In 2009, for the first time ever, strawberries — not leaf lettuce — were the most valuable crop in California’s Monterey County.


The value of the county’s strawberry crop rose 22%, from $619 million in 2008 to $756 million in 2009, according to the annual crop report annual crop report from Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner Eric Lauritzen.

The value of the leaf lettuce crop rose 13% from 2008 to 2009, but it wasn’t enough to keep the No. 1 spot. Continuing a trend, the value of the Monterey head lettuce crop dropped 5%.


Taken together, however, the Monterey lettuce crop, at $1.2 billion, was more valuable than the strawberry crop.


The big 2009 Monterey strawberry crop is due in part to some of the best growing weather the county has seen in some time, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director of the Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission.


In addition, newer varieties continue to deliver great-tasting fruit that ships well, stoking con-sumer demand, O’Donnell said. Good nutritional news also is helping the California industry sell more fruit, she said.


A 5% increase in the value of agricultural products in the county over last year shows the health of  its produce and other agricultural producers, said Assistant Agricultural Commisssioner Bob Roach.


“It’s good to show an increase in these tough economic times,” he said. “It reflects the resiliency and diversity of our ag industry.”


The value of all vegetable crops in the county rose from $2.5 billion in 2008 to $2.6 billion in 2009.


Celery was among the top-performing vegetable crops, rising in value from $121 million in 2008 to $172 million in 2009.


Spinach value, at $131 million, was unchanged from 2008, while spring mix and mushroom values fell last year. 


The value of all fruit and nut crops in the county rose from $907 million in 2008 to $1 billion in 2009.


Raspberries were among the other Monterey County fruits that saw a big boost in value in 2009, according to the report. The value of the crop increased from $24 million in 2008 to $34 million in 2009.


At $238 million, grape value was unchanged from 2008. But citrus value fell significantly, from $22 million to $12 million.


TOP CROPS (VALUE), MONTEREY COUNTY, 2009


Lettuce, $1.2 billion
Strawberries, $756 million
Broccoli, $280 million
Celery, $172 million
Spring mix, $166 million
Spinach, $132 million
Cauliflower, $112 million