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Agriculture in California

Tue, February 28, 2017
Last month we covered the purpose and importance of the UC Cooperative Extension Archives. This month I will give you an overview of agriculture in California and then focus in on the three counties we are working with: Merced, Ventura, and Humboldt.
As I discussed in my previous post, historically California has been a leader in agricultural production and research, and that development is documented in the records of the UC  Cooperative Extension. Today California remains the leader in agriculture and ranks as the number one producer of agriculture in the United States. In 2015, California sold over $47 billion in agricultural products, made possible by its 58 counties and over 77,000 farms. 

Fast Facts about California Agriculture

  • As of 2015, California is the number one producer in the U.S. of the following:
    • Fruit, tree nuts, and berries valued at over $17 billion
    • Vegetables, melons, potatoes and sweet potatoes valued at over $6 billion
    • Milk from cows valued at over $6 billion 
    • Cattle and calves valued at over $3 billion
    • Nursery, greenhouse, floriculture and sod valued at over $2 billion
    • Poultry and eggs valued at over $1.5 billion
    • Other crops and hay valued at over $1 billion
In the U.S., California is the sole producer of:
  • Almonds
  • Artichokes
  • Dates
  • Figs
  • Raisins
  • Kiwifruit
  • Olives
  • Clingstone Peaches
  • Pistachios
  • Dried Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Sweet Rice
  • Ladino Clover Seed
  • Walnuts
  • Agriculture from California is exported all over the world. Approximately 26% of its agricultural volume is exported and is worth over $20 billion. The top five export markets for California are:
1.  European Union
2.  Canada
3.  China/Hong Kong
4.  Japan
5.  Mexico


Why Merced County?

Merced is ranked as the 6th top producing county in California. In 2015, Merced County generated more than 3.5 billion dollars in total value of production. The top five commodities from 2015 in Merced are:
Crops $ Amount (million) Ranking in CA % of State Total
Milk $856 2nd



$552 5th


Chicken $364 2nd 32%
Cattle and Calves $357 4th 7.9%
Sweet Potatoes $194 1st 89.9%


The main reason Merced was chosen as one of the pilot counties was because of its importance to the San Joaquin Valley and to California agriculture. Additionally, Merced County Cooperative Extension has the added benefit of being close to UC Merced, which has allowed me to become familiar with Cooperative Extension and their records without having to travel far.


Why Ventura County?

Ventura is ranked as the 8th top producing county in California. In 2015, Ventura generated more than 2 billion dollars in total value of production. Ventura’s top five commodities are:
Crops $ Amount (million) Ranking in CA % of State Total
Berries, Strawberries, Fresh Market $567 2nd



$259 1st


Berries, Rasberries $228 1st 48.4%
Celery $194 2nd 37.8%
Avocados $188 1st 47.2%
Ventura County was chosen to participate in the pilot program in part because UCCE historian Rose Hayden-Smith, who has worked with Ventura’s records, is a knowledgeable resource for this project! Cooperative Extension was established in Ventura in 1914 and the Ventura office has retained valuable historical records. There are also historical materials out at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center, which performs cutting-edge research as well as hosts education programs for the community. 

Why Humboldt County?

Humboldt County was included in the pilot as an office from Northern California and because it was the first Cooperative Extension office in California. The Humboldt office was established in 1913 before Congress officially authorized Cooperative Extension in 1914. Humboldt was also the first county in California to organize 4-H.
Humboldt is the 31st top producing county in California; the top producing county for timber and historically a leader in dairy production. The top five commodities from 2015 in Humboldt are:
Crops $ Amount (million)
Cattle & Calves, Unspecified $52

Nursery Products, Misc

Milk, Market, Fluid $42
Cattle, Milk Cows $16
Goat Cheese $12
*Data on Humboldt’s ranking in California and the percentage of state total is currently unavailable. 
I am looking forward to my first visit to the Humboldt office in May.

Where did I find this data?

This data I used in this blog post comes from the California Agricultural Statistics Review generated by the California Department of Food & Agriculture. I found the report on the United States Department of Agricultural (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). This site allows you to search for data by state, county, and by subject. This service also lets you view data in a variety of different ways, including as geospatial data and interactive maps. In addition to the raw data, you can also access state and county level publications, which was what I did. Here are some useful links to get you started: 
Thanks for stopping by this month!  Check back in March for my next post!