Mushroom boom leads ag

Cherry production falls in 2018 crop report

SOUTH COUNTY CROP Mushrooms harvesters at Del Fresh Produce in Gilroy hand-pick all mushrooms. File photo

Mushrooms became Santa Clara County’s top crop in 2018, capping off a successful year for the fleshy fungi whose local value exceeded $82 million.

On the flip side, a rough year for cherries caused the county’s overall crop value to drop by 6.7 percent to just under $295.4 million, according to the 2018 Santa Clara County Crop Report released Sept. 24.

The county’s nine mushroom growers brought in a total of $82.5 million in revenues, a 10.5 percent increase over 2017, giving mushrooms the top spot for the first time.

The county’s other top producers for 2018 were nursery crops ($80.8 million), lettuce ($17.6 million), bell peppers ($14.6 million), wine grapes ($10.7 million) and fresh tomatoes ($10.6 million).

“Mushroom production brought a strong price for producers in 2018,” said county Agricultural Commissioner Joe Deviney. “Our weather is ideal for so many crops, but there are still variables that can’t be controlled. Mushrooms aren’t reliant on weather and produce year-round.”

Deviney said one grower in the county successfully grew organic mushrooms, which helped increase values.

According to the report, while the total acreage and production dropped slightly, the value increased from $4,129 per unit to $4,689.

As the county’s No. 2 crop, nursery crops include flowers, foliage, grasses, boutique plants, shrubs and trees, sold in both retail and wholesale markets.

In 2018, 21 different agricultural commodities grown in the county exceeded $1 million in value, with hay and grain moving onto the list.

Cherries, meanwhile, didn’t fare so well.

According to Deviney, the 2018 value dropped by 82 percent, with only 369 acres harvested, yielding 0.5 tons per acre. In 2017, 980 acres of cherry trees were harvested, resulting in more than $11 million in value.

Deviney said a late rainy season in 2018 devastated cherry production.

“Cherries had a really tough year,” he said. “The trees are looking healthy and good, but the weather didn’t cooperate and the flowers and fruit didn’t blossom.”

Cherries also struggled in 2016 and earlier years.

“It’s very difficult to be a farmer because it fluctuates year by year depending on the weather and the chill hours,” Deviney said.

Spinach production dropped by roughly 400 acres, and its value dipped by $10 million. Deviney said that was primarily due to growers choosing other greens such as romaine and arugula to satisfy contracts.

“A lot of leafy greens ebb and flow,” he said.

The full report can be viewed at www.sccgov.org/sites/ag/news/Pages/reports.aspx.

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