Monterey County, Calif. may not be known for its ample avocado production, but the guacamole-making fruit made big news recently as production on 237 acres skyrocketed in volume harvested and overall value.

Though nowhere near Monterey County’s Top-10 list in overall value, avocado production rose from 1.67 tons per acre to just over six tons per acre in 2013. Coupled with an almost $600 per-ton price boost from the previous year, total avocado value climbed 421 percent to slightly more than $3 million.

Add to avocado’s massive increase the value boost in nine of Monterey County’s top-10 commodities, and the coastal region’s total agricultural value grew 9 percent to more than $4.38 billion in 2013, according to the latest report issued by Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen. 

Though Lauritzen cautions that crop values vary from year to year based on many factors, strong market factors and even-to-slightly higher production numbers by crop helped push up the total crop value in the county.

Organic production

Organic production in Monterey County remains a considerable economic force, in spite of the relatively small number of organic producers. Gross sales exceeded $214 million as the number of organic producers continues to rise.

Monterey’s organic acreage continues to increase yearly, up now to more than 33,000 acres. Top organic commodities produced in the county include strawberry, leaf lettuce, raspberry, spinach, salad mixes, and broccoli.

Notable in 2013:

  • Strawberry value grew 11 percent to more than $869.4 million, making it Monterey County’s Top Crop in 2013;
  • Broccoli value on 65,577 acres grew 35 percent to nearly $427 million. The average price of fresh broccoli to the grower increased more than $183 per ton, according to the crop report;
  • Spinach and cauliflower traded spots on the Top-10 list. At number 10, the value of spinach was more than $122.6 million;
  • Cauliflower’s value rose 48 percent to $163.3 million, boosted by a dramatic increase in price – up from an average $633 per ton to $901 per ton. Total acreage changed little;
  • Head lettuce was up 16 percent in value to $550.6 million;
  • Dry onions were up 57 percent in value to $15.9 million;
  • The value of nursery production was more than $312.3 million; and,
  • Cut flowers and cut foliage production was valued at more than $41 million, down slightly from the previous year.

Lettuce falls into two main categories in the crop report: leaf and head. At a combined value of $1.2 billion, total lettuce production exceeded strawberries. Lettuce production is further broken down to include head lettuce categories of spring, summer and fall, naked pack, and wrapped pack. Leaf lettuce sub categories include butter, endive, green, red, romaine, and bulk.

One dim spot in the report was the decrease in the value of leaf lettuce as county officials continue to define production data sources, Lauritzen said.

Other notable decreases were seen in livestock and field crops that depend on rainfall, Lauritzen continued. Total combined losses, when compared to the previous year’s crop report, totaled more than $10.3 million.

Wine grapes

Total wine grape production in Monterey County totaled nearly $227 million, making it the sixth-largest crop.

The leading grape varietal in Monterey County continues to be Chardonnay. More than 16,000 acres of Chardonnay grapes were harvested in 2013.

Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes were harvested on 7,963 and 5,624 acres, respectively.

Other popular varieties include Riesling, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah/Shiraz.

Monterey County is typically the fourth-largest agricultural producing county in the U.S. behind San Joaquin Valley neighbors Fresno, Tulare, and Kern counties. Those counties are expected to release their annual crop reports in the coming weeks.

Monterey County’s full crop report is available online.