As part of my Master in Sustainable Food System coursework, I conducted an in-depth analysis of the points of fragility—and strengths—in the California food system. What an interesting lesson in learning more about my bioregion of California, which has such a diverse landscape when it comes to the food system, from being a leader in health and wellness, local foods, and organics to hosting some of the largest industrial farms in the country. Here are just a few statistics that share some of those extremes.

Table 1. California Farm Facts

These statistics help describe the agricultural system in the state of California.

  • Twenty-seven percent of California farms generate commodity sales over $100,000 greater than the national average of 20%.
  • The average farm size is 329 acres (national average is 441).
  • An estimated 25.5 million acres are devoted to farming and ranching.
  • The average value of farm real estate is $7,900 per acre.
  • The top 20 commodities (in descending order) are: milk/cream, almonds, grapes, cattle/calves, lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, flower/foliage, walnuts, hay, broilers, broccoli, rice oranges,pistachios, carrots, lemons, eggs, peppers, and raspberries.
  • Twenty-six percent of agricultural production is exported.
  • California represents 19% of all organic farms and 36% of all organic sales.
  • Two-thirds of organic sales in California are from produce, one-fourth are from livestock products, and the remainder are from field crops.
  • California produces 90% or more of the organic crops in the US for lettuce, grapes, strawberries, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, avocados, almonds, plums, walnuts, dates, lemons, figs, and artichokes.


Sources: CDFA, 2016; Klonsky, 2010

Read my full report on the resiliency of California’s food system here.

Image: My local farmers market in Pasadena, CA, Sharon Palmer, RDN

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