Agri-Stats: Strawberries

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Summary (California Strawberry Commission)

Learn about the Sweet History of California Strawberries! https://www.kvie.org/programs/viewfinder/?watch=the-sweet-history-of-california-strawberries-degaud

  • California grows about 88% of all the berries grown in the U.S. 
  • There are about 300 strawberry growers in California. 
  • There are about 34,000 acres of strawberries in California. 
  • Berries are grown in California’s unique coastal environment, which provides moderate temperatures and warm-sunny days, cool foggy nights, and predictable rainfall patterns.
  • Average yields are about 50,000 pounds per acre each season. 
  • In 2017, there were 206,040,481 trays (1.8 billion pounds) of fresh strawberries harvested in California. 
  • Average costs at final harvest are between $40,000 to $50,000
  • California Strawberries are grown in five distinct growing areas: Orange County/San Diego, Oxnard/Ventura, Santa Maria/Southern SLO County and Santa Maria. 
  • Production starts in the South in the winter and shifts northward as temperatures increase during the spring so that California strawberries are available year-round
  • New berry varieties have lengthened the number of days in the growing season to even out year-round production. 

Etymology(Anderson)

  • The word “Strawberry” is thought to have originated in the early Anglo-Saxon language because of the straw-like runners that the plant produced.
  • It was first written about as strea-bergan and then evolved over the centuries into various forms such as straberie, strabery, straibery, straubery and finally strawberry.
  • In romance languages, the Latin root is “Fraga” meaning strawberries.

Botany

  • Fragaria ananassa is a widely grown hybrid species of the genus Fragaria (collectively known as the strawberries).
  • Fragaria ananassa is indigenous to North and South America.
  • The name Fragaria first appeared in 1484 in the first known illustration of the strawberry plant in the “Latin Herbalof Mainz” compiled by Peter Schoffer (Anderson).
  • Fruit is not a botanical berry, but an aggregate accessory fruit meaning that the fleshy part is derived not from the plant’s ovaries but from the receptacle that holds the ovaries.
  • Each apparent “seed” (achene) on the outside of the fruit is actually one of the ovaries of the flower, with a seed inside it.

History(Anderson)

  • Commercially cultivated species are mainly from three species occurring in the wild: 
    • Fragaria vesca (woods or alpine strawberry) of Europe and North America.
    • Fragaria virginiana, native to eastern Canada and the U.S. 
    • Fragaria chiloensis (beach strawberry) native to Pacific of North and South America.
  • Before the New World, only the Fragaria vesca was known to the Europeans. 
  • Crosses between New World and Old World varieties occurred in Europe and returned to the U.S. to become the basis for today’s U.S. commercial varieties. 
  • Meanwhile, in California, in 1602,  the explorer, Sebastian Vizcaíno, found that Native Americans gathering wild strawberries.
  • The English explorer, George Vancouver, noted that strawberries were abundant along the California coast in 1794
  • Until 1848, strawberries were harvested from the wild in California and no attempt was made to cultivate them. 
  • In 1849, soon astute farmers were growing strawberries in Sonoma, Santa Clara, Pajaro and the San Joaquin Valleys to supply the Gold Mines and San Francisco.
  • Strawberries were grown in Santa Cruz gardens as early as the 1850s by Chinese farmers. The varieties showing up in San Francisco were Early Scarlett and Alpine Monthly. 
  • 1851: More berries were grown around Aptos using Chinese labor. 
  • The first sizable, commercial strawberry production arrived in the Pajaro Valley around Watsonville in the late 1870s/early 1880s and was farmed using subcontracted Chinese labor. 
  • In the Santa Cruz/Watsonville area, berries were irrigated with water from windmill powered groundwater systems and by surface water flumes diverting water from nearby reservoirs. 
  • In 1886, an arrangement was made in which Pajaro businesses furnished land, plants, water, and boxes; while, Chinese laborers farmed the crop. Proceeds were evenly split between interests. 
  • After the Chinese Exclusion Act, in 1882, Japanese laborers began to replace Chinese labor.
  • With the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1908, Japanese farmers began to call over Japanese “picture brides” to settle and make lives in the U.S.
  • By 1910, the Japanese were the predominant berry growers in the Western U.S. 
  • 1911: The first strawberries in the Salinas Valley were grown by Japanese growers in the Romie Lane area of Soledad area in the Salinas Valley.
  • With the passage of the Alien Act in 1913, and amended in 1920, Japanese were barred from owning and leasing land in California. 
    • First generation (Issei) were forced to give up land they owned or make legal arrangements for second generation (Nissei) to hold a land title. 
    • The impact of the Alien Act continued until the McCarran-Walter Immigration Act in 1952 gave the Issei the right to become U.S. citizens and own land. 
  • After the incarceration of the Japanese in 1942, the strawberry industry came to a halt. 
  • Some key players in the early Strawberry industry were:
    • James Waters – 
      • In 1877, the beginning of the Watsonville-San Francisco berry trade began when a variety called Cinderella fetched $0.20 per pound. 
      • He introduced the Melinda variety, which was the dominant variety grown on the Central Coast until 1915. 
    • Watsonville Partners: RF (Dick) Driscoll and J.R. (Ed) Reiter
      • They visited the Sweet Brian ranch in Redding and contracted with Charles Loftus to grow Banner variety transplants for use in the Watsonville. 
      • 2000 acres of Banner variety were grown on the Central Coast by 1925. 
      • Began the strawberry nursery business in northern California (Shasta and Siskiyou counties), in order to provide enough chilling hours to maximize the number of runners or daughter plants produced by one mother plant of the Banner variety. This practice is still used today. 
    • Salinas Partners: Henry A. Hyde, Orrin O. Eaton, Unosuke Shikuma and Heizuehi Yamamoto 
      • Shipped the first refrigerator car of strawberries to El Paso, Texas in 1921.
      • Built the first pre-cooling van on the chassis of a Pierce-Arrow truck, to haul berries to San Jose for shipment to the East Coast in refrigerator cars. 
    • University of California Breeders, Harold E. Thomas, and Earl V. Goldsmith: 
      • By 1939, had eight thousand new hybrid selections for field propagation. 
      • The first trial occurred in 1941-1942 by Ned Driscoll near Salinas.
      • Well-known varieties such as Shasta, Sierra, Lassen, Tahoe, and Donner were released and these composed 95% of California production by 1955. 
  • By 1955, yields of 20 tons per acre were not uncommon, as compared to the 0,5 ton per acre that was common in 1850. 

Today

Production Stats

  • California grows about 88% of all the berries grown in the U.S. 
  • There are about 300 strawberry growers in California. 
  • There are about 34,000 acres of strawberries in California. 
  • Berries are grown in California’s unique coastal environment, which provides moderate temperatures and warm-sunny days, cool foggy nights, and predictable rainfall patterns.
  • Average yields are about 50,000 pounds per acre each season. 
  • In 2017, there were 206,040,481 trays (1.8 billion pounds) of fresh strawberries harvested in California. 

Costs

  • Between the first cultivation and the first harvest, a grower will invest as much as $12,000 to $15,000 per acre (2014 stats).
  • At the final harvest, a grower’s costs are as much as $40,000 to $50,000/acre. 

Field Production details

  • Strawberries are cultivated worldwide.
  • In California, strawberries are transplanted.
  • The transplants are grown in isolated nurseries in Northern California.
  • California nurseries use mother plants which produce 7 daughter plants from above ground stems called stolons.
  • Usually, in the August timeframe, it is time to ship the strawberry daughter plants from the nurseries in Northern California to southern California fields.
  • When it is time to harvest the daughter plants, they are:
    • Are mown.
    • Then, and a potato-digger-type of machine digs them.
    • The daughter plant tops and roots are trimmed.
    • Each daughter is wrapped and put in a box with hundreds of other daughters.
    • They are shipped in refrigerated trucks south to the strawberry fields that have already been prepped.
    • Each daughter plant costs about $0.12/plant. 
    • The number of daughter plants per acre varies. About 25,000 are planted per acre in the South Ventura/Santa Barbara. Fewer plants are planted per acre in Monterey/Santa Cruz areas.
  • The mother plants are discarded. 
  • The daughter plants are planted on high raised beds to make the strawberries easier to pick. 
  • The beds are covered with plastic mulch to keep the berries away from soil, conserve water and prevent weeds. 
  • Plants are irrigated with drip irrigation. 
  • After harvest, the berries are rushed to cooling facilities where they are fan-cooled to remove field heat. 
  • After the fruit is cooled, it is loaded into refrigerated trucks for same-day shipment. 
  • The berries are kept at 32 degrees Fahrenheit during transport to keep them fresh.

California Production areas (from south to north): 

  • Oxnard/Orange County/San Diego produce strawberries during the winter months. 
  • In Santa Barbara/Ventura/Santa Maria, ground prep begins in July/August and they begin to pick in late winter/early spring. Before the development of today’s varieties, the old saying was that that the Oxnard growers had to make their money before Easter. 
  • Farms in Watsonville/Salinas and Santa Maria pick from March through November. 
  • Note: Oxnard/Ventura and Santa Maria produce a second crop beginning in October and ending in December due to late summer plantings.

Leaders in the Today’s Strawberry Industry 


Labor

 

 


Health Benefits


Books and References

Anderson, Burton. The Salinas Valley: A History of America’s Salad Bowl. Monterey County History Society. 2000.

California Strawberries. California Strawberry Commission. January. 2018. http://www.calstrawberry.com

Monterey County 2017 Crop Report. Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office. http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/home/showdocument?id=65737

Add UCD ANR Strawberry Production Guide for more production details. 

Add UCCE Strawberry Cost Studies for Strawberries 

Wikipedia