Strawberries vital to local, state economy

SB County among top producers, reports shows
2014-03-19T00:45:00Z 2014-03-19T10:03:13Z Strawberries vital to local, state economyErin Lennon / Santa Maria Times

Strawberries may be a delightful addition to just about any meal, but they’re a staple in California’s economy and a key element of Santa Barbara County’s vital agriculture industry.

A report released Tuesday by the California Strawberry Commission based in Watsonville, explains just how large a role this fruit plays in the local and statewide economy.

California’s 400 family-owned strawberry farms grow 90 percent of the United States’ strawberries, with the industry directly and indirectly contributing $3.4 billion to the state’s economy. In Northern California alone, nearly 2 billion strawberry plants grow in open fields from October to February, according to the report, called Sustaining California Communities: Economic Contributions of Strawberry Farming.

Strawberries are the state’s number one crop in value per acre, with California farmers growing the bulk of the nation’s strawberries on less than one percent of the state’s total farmland. Strawberries are also the fourth highest value crop and the sixth overall agriculture commodity in the state.

In Santa Barbara County, strawberries comprised $367 million of county’s fruit and nut crop in 2011, which was worth a total of $520 million. In 2012, strawberries headlined the county’s agriculture sector, which was worth nearly $1.3 billion in total production value.

The strawberry industry also provides 70,000 jobs around the state, mainly in the North and along the coast, including Santa Barbara County.

These positions encompass 30 categories, according to the commission, employing locals on farms, in the classroom, in research labs, in distribution centers and on the road.

“I think a lot of our children really understand the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables,” said Liz Powell, Food Services Coordinator at the Santa Maria-Bonita School District. “Many of the parents probably pick the strawberries for the different farmers in the area, and then the students get to eat them.”

California’s strawberry farmers invest 97 cents of every farm dollar back into the community, whether it be for worker pay, equipment or taxes.

Approximately 35 percent of the crop value goes toward labor costs. Strawberry farming creates $108 million annually in statewide tax revenue. In some areas, strawberry farmers pay more in payroll taxes than the salaries of all the area’s elementary school teachers, according to the commission’s report.

Strawberry growers also contribute their time, financial resources and in-kind donations to food banks and other charitable organizations. Local growers have been known to donate strawberries to the Food Bank of Santa Barbara County during their peak growing season, said Paul Ramirez, foodbank warehouse manager.

Santa Barbara County’s agriculture sector annually contributes $2.8 billion to the county’s economy, employing more than 21,000 workers, according to the report.

Copyright 2015 Santa Maria Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. The Ghost of George Hobbs
    Report Abuse
    The Ghost of George Hobbs - March 22, 2014 4:13 pm

    As you well know, the farmers and their illegal aliens are ripping off the taxpayers BIG TIME, and their attempts to spin this PR fall short.

    One has to wonder when local politicians like Steve Lavignino and Peter Adam will muster the political courage to bring this deceit to light.

    I you feel that Steve Lavignino and Peter Adam ought to represent the people who pay their salaries, our do you think it is ok if they are beholden to the farmers and illegals?

    Just wondering,

    The Ghost
  2. wazntme
    Report Abuse
    wazntme - March 19, 2014 5:45 pm
    I would do without ever eating another strawberry if it meant ICE could come to Santa Maria, I am sick and tired of the crime in this town something needs to be done, it doesn't matter the color of the criminal but what does matter is, if you are illegal you do not belong here, It doesn't matter what country you are from.
    I have lived in Santa Maria for 60 years and am ashamed of what our city has become.
    GO HOME!!!!!!!!!!
    We want ICE here to do their job. If it means people leaving, then go. Do let the door hit you in the rear on your way out. KEEP MOVING!!!!!!!!!!!!
  3. Tomas V
    Report Abuse
    Tomas V - March 19, 2014 4:52 pm
    I love all of your educated comments. (sarcasm) as the article implies ( in a very conservative I should note) the entire state benefits from strawberry production. If you're going to go in a forum and express your displeasure with something at least use your real name. I really do hope you are writing those comments from work during your lunch hour and not at home living on public assistance...
  4. Wizard
    Report Abuse
    Wizard - March 19, 2014 11:23 am
    I haven't eaten strawberries in a long time. Until somebody shows me proof these farmers and workers pay their fair share of taxes I won't eat them. What is the impact on healthcare and education costs? I know that we already subsidize their legal representation(primarily immigration services), children's education(including english tutoring) and maternity costs.
  5. Colin
    Report Abuse
    Colin - March 19, 2014 9:45 am
    I agree with you guys, it is just not fair that illegal farm workers take more benefits that us, American Citizens. They don't pay taxes, and they have a lot of kids so they get welfare, food stamps, free school lunch for their kids, and health insurance; that is not fair!!!
    The government should create another "Brasero" program.
  6. The Ghost of George Hobbs
    Report Abuse
    The Ghost of George Hobbs - March 19, 2014 8:57 am
    Thank you, Vivek.

    It is about time we stand up to the immoral LULAC/ farmer/ illegal crowd and their lobbyists. Enough is enough.

    Why should hard working honest taxpayers pay more so farmers and illegals can enrich themselves at our expense?

    When will our city council members side with honest taxpayers so we can turn back these immoral illegals and the immoral farmers?

    Aren't the laws pertaining to immigration and emoting illegals supposed to be followed?

    If the farmers and illegals don't have to follow the laws, why should the rest of us?

    If the SM City Council does not allow ICE, I say the good people of the Santa Maria Valley need to boycott businesses within city limits.

    I warned you,

    George's Ghost
  7. The Ghost of George Hobbs
    Report Abuse
    The Ghost of George Hobbs - March 19, 2014 6:07 am

    The California Strawberry Commission is nothing but a shrill organization designed to cover for the farmers hiring illegal aliens.

    The farmers may be making record profits, but tbe rest of us are paying the real cost for the presence of illegals in our community.

    Rich farmers but poorer taxpayers. We pay higher taxes to subsidize their illegal behavior. Sad.

    We need ICE

    George's Ghost

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Santa Maria Times ( may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Santa Maria Times or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick