Economic Impact of Agriculture in Nevada County is Declining

Russ Steele

I have been following the economic impact of agriculture in Nevada County for several years.  There has been a lot of talk on the left that we should be focusing local economic development funds to promote more organic farming and farmers markets. The left thinks that more sustainable local farming will give Nevada County an economic advantage, creating more local wealth as we shop local in year round farmers markets.

Last week the County CEO, Rick Haffey, attached the 2010 Agriculture Report by Jeffry Pylman, Agricultural Commissioner, to his weekly memo.  Jeffry Pylman in his introduction to the Nevada County 2010 Annual Crop Report:

The total value of Nevada County’s 2010 agricultural crop production was $10,418,700. This amount represents a decrease of $1,922,000 from the 2009 crop value. The Timber industry had the largest decrease in value of $1,674,800 due to a decrease in demand for construction materials. Wine grape production dropped by 31 percent. Yields were significantly down, due primarily to hail and frost at critical moments. This affected growers differently in different regions of the county. Retail nursery production was significantly down which growers attributed to the downturn in the economy. Registered organic growers have increased by 37 percent, with a total increase of acres under organic certification of 47 percent. . .

All figures represent gross production values and do not take into account the cost of production, nor do they reflect a net return to the producers.

From the introduction, you might come away with the idea that 2010 was just a bad year, with construction down and bad wine grape harvest and things will get better.  But, at the bottom of the report was this tabulation:

Now if we graph those numbers, we get a very disturbing picture of a downward trend.

Agriculture in Nevada County has been in decline for 8 long years. And, it looks like the growing seasons will become shorter, with late spring and early fall frost and cooler summers, like the one we had this summer.

I will be writing in a future post on my Next Grand Minimum blog about the climate impacts on wine grapes in California as the growing season gets shorter and the summers becomes much cooler.  Not great wine grape growing weather.


About Russ Steele
Freelance writer and climate change blogger. Russ spent twenty years in the Air Force as a navigator specializing in electronics warfare and digital systems. After his service he was employed for sixteen years as concept developer for TRW, an aerospace and automotive company, and then was CEO of a non-profit Internet provider for 18 months. Russ's articles have appeared in Comstock's Business, Capitol Journal, Trailer Life, Monitoring Times, and Idaho Magazine.

7 Responses to Economic Impact of Agriculture in Nevada County is Declining

  1. Bob says:

    Russ, we all know that these figures do not include the local marijuana industry. They aren’t supposed to. It is a point of discussion as to whether marijuana cultivation has an effect on these numbers or should be considered in relation to this data. I can add that the increasing marijuana cultivation has resulted in some local agricultural operations focusing more of their efforts on agricultural endeavors that are not reflected in these numbers. Another salient point with respect to this is that the numbers related to the marijuana portion of local agriculture dwarf these numbers that you have sited. It is because of this proportional aspect that this data may not provide information that can be used as usefully as one might think, expect or otherwise rely on.

    • Russ says:


      You make an excellent point. However, if Sheriff Keith Royal has his way the growing of backyard marijuana is soon going to be curtailed in Nevada County. He is proposing a zoning ordinance, which is attached to the current BoS Agenda and will be discussed at the meeting tomorrow afternoon. Try this link for a copy:

      • Bob says:

        Russ, no offense but I don’t think you fully understand the scope of this industry in this county. Yes there are “back yard” grows. There are also huge, so called legal grows. And of course there are illegal grows both large and small. The idea of curtailing the local marijuana industry by ordinance is like saying that use of firearms by criminals would be curtailed by ordinance. The only thing that will come out of any ordinance is how obvious the growers will be allowed to be. For that matter if this ordinance is inhibitive in any way I suspect there will be a court challenge. A lot could be said to better explain the scope of local legal and as well illegal cultivation. But in an attempt to convey how you might consider this issue, taking into account that I am certainly not a very good source, I estimate that Local cultivation probably represents 5 to 20 times all other “agricultural” operations at least with regard to value. Consider this, local growers supply stores average $3,000 a day. If there are four stores and these stores represent half of the supplies that are used for local cultivation that adds up to 7.2 Mil in supplies only. I think you would be shocked if you could get an answer from the sheriff’s office on their estimate of the total value of local cultivation both legal and illegal.

  2. RL Crabb says:

    You miss the fact that marijuana cultivation was a thriving industry before it became “legal”. I would argue that pot growers have contributed to the local ag economy since the Carter recession.

    • Bob says:

      Yes RL. It thrives even more now. It will effectively disappear in this county after commercial cultivation, processing and distribution is federally legislated.

  3. RL, so have meth dealers and cookers. Buying all that OTC medicine plus tax.

  4. Russ says:

    It is the 13th and The Union just discovered the subject.

    According to the Ag Commissioner, marijuana is a controlled substance, not an agricultural product.

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