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As soon as we mention that we’re all about food and we’re based in California, the question we get is “Wait, what is grown in California?”
You see, the Golden State has a reputation of being a major agricultural player but a lot of time it’s not truly understood.
Maybe you’ve tried some local artisan cheeses, eaten iconic California foods, have visited world-class California wine regions, or shopped for everything from avocados to zucchini and even flowers all labeled California Grown. But it can be hard to fathom exactly what that means.
What Percentage Of Agriculture Does California Produce?
When people hear that California is the largest agricultural producer in the nation, they immediately want to know, “But exactly how much?”
According to the CDFA (California Department for Food and Agriculture), over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California.
On top of that, the Golden State leads the national production of over 60 crops, including almonds, artichokes, dates, olives, clingstone peaches, prunes, and walnuts.
Sustainable Agriculture In California
Here in California, sustainability in agricultural production has long been a major topic of conversation.
Across the state, farms and ranches are working to make their farm operations more and more sustainable with efforts like zero waste initiatives, water reduction actions, fair and equitable labor practices, and other regenerative agricultural practices.
And though it’s a work in progress, California already leads the nation in sustainable dairy production and the world in sustainable wine growing.
Where are the major agricultural regions of California?
The truth is that produce is grown almost across the whole state – the only parts of California that don’t grow something are either too hot or too high in altitude.
But, of the many regions that have agriculture, the biggest regions are by far the San Joaquin Valley, Salinas Valley in Monterey, and the Imperial Valley.
And, proof that the San Joaquin takes the agricultural cake, more than 250 of the 400 crops grown in California are grown in the San Joaquin Valley.
Of course, there are certain areas that are best known for growing certain crops such as avocados and citrus in Southern California, lettuce in Monterey and Imperial counties, and wine in areas like Napa Valley or Lodi.
Wine Producing Regions In California
Speaking of what is grown in California, probably the best-known agricultural product is world-class wine.
It’s so popular that there are parts of California that are dominated by wine production such as San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles, Sonoma County, Monterey, and Mendocino.
In fact, there are more than 130 AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) across the state. Head here to learn which California wine regions you should travel to on your next trip to California.
What Is Grown In California?
Okay, now for the question you came for: what is grown in California? The answer is a LOT, and the state’s Mediterranean climate is to thank!
California produces over 400 crops; here is a look at the produce the Golden State is best known for:
- Almonds: California produces 80% of the world’s almonds, and the almond growers are constantly innovating ways to make their production more efficient, reducing water consumption or adopting zero waste initiatives.
- Artichokes: Nearly 100% of all artichokes commercially available in the United States come from California, most of which are from Monterey County.
- Avocados: California is the largest producer of avocados in the U.S. Many are grown in the coastal regions between San Diego and Monterey. Seven avocados are grown commercially in California, but the Hass variety is the most popular, accounting for approximately 95 percent of the total crop volume.
- Citrus: Yes, you think of Florida for oranges, but California produces 80% of all the fresh citrus in the United States. Across the state, you’ll see citrus as varied as Meyer lemons, Kishu Mandarins, and Cara Cara oranges.
- Dairy: California Dairy ranks first out of the fifty states in dairy production with more than 1,100 dairy farms, 99% of which are family-owned.
- Dates: Over 90% of U.S. production is grown in California and the Coachella Valley.
- Garlic: California produces 90% of the nation’s garlic and more than half of that comes from the Christopher Ranch, which is based in Gilroy.
- Grapes: To be clear, there are two main categories of grapes in California: table grapes (the ones we eat) and wine grapes. Over 80 varieties of California table grapes are available from May through January.
- Leaf Lettuce: The majority of lettuce and leafy greens consumed in the U.S. is grown in California, which produces about 70% of the volume. It’s always lettuce season in California: the alternating climates in Southern & Northern California allow leafy greens to be grown year-round.
- Olives: California Ripe Olives, sold canned or jarred, are grown on family farms in the inland valleys of California from San Diego Country to the north of Sacramento.
- Pistachios: More than 98% of pistachios produced in the U.S. are grown in California and predominantly grown in the southern San Joaquin Valley.
- Strawberries: Strawberries grow along the California coast on about 35,000 acres. During peak season, strawberries are harvested in Salinas, Watsonville, Santa Maria, Oxnard, and Orange County. During the cooler months, strawberries remain harvested in Santa Maria and Oxnard, making California strawberries available year-round.
- Prunes: California grows 99% of the U.S. production of prunes and 40% of the worldwide production! We like to use the D’Noir Prunes in recipes because they’re preservative-free, and they tend to be plump and flavorful.
- Walnuts: California walnuts account for nearly all the walnuts grown in the United States.
Recipes Using California Produce
Got your hands on some local California produce? Lucky you! Here are a few recipes to make:
- Avocado Coconut Strawberry Semifreddo Recipe
- Blood Orange Olive Oil Polenta Cake
- California-Style Crunchy Fried Avocado Taco Recipe
- Chocolate-Covered Prune And Almond Clusters
- Honey and Oregano Broiled Feta Caprese Recipe
- Kumquat Pistachio Brown Butter Tea Cakes Recipe
- Smashed Green Olive And Pistachio Burrata Bruschetta Recipe
- Spiced Grape Granita Parfait Recipe
Travel To California
Did you know we’re also a boutique travel agency that specializes in California vacation planning? If you’re looking to plan a trip to California, our California trip planner services are here to help you plan your perfect itinerary.
Photography Credit: Dairy cow and farmer photo by Alycia Moreno; Granita photo by Salt & Wind Travel; all other photos by James Collier.