Growing up in Orange County, I wasn’t aware of what an incredibly diverse agricultural region California is (which is ironic given that Orange County used to be one of those hotbeds for ag - notably citrus and avocados). Now that I’m living in San Luis Obispo County and have seen the Central Valley and it’s bounty, I’m appreciative not only of how much we grow here, but the variety of what’s produced.
While SLO is perfect for grapes, strawberries, and citrus, the Central Valley gives us lettuces, nuts, stone fruit and so much more. So why the variety? How does this state produce so much quality food?
It’s a combination of the topography, the weather and the soil. California’s coastal mountain ranges give way to valleys filled with mineral-rich alluvial soil, and hold in marine fog to maintain a temperate climate. This allows for many crops to grow year-round.
Nestled between two mountain ranges, conditions are similar in the Central Valley. Mild and wet winters allow for a nearly 300 day growing season, and the region consistently produces 8% of the country’s agriculture by value. For perspective, the Central Valley represents less than 1% of the nation’s farm land.
Down south, warm, dry summers and winters allow for a variety of subtropical plants to grow, including citrus, dates, guavas and avocados. This all makes for an incredibly unique bounty of food - from wheat and corn to tropical treats. Plus, dairy and cattle are huge industries in California, making it one of the most agriculturally diverse areas in the world.