Strawberries, wine grapes remain Santa Barbara County's top crops

Jul 26, 2019

Strawberries and wine grapes remain the top two agricultural crops in both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. And crops and cattle are still among the top economic drivers in Santa Barbara County, but agricultural revenue dropped there last year, according to the county's new annual crop report out Friday.

$1.5 billion dollars. That was the total gross value of agricultural crops in Santa Barbara County last year, almost a ten-year high. Ag was at its peak in 2017, but then it dipped, by about $75 million dollars.

“The growers weren’t getting the prices they were getting in previous years,” said the county’s assistant agricultural commissioner, Rudy Martel. “And weather has affected the growers.”

The Thomas Fire burned into Santa Barbara County at the beginning of 2018, and then the Montecito debris flow happened. 2018 was one of the driest years on record, said the agricultural commissioner's office, and crops suffered from frost as well as record-breaking heat. And then there was Goleta’s Holiday Fire last summer.

But through it all, strawberries reigned king in the county, pulling in almost a half a billion dollars. Other valuable commodities for the county are cattle, avocados, and fresh cut flowers.

There were some new additions to the ag landscape too, though not big money makers—yet.

“Growers are competing in this worldwide economy,” Martel said. “So they are always looking for new crops that might help them in continuing to be in this agricultural industry.”

Those newbies include coffee beans, finger limes and agave.

MIssing from the 2018 list of top crops is cannabis. Martel said 2018 was all about getting cannabis growers licensed with the state and county, and he says no one is sure how that crop will play into next year’s report.