Strawberries remain top agricultural commodity in county despite $42 million decline from 2021

SAN LUIS OBISPO COUNTY — Despite some declines in profit, San Luis Obispo County crop values set a record high for the second consecutive year. The 2022 crop statistics were presented at the SLO County Board of Supervisors meeting held on Tuesday, Aug. 22.

In 2022, the county reached another record high as the total value reached $1,084,332,000, a slight increase of less than 1 percent over the previous year, according to the county staff report. Drought led to a reduction in yield for many crops. However, strong crop prices were able to offset the effects. The overall farmgate value of the county’s agricultural industry exceeded $1 billion for the third time in history.

While SLO County has grown over the past few years, much of it still remains dedicated to agriculture. Over 1.4 billion acres in SLO County are zoned for agriculture with nearly 800,000 of it under a Williamson Act Contract. Over 2,000 farms are identified in the USDA census data. Based on a 2019 study, agriculture is responsible for over 13,000 jobs in the county.


Commodities in the fruit and nut sector are the only ones to show a decline last year. Yet, strawberries remain the top crop in the county with a value of $277.8 million, 13 percent down from 2021 due to lower prices. Wine grapes remain the second top producing crop but experienced a 7 percent reduction due to lower production, coming in at $261.9 million in value. Avocados also ended the year lower at $33.5 million due to impacts from drought and weather. 

In 2022, drought conditions still impacted the animal industry. Specifically speaking of the cattle industry, prices were 16.5 percent higher, leading to a 12 percent increase to the animal industry. Still, drought conditions negatively impacted the cattle industry with high supplement costs and limited availability of rangeland feed, causing cattle to be sold earlier in the year and at lower rates. According to staff’s report, 43,421 head of cattle were sold in 2022, which is a 4 percent decrease from 2021. While this year, ranchers had the benefit of a surplus of rangeland feed, they are still struggling with the rising cost of hay and feed. 

Again drought conditions affected field crops since the majority of field crops like grain hay and barley are dry farmed in the county. With a low production, there was a 35 percent increase in value. With the wedding industry rebounding after the COVID pandemic, the cut flowers helped bolster a 28 percent increase to the nursey products value. The value of nursery products was $98 million in 2022. 

Vegetables did experience a substantial increase with a total value of $293.7 million or $60 million over 2021. Despite some fields left to fallow due to drought conditions, strong prices were able to offset the blow.

The top ten commodities by value in 2022 were:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Wine Grapes
  3. Cattle and Calves
  4. Broccoli
  5. Cauliflower
  6. Head Lettuce
  7. Vegetable and Ornamental Transplants
  8. Avocados
  9. Brussels Sprouts
  10. Cut Flowers

It should be noted the statistical figures only represent commodity gross values, not the net profits received by local producers. While the data collected by the county is valuable, it does not dive into the reality of low-profit margins that farmers and producers face. The increased cost of fuel, labor, equipment and everything else it takes to produce the commodity is constantly a detrimental blow to the farmer.

The 2022 Annual Report will be distributed in late August 2022. In the meantime, annual reports from 1928 through 2021 can be viewed at