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Placer County agriculture value hits record high as almonds make new inroads

Placer County reports that the gross value of agricultural crops and products for 2020 was over $90 million dollars.

AUBURN, Calif. — The 2020 Agricultural Crop report is in for Placer County, and despite the pandemic, it was a record year.

In total, the county’s gross value topped $90 million -- $90,710,116, to be exact. The total is 4% above 2019’s value and the county’s highest value ever.

Josh Huntisinger, agriculture commissioner and sealer of weights and measures for Placer County, said he, like many others, was concerned about what the pandemic would mean.

“At first, we did worry about that, but what we found is actually people were so eager for a place to get out and interact with other humans, that the farmers markets and farm stands actually had a significant increase in growth and traffic,” Huntsinger said.

He reacted to Placer County’s total gross value of agricultural crops and products topping $90 million for the first time ever.

“It’s a milestone for sure. But it’s just, I think it’s a sign of things to come. I think agriculture is really on an upswing in Placer County,” Huntsinger said. “There’s two different types of Ag (agriculture) in Placer County. There’s the big kind of commodity Ag down in the valley which is cattle, walnuts, almonds, rice, then there’s a lot of small-scale farmer’s market, farm-stand farmers up here in the foothills. And both are actually increasing.”

Rice and beef continued to lead the pack for most valuable crops, but tree nuts are quickly gaining ground.

“We’ve gone from 900 acres of nut trees to about 9,000 acres in the last five years. And those are starting to come into production, and that’s really where a lot of the dollar value increase is coming from,” Huntsinger said.

Manroop Purewal, co-owner of Gopure Farms alongside partner Gurjit Gosal, knows first-hand why almonds are now, suddenly, the fifth most valuable crop in Placer County.

“We have heavier soils. Drainage is not as good. You can cause disease to your trees, and they can die. So those fundamentals, I think, kept people at bay historically from planting here. But there’s been advances in new root stocks that have been developed that are more tolerant to heavier ground and more water. So that was the big break-through in terms of it being reasonable and suitable to do what we’re doing,” Purewal said.

He explained how it feels to be part of Placer County’s upward trend.

“Rewarding. I love working with Placer County on many different fronts. And just the stuff I’m doing to contribute to that means a lot, and they’re a good partner to have in terms of a local government agency,” Purewal said.

Purewal said he sees expansion in the near future.

“There are some land constraints, but I see it’s mainly over here on the west side. I see more and more, at least, nut guys coming in and the rice guys continuing to do what they do best.”

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