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County Crop Report Shows Bountiful 2019 Harvest

A shopper wearing a face mask and gloves surveys produce at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, April 19, 2020.
Andrew Bowen
A shopper wearing a face mask and gloves surveys produce at the Hillcrest Farmers Market, April 19, 2020.

It’s not quite on the level of tourism or biotech, but agriculture is a major contributor to San Diego County’s economy. The county’s annual crop report was released this week, and it shows agriculture contributed nearly two-billion dollars in 2019.

Statewide, agriculture in California contributes $50-billion a year, much of it coming from industrial-sized operations.

County Crop Report Shows Bountiful 2019 Harvest
Listen to this story by John Carroll.

But when it comes to San Diego, most operations are much, much smaller.

“We have the most family farms in the nation, we have the most small farms, so 69% of our farms are 1 to 9 acres in size," said San Diego County Farm Bureau Executive Director Hannah Gbeh.

But over the last several years, the acreage of farms has decreased. So, why is the value of crops going up?

Gbeh said it’s because farmers here have gotten very good at adapting through innovation.

“They’re shifting their crops to really high value crops. They’re shifting their crops that don’t require as much water, as much input and they’re reaping those benefits,” Gbeh said.

RELATED: How California Farms Can Survive The Post-Pandemic World

“It highlights the determination and the resourcefulness of all of the ag producers,” said San Diego County Agricultural Commissioner Ha Dang.

A big part of Dang’s job is to support county farmers. In the time of COVID-19, that has meant making sure farmers know how to keep their workers safe.

“We provided over 97,000 N95 and also disposable masks to the growers for their use, for their agricultural workers,” she said.

The partnership has worked. Unlike in the San Joaquin and Imperial valleys, farm workers in San Diego have largely avoided contracting COVID.

“We are in a severe labor shortage and it does nobody any good to not take utmost care of your employees,” said Hannah Gbeh.

Both Dang and Gbeh said the 2020 crop report won’t be as bountiful as this one, thanks to COVID. But even then, Gbeh said we can count on the County’s farmers to continue to innovate to blunt the impact of the virus — to keep agriculture in the County blossoming for years to come.