Saturday, December 2, 2023

Wine Grapes and Timber Drop Nearly 30% in Value, the Troubles of Quantifying Cannabis—Highlights from Mendo’s 2021 Crop Report 

The terraforming of hillsides common to Mendocino County’s vineyards [Picture by Matt LaFever]

California’s Food and Agricultural Code requires each county to submit an Annual Crop report to the state’s Department of Food and Agriculture. This report provides the gross value of agricultural commodities provided in a given county, not the net return for producers. 

Mendocino County’s 2021 Crop Report was assembled by the county’s Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Aaron Hult and accepted by the Board of Supervisors this week.

The Crop Report, though chock full of seemingly disparate data points, proves an illuminative document that sheds light on the health of Mendocino County’s economy and the evolution of local agriculture. 

Mendocino County’s total gross agricultural value dropped 10% between 2020 and 2021. In 2020, the total gross value was $222,875,410. In 2021, the total gross value was $200,556,316. This means the total value of the county’s agricultural abundance lost over $22 million in value.

The Crop Report noted that the agriculture sector was still being tossed about by the labor shortages and supply chain kinks of the COVID-19 era. Why would 2021 see a 10% drop in total gross value as compared to 2021? 2020 was an economy only partially affected by the pandemic with a significant amount of that year unencumbered by lockdown policies. In contrast, every day of 2021 saw California’s pandemic response running full bore and the global economy in upheaval. The omnipresence of COVID complications could have contributed to Mendocino County’s 10% devaluation.

In 2021, wine grapes reigned supreme as the county’s leading commodity valuing $84,484,842. Similar to the county’s overall agricultural value, wine grapes saw a marked drop losing 28.2% of their gross value when compared to 2020.

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A lumber mill in Hopland [Photo by Matt LaFever]

In true Mendocino County fashion, the timber industry proved to be an enduring facet of the local economy as 2021’s second leading commodity. Similar to wine grapes, timber’s gross “at mill” value in 2021 ($67,128,681) was a 28.5% decrease from 2020’s total gross value ($93,855,560). In 2021, Mendocino County was the Golden State’s 7th timber producer by volume providing 4.8% of the state’s total timber harvest.

Despite measurable losses in gross value throughout Mendocino County’s agricultural sectors, many positive data points emerged in 2021 The country’s fruit and nut sector actually saw a 3.9% increase in gross value from the previous year with a combined total of $96,478,985. Apple production was up 8.4%. Pear production was up 14.5%. The valuation of the county’s cattle production in 2021 was $17,498,400, a 1.4% increase from 2020.

A vineyard on the Sanel Valley floor [Picture by Matt LaFever]

We must make note of a glaring omission from Mendocino County’s Crop report: cannabis. During the Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, December 13, 2022, multiple parties spoke about the dearth of data regarding cannabis’s value in the county.

Attached to the crop report agenda item was a memo from Mendocino County’s Department of Agriculture/Weights & Measures that explained why there was a void of cannabis information. It reads, “Due to the error inherent in this methodology and the lack of certainty, as well as the lack of participation in surveys, we do not feel at this time that presenting an estimated value of production is appropriate to include in the County’s Agricultural Crop Report.” 

2nd District Supervisors Mo Mulheren said that it was “disappointing we’re unable to have a cannabis crop report.” She asserted that data regarding cannabis’s total gross value is important when communicating with the public about the industry’s influence on the local economy.  

5th District Supervisor Ted Williams expressed concern that attempts by the county to survey cannabis cultivators to gather data for a crop report proved fruitless with only two responding out of a pool of 1300. Williams suggested the most reliable way for the county to gather data would be by requiring self-reporting.

Michael Katz, the Executive Director of the Mendocino Cannabis Alliance, shot back telling the board that MCA had provided the agriculture department with approximately two dozen, anonymized responses and asked why those data points weren’t included in the county’s total. Katz went on to suggest that the lack of survey respondents was a reflection of the cannabis industry’s trust in Mendocino County’s cannabis oversight.

For those interested in the finer points of 2021’s Mendocino County Crop Report, the entirety of the report can be read below:


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  1. Redwood in 2019…2020 & 2021 was at all time high price. So the numbers on falling prices, are misleading. Wood needs to come down for a substainable market to build. There has been a constant agenda to focus, on the cannabis industry, as the savior of the agriculture economy, here in Mendocino County, by some. Precious water and obsolete pot grows, could be used for food production of food crops, that need just what organic nature provides, along with reclamation of used water projects, supported by the county. Supervisors along with City councils, could be proactively supporting new canneries and a better meat processing facility, to process and ship to major markets just hours away. But instead the mindset of most, is to promote a one faucet farming prospectus of Cannabis. Apples, pears, green beans, walnuts, plums (prunes) blackberries and other specific produce are very easy to grow here. Dairy and beef, lamb and eggs also do very well here. The hardest problem is processing and distributing. Solve that with locals too, and the sky is the limit. Spinach, potatoes in leaf piles, winter crops, almost grow wild, if allowed space, with little watering. Supplying food to a ever growing market, the entire planet, instead of buying from other countries, could be our counties saving grace. Agriculture based on a drug, that just a single specific customer, with other states legalizing, is no longer a viable business model. Focus on necessities people need to survive, and a future for families. Change the mindset and look for alternatives to growth. Not just the water deviated central valley area will cut it. Become the organic healthy food county, that can be marketed to the world. And at the same time become a independent California, which in turn, saves on shipping energy usage, storage loss and fresh factor.

    • Appreciate the added context, Angelcat. The crop report offers year-to-year comparisons located at the bottom of this article. Your analysis adds depth to the topic and your comment is an awesome example of how a comment section can help build collective knowledge.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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