Friday, December 21, 2007

LA County Agriculture

Since it's the end of the year and since I am working on documenting the history of agriculture for part of the County, I thought it was a good time to reflect on L.A.'s long, rich farming history.

First off, this information came to me courtesy of a wonderful woman, Cynthia Werner, of the Department of Agricultural Commissioner
Weights and Measures, Los Angeles County. She's not only an Ag. Inspector, but she also serves as the agency's Public Information Officer and she truly is a fountain of knowledge. I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for helping me with my book.

Anyhow, she had sent me a copy of the 2006 Los Angeles County Crop and Livestock Report which just happens to feature some great photos from the past because the Department is celebrating their 125th anniversary. You can download a copy online here to see some of them:

Some of the information in the report is hard to believe considering that most of us don't see any evidence of any agriculture in our day-to-day lives. However, there's still plenty here and our history is so interesting.

For example, Los Angeles County was the nation's top farm county from 1909 to 1950!!!! That is an amazing statistic to me. And, citrus was the San Fernando Valley's biggest industry, with at least four packing houses producing annual shipments of nearly 500 rail cars of lemons and oranges.

What happened of course is that post-World War II residential development replaced acre after acre of groves with suburbs although there were still 54,000 acres of citrus in LA county in 1970, until we let our agricultural land be almost completely replaced.

Today, there are 1,923 acres of fruit and nut crops, and 5,959 acres of vegetable crops. The largest agricultural commodity in the county is now nursery products which make up 3,496 acres.

Another interesting fact is that the first Certified Farmers' Market in the County opened in 1979 in Gardena, and continues today as one of over 90 operating in LA County, which make up about 25% of all farmers' markets in the state.

The last statistic that I was really surprised at was the fact that we actually have a pretty fair amount of sustainable agriculture ventures in LA County. In 2006, there were a total of 111 acres of organic farmland including 22 acres of vegetables, 24 acres of citrus, 27 acres of grapes, 13 acres of peaches, and 1 acre each of apples and cherimoya.

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