- Author: Rachel A. Surls
Not so long ago, as recently as the 1950’s, Los Angeles County was the number one agricultural county in the United States. While urban sprawl has long since consumed much of the county’s farmland, many Angelenos are surprised to learn that we still have significant commercial agriculture in Los Angeles County. We tend to think of our county of 10 million-plus residents in urban terms, but in fact, a large population can co-exist with significant agricultural production, as recent US Department of Agriculture (USDA) census data makes clear.
The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service conducts a nation-wide agricultural census every five years, and results of the 2007 census recently became available. I was interested to see the comparisons between the 2002 and 2007 reports for Los Angeles County. The number of farms has actually increased 12% from 1,543 farms in 2002 to 1,734 farms in 2007. Farms became a bit smaller, declining 13% from an average 72 acres to an average 63 acres. What constitutes a farm? According to the USDA, “for the purpose of the Census of Agriculture, a farm is any place from which $1,000 or more of agricultural products were produced and sold, or normally would have been sold, during the census year. The $1,000 value is not adjusted for inflation”.
Where do we stand in terms of California agricultural production? Los Angeles County is ranked 28th out of the 57 California counties in terms of the gross value of agricultural products, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) California Agricultural Resource Directory for 2008-2009. The CDFA directory lists LA County’s top five crops as:
- Ornamental trees and shrubs
- Bedding plants
- Root vegetables
- Orchard fruit
- Hay, alfalfa
And, we are the #4 onion producer in California, the #5 nectarine producer and the #5 raspberry producer among California counties. The raspberries surprised me!
Both data sources are attached if you’d like to learn more.