Strawberries remain the cornerstone of county’s agricultural economy, which saw slight decrease in 2023

SANTA BARBARA — Santa Barbara County’s Agricultural Commissioner’s Office released its 2023 Agricultural Crop and Livestock Report on June 18. This statistical report summarizes the acreage, production, and gross production value of Santa Barbara County agriculture.

Agriculture continues to be Santa Barbara County’s largest producing industry with a gross production value of just under $1.876 billion, a decrease of 2.8 percent when compared with 2022. 

It is important to note that the values represented in this report reflect the gross value of agricultural commodities grown in Santa Barbara County, and do not consider costs associated with labor, planting, irrigation, and distribution among other production activities.

Strawberries remained the top crop in Santa Barbara County, and have been the No. 1 crop each year since 2002, with a gross value of $775.282 million, a decrease of 4.4 percent from 2022. The 2023 atmospheric rivers caused a decrease in production, which in turn had a significant economic impact from crop losses.

“We saw a decrease in our fruit values from berries to avocados this year primarily because of the January 2023 storms that brought significant amounts of rain to our area. New countries entering a very competitive market also led to price reductions in avocados,” said Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer Jose Chang.

Nursery products moved to the second most valuable crop at $122,301,000. This was a 28-percent increase for the group which primarily represents cut flowers and potted plants. Product stabilization, market demand, and increased production led to the overall increase.

Wine grapes remained at the third spot at $98.562 million with an increase in value of 2.3 percent.  The weather in the 2023 growing season contributed to an increase in value for wine grapes due to a long blooming period, whichcombined with better soil conditions created higher yields and quality. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc were the three most harvested varieties with the highest gross value. 

Broccoli moved up to the fourth spot with a value of $86.737 million. Cauliflower moved down to the fifth spot with a total value of $84.078 million a decrease of 13 percent, due to a decrease in production and market value.

Livestock production values saw a 14 percent increase from 2022. This was due to ranchers retaining more pasture and range from the rainy season, along with higher sales from inflation and demand for beef.

The fruits & nuts category represented 50 percent of the county’s gross production value with $932.467 million owing it to strawberries. Vegetable crops represented 33 percent of the total gross production value with $615.524 million. Nursery products represented 7 percent of total gross production value with $122.301 million, followed closely behind by wine grapes representing 5 percent of total gross production with $98.562 million.