Ups, downs of county’s agriculture industry detailed |

Ups, downs of county’s agriculture industry detailed

When houses don’t go up, trees don’t fall.

That’s primarily why Nevada County’s timber production dropped by nearly $3 million between 2008 and 2009, experts said.

In the annual crop report released by the Nevada County Department of Agriculture, timber production shows a steep decline, dropping from nearly $5.7 million in 2008 to nearly $2.7 million last year.

“Demand for timber has fallen off,” said Mark Pawlicki, a spokesman with the logging giant Sierra Pacific Industries, which owns property in the Tahoe National Forest. “New housing starts totaled 2.2 million nationally in 2006, and they fell to 500,000 last year. That in itself triggered a fall off.”

It also triggers a price drop, as builders are paying less for timber than in economic boom times, Pawlicki said.

Western Nevada County’s Robinson Enterprises, another logging firm, had to lay off workers after doing only 30 percent of the business in 2009 as it did in 2008, said co-owner Ed Walker.

“This year’s been a little bit better, though,” he added.

Overall, the county’s agricultural production dropped by about $2.6 million from 2008 to 2009, mostly owing to timber, Agriculture Commissioner Jeffrey Pylman said.

Despite a huge drop in acreage used to produce wine grapes – in 2008 workers harvested 402 aces of Nevada County vineyards, a number that dropped to 248 in 2009 when the former Pendagio Vineyard in Penn Valley was lost to foreclosure – the county’s production dropped only slightly. In 2008, Nevada County’s wineries harvested $1.5 million in grapes, dropping to $1.4 million last year.

“Wine grape production was partially offset by very good yields,” Pylman said. “Yields were up and prices were up.”

Pendagio, under new ownership and now named Penn Valley Vineyard, is expected to add most of its nearly 200 acres to next year’s crop report.

One of the report’s bright spots was a near doubling in the production of fruits and vegetables, up to $656,000 from $377,400 in 2008. The bump can be attributed to the increase in interest in locally grown foods, Pylman said.

“There’s a lot of consumer interest, they’re supporting local agriculture,” Pylman said. “I think the farmer’s markets have helped quite a bit.”

The ranks of the county’s farmers are growing, said John Powers, president of Nevada County Grown. The group keeps track of local farming.

“(The increase in production) is driven by the buyers,” Powers said. “People are smart and they want to know what they’re eating. We’re thrilled about it.”

Pylman presented the report to the Nevada County Supervisors Tuesday.

To contact Staff Writer Kyle Magin, e-mail or call (530) 477-4239.

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