A farm worker thins the lettuce field Monday morning. Photo by Nick Lovejoy

When it comes to volume, nutritious crops are on a healthy upswing in San Benito County.

The latest crop report released by the San Benito County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office showed an 11 percent increase in commodity values to about $360 million in 2015.

The report tracks commodity levels and values, as required by the state, but does not account for costs.

Some of the largest value increases in 2015 included such crops as salad mix lettuce, romaine lettuce (17 percent), spinach (14.75 percent) and kale, which had the biggest percentage jump of all with a 42 percent increase in value to $12.94 million.

Another produce crop with a big value jump in 2015 was the wine grape category with a 16.5 percent hike. In the livestock areas, cattle numbers remained relatively flat at over 42,000 head.

Organic farming, meanwhile, stayed strong in the county. It doesn’t hurt to have Earthbound Farm in San Juan Bautista, as salad mix values grew from $56.47 million to $62.39 million, or more than 10 percent.

On the downside, walnuts and cherries had particularly harsh years due to weather conditions.

San Benito County’s estimated $360 million total crop value topped the 2014 value of more than $328 million and $330 million in 2013.

Agricultural Commissioner Karen Overstreet said as for the continued success for greens in the county, it has a lot to do with conditions and getting the word out on a national scale.

“I think our soil and our climate is really conducive to growing these crops so we do well at growing these crops,” Overstreet said. “Processors do a lot of marketing.”

With the bad cherry season, Overstreet said the crop got hit on two fronts: Lacking chill hours and late rains.

“Much of it wasn’t even harvested,” she said.


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