From Oranges to Grapes, California Drought Changes What's Grown

Jun 18, 2015
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Water scarcity is driving farmers to plant different crops. Growers are switching to more profitable -- less thirsty fruits, vegetables and nuts.

Nowhere is this more true than San Diego County where the water prices are some of the highest in the state.

Billowing orange and grapefruit trees shade Triple B Ranches winery and vineyard near Escondido. The rural setting is quaint and bucolic. The tasting room is a converted kitchen festooned with country knickknacks.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Despite the worst drought in recent memory, Central California's table grape growers enjoyed a record crop in 2014.

According to numbers released Friday by the California Table Grape Commission, last year's crop was worth $1.76 billion, an all time value record. In terms of volume, it was the second largest crop in history, at 110 million boxes.

In a press release, Kathleen Nave, president of the California Table Grape Commission said exports topped 44.5 million boxes.

Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

2014 was a year of ups and downs for the valley's largest industry, agriculture. The year began with virtually no rain and snow and fears of another dust bowl.

And while farmers and ranchers had a tough year, most survived and some even thrived. Rising milk prices boosted the bottom line for California dairymen and women and crops like tomatoes actually set new records.

So what will 2015 bring? We asked two industry experts to join us and offer their perspectives on six issues that will help define the valley's largest industry in the new year:

Ten Speed Press

For years California winemakers have earned their reputation by producing big, bold wines, often known as "fruit bombs." They've also effectively used science and technological advances to make the state a global behemoth in the worldwide industry.

But there’s also something else going on in California -  a new generation of winemakers who are looking to old world traditions for their inspiration, and in the process are creating something truly unique.