Eighty-five percent of California strawberry farmers are of Asian or Mexican descent, according to a report this week from an industry group. That's not the case with any of the other major sectors in California agriculture, where the vast majority of farmers have European roots.
The report, from the California Strawberry Commission in Watsonville, offers a few reasons for the success of these groups: The fruit produces high yields from small plots. The land typically is rented rather than purchased, which reduces upfront costs. And consumers can't seem to get enough of the product, which has health benefits to go along with the flavor.
The report says 65% of the farmers are Latinos, a quarter of them former field workers. The 20% who are Asian include Japanese American farmers, who have been part of the industry for about a century, and people with roots in Laos.
Almost all of the California crop grows in the coastal belt between Santa Cruz and San Diego counties. It ranked sixth in gross income among the state's farm products in 2012, bringing an estimated $1.94 billion to growers.