Last year’s harvest in San Joaquin County was a mix of good and bad news, depending on which crops farmers were growing.
Agricultural Commissioner Scott Hudson said the cold, damp spring caused a 36 percent reduction in the asparagus harvest, but those same conditions caused more farmers to plant tomatoes and beans in the northern end of the San Joaquin Valley later in the season and get more money than usual when those crops were harvested.
“The growers worked very hard in 2006,” Hudson said. “It was a challenge to work with the wild weather. They came out the other end in really good shape.”
The overall value of San Joaquin County’s agricultural production for 2006 was more than $1.68 billion, a 2.9 percent decrease from 2005, when the value was nearly $1.74 billion.
Hudson said farmers were able to adjust their planting and production schedules through a damp spring that led into an unusually hot summer.
The biggest cash crops, milk and wine grapes, both saw substantial reductions because of the hot summer. The value of the county’s milk production was down 17 percent, to $261 million, as production and prices fell. Income from grapes was down 29 percent, to $205 million, as farmers harvested fewer acres and harvested only 5.4 tons per acre, compared with 7.4 tons per acre in 2005.
But tomatoes, walnuts and cherries are also among the county’s top commodities, and the value of those crops saw substantial increases. Cherries were up 24 percent, and walnuts were up 27 percent, mostly because the price per ton was up last year.
Walnuts were worth $133.5 million last year, a new high for the county, with growers getting $1,663 per ton compared to $1,458 per ton in 2005. The cherry crop, worth $121.4 million in 2006, pulled in $4,650 per ton last year, compared with $3,900 per ton in 2005.
Tomatoes were also worth more per ton in 2006, and there were more tomatoes planted in 2006 compared with 2005, making last year’s crop worth $146.3 million.