Economics in the land of food + wine {Sonoma County}

sonoma county graphThe food and wine connection in Sonoma County is a beautiful thing. Don’t get me wrong, there are natural tensions, as in all relationships.

But from my perspective, they are a match made in heaven. Cooking with local ingredients + pairing it with local wines =  my kitchen “self-actualization” to borrow a term from good ole’ Abraham Maslow.

My day job deals with economics. And one principal continues to ring true: “It’s good to diversify.”

After reading the Press Democrat’s article showing Sonoma County posted losses from the 2011 grape harvest, I was concerned. Wine grapes are the dominant agricultural crop of Sonoma County representing 60 percent of the county’s farm production last year. So an 11 percent decline hurts. A cool summer reduced the size of the grapes and delayed the onset of harvest, exposing the vines to rains, which can cause vine rot. No bueno.

Yet an array of small farmers from around the county posted gains in crops like eggs, milk, apples and lamb.  Twelve of the county’s $15 million-dollar crops posted increases in value last year.

Revenues from sheep and lamb doubled.

Gravenstein apples increased 51 percent.

Later varietal apples increased 22 percent.

Chicken eggs and other miscellaneous livestock products increased 17 percent.

Vegetable crops jumped 15 percent.

Grapevine nursery stock increased 49 percent.

Agricultural wine and food sectors add nearly $2 billion a year to the County’s $24 billion economy.

Now of course, like all good economists, we must consider the externalities.

Like the fact droughts in New Zealand and Texas increased demand, but higher feed and fuel costs locally offset some of those gains.

Dairy revenues also had their share of externalities to contend with, and even though 2011 value of milk is considerably better than 2009, last year’s average price remained below estimated cost of production for North Coast Dairies according to the Department of Food and Agriculture.  And California’s minimum milk price since has dropped.

Apple farmers enjoyed the best Gravenstein harvest in a dozen years with 10,000 tons of fruit.

In total Sonoma County’s agricultural bounty dipped 1.7 percent last year, to $581 million in 2011.

Is it me?  I see some balance here.  When one crop experiences a rough patch, the others help lessen the overall economic blow.

As a resident here, I can’t express eloquently enough how much our county’s food and wine connection makes me love living here.

Stay diversified Sonoma County. Makes me love you even more.

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