million. This was due in part to a reduction in planted acres and a decrease in value, Gonzales said.

The Vegetable Crops category saw an increase in value of 1.7% to $2.56 billion, while the Fruits and Nuts category increased 14.3% to $1.28 billion primarily due to wine grape values.

Wine grapes celebrated a rebound increase of 106.2%, or $112 million, to reach a total of $218 million for both red and white varietals, ranking it as the fifth most valuable crop in 2021 compared to its 12th place in 2020. According to Gonzales, this was partly because of a dramatic increase in tons per acre and a slight increase in value.

“Wine grape production per acre was well above average,” he said.

Livestock, seeds and field crops all saw increases of 2.3%, 4.8% and 7.6%, respectively.

In addition, cannabis production saw an increase of $134 million in value to $618 million, although “product values decreased during the fourth quarter of 2021 and remained low,” Gonzales said. Industrial hemp crop production increased as more acres were planted, although market prices dropped for a 39.6% decrease in total value.

This year’s Crop and Livestock Report highlights the diversification of growing many different crops, and the beneficial impact that diversity provides the Monterey County agricultural industry in the form of economic strength and resilience. The report’s theme, “Salad Bowl of the World,” reflects the diversification of crops grown within the Salinas Valley, and is a phrase coined by George Cominos, a prominent hotel owner in Salinas at the turn of the century.

“The diversity of more than 120 commodities grown in Monterey County is our economic strength,” Gonzales said.

The 2021 Monterey County Crop and Livestock Report can be downloaded from the Agricultural Commissioner’s website.

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