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SLO County agriculture became a $1 billion business in 2018. Here’s the most valuable crop

Watch the hustle and bustle of a California wine grape harvest

Workers harvest pinot noir grapes at Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, California, on a recent October morning as the Autumn grape harvest kicks into full swing.
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Workers harvest pinot noir grapes at Talley Vineyards in Arroyo Grande, California, on a recent October morning as the Autumn grape harvest kicks into full swing.

San Luis Obispo County agriculture became a $1 billion business in 2018 — with more than a quarter of those dollars coming from the wine industry, according to a new Department of Agriculture report.

For the third year in a row, wine grapes were the county’s top crop, beating out strawberries by about $7.6 million. The two crops accounted for more than half of the area’s agricultural business.

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“Local agricultural producers amplified their economic contributions to the local and statewide economies in 2018 with an increased overall value of agricultural commodities of $1,035,499,000, a milestone in San Luis Obispo County,” Martin Settevendemie, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer, said in a statement.

Broccoli, avocados and cattle and calves rounded out the county’s top five agricultural products.

Avocado growers, in particular, saw a major year-over-year improvement — the value of county fruit went up nearly 70 percent from 2017 to 2018.

Wine grape growers also increased their production by 8% and achieved a value increase of 3%, in spite of last year’s late summer heat wave, according to the report. Most winemakers harvested their grapes later than normal and also had to persevere through frost earlier in the year.

Strawberry growers improved their acreage and planted higher-yielding varieties, which led to a value hike of 18%.

The cattle industry has been stabilizing since 2016, following a five-year drought, and increased in value by 1%.

Indoor cannabis production is changing the nursery industry and replacing some indoor decorative and ornamental plants, according to the report. However, cannabis is taking over some cut flower growing areas in neighboring counties, allowing San Luis Obispo’s market to stabilize.

Overall, the nursery industry’s value declined by only 2%, in spite of the ongoing transition, according to the report.

For more information, visit slocounty.ca.gov/Departments/Agriculture-Weights-and-Measures.

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Lindsey Holden writes about housing and everything in between for The Tribune in San Luis Obispo. She also covers communities in northern San Luis Obispo County. Lindsey became a staff writer in 2016 after working for the Rockford Register Star in Illinois. She’s a native Californian raised in the Midwest and is a proud graduate of two Chicago schools: DePaul University and Northwestern University.

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