Sponsored By
Western Farm Press Logo

Tree nuts boost Kern County ag value to record $7.62bTree nuts boost Kern County ag value to record $7.62b

Kern County cherry farmers benefit from atypical weather during springtime harvest in 2019

Todd Fitchette

September 23, 2020

3 Min Read
Kern County, Calif. almond acreage grew by 3,000 in 2019. The nut crop led all commodities in gross receipts at over $1.64 billion as prices and yields were each up 15 percent, year-over-year.Todd Fitchette

California's springtime cherry harvest typically coincides with yield-damaging rains, but such was not the case in 2019 for Kern County growers, who yielded a crop twice the size of the previous year. The positive news on cherries comes as Kern County reports a record agricultural value of over $7.62 billion for 2019.

Kern County's annual crop report showed a modest 2 percent increase in gross value across the county in 2019, but that was enough to push it past its previous record recorded in 2014. Of those gross receipts, nearly 70 percent of that value came from the production of fruits and nuts.

Almonds topped the list of most-valuable crops with gross sales of over $1.64 billion. This came as growers there harvested more almonds on 3,000 more acres of land. It also came at a time when almond prices were continuing to climb. Grower prices reported to the Kern County Agriculture Department revealed a 15.5 percent increase in the average price for their crop.

No surprises

Other than the notable report on cherries, Kern County Deputy Agricultural Commissioner Cerise Montanio said 2019 offered no big surprises for growers or county agriculture department staff. Outside of the addition of industrial hemp to the annual report for the first time, the typical fluctuations in commodity prices and acreage trends were largely to be expected.

Industrial hemp, a new crop to California farmers, made its first-ever appearance on the annual report for 2019. Hemp growers reported gross receipts of over $80 million on the crop. No other information on the crop, including its acreage or yields, were reported.

Top crops

Rounding out the top-5 crops with almonds in the lead in gross receipts were grapes at $1.43 billion, citrus at $997.8 million, pistachios at $886.7 million and milk at $570.4 million.

Within that top-5 were some trading of places as almonds surpassed grapes and citrus values fell a place behind pistachios, which had an "off year" in 2019 in terms of production.

Kern is one of the few grape-growing regions that grow the berries for multiple uses. While fresh-market table varieties command almost 60 percent of total acreage, raisins and wine grapes are produced there as well. Overall, vineyard acreage fell 3.3 percent, which was reflected across all varieties and types.

Citrus remains a popular crop for growers in the county as the region closely follows neighboring Tulare County in acreage and production. While acreage, yields and total production across a host of citrus varieties were up, across the board, prices were not. Navel and Valencia oranges saw the biggest drop in prices at 23 percent and 33 percent, respectively.

Tangerine prices were down about 12.7 percent.

Pistachios, another popular tree nut with growers in the county, likewise saw positive returns and numbers. Harvested acres increased over 6 percent to a high of 136,000. Nearly 12,000 acres of non-bearing pistachios will be added to that crop in the next few years.

Though overall cotton acreage continues to be in decline in Kern County, 2019 saw a significant uptick in Upland and Acala varieties planted – a 200 percent increase – while Pima variety plantings fell 37 percent, according to the report. In both cases, yields were down slightly to an average of 3.08 bales per acre for Upland/Acala varieties and 3.1 bales per acre for the Pima varieties.


China, Mexico, and Hong Kong, in that order, were the top destination countries for commodities produced by Kern County farmers in 2019, according to the report. Major commodities exported include grapes, almonds, pistachios, oranges, potatoes, carrots, cotton, lemons, tangelos and other citrus.

About the Author(s)

Todd Fitchette

Associate Editor, Western Farm Press

Todd Fitchette, associate editor with Western Farm Press, spent much of his journalism career covering agriculture in California and the western United States. Aside from reporting about issues related to farm production, environmental regulations and legislative matters, he has extensive experience covering the dairy industry, western water issues and politics. His journalistic experience includes local daily and weekly newspapers, where he was recognized early in his career as an award-winning news photographer.

Fitchette is US Army veteran and a graduate of California State University, Chico. 

Subscribe to receive top agriculture news
Be informed daily with these free e-newsletters

You May Also Like