Since the earliest settlement of the region by the Spanish in the 18th century, agriculture has been vital to the California economy. The gold rush of the mid-19th century was followed by the intensive exploitation of petroleum and minerals. As the population grew, fishing and forestry became important, and by the late 19th century light manufacturing industries had developed. Industrial diversification proceeded swiftly in the early 20th century. The motion-picture, radio, and, later, television industries added other dimensions to the economy. World War II (1939-1945) accelerated industrial development and spawned the state’s large aerospace industry. Government and educational services expanded rapidly after the war, as did tourism and other service industries. The economy suffered a recession in the early 1990s, fueled by cutbacks in aerospace and other military-related industries, coupled with a slowdown in housing construction. By the late 1990s, however, California’s economy had rebounded, showing sustained growth in both jobs and production. It took a hit in the first decade of the 2000s, especially in the wake of the financial crisis that began in 2008.
By a number of different measures, California has long been the nation’s leading agricultural state. It leads all other states in farm sales; in 2004 California’s farm sales first topped $30 billion. It produces about half of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts grown in the United States. California also produces a greater variety of crops than any other state. The state’s leading agricultural commodities by value in the mid-2000s were dairy products, nursery and greenhouse products, grapes, lettuce, and almonds.
California’s farms are among the most productive in the world. The high production is based in large part on the fertile soils and long growing season of the region, the widespread practice of advanced farming techniques, and the availability of water.
Most of the farmlands lie in the dry Central Valley and southern areas of the state, where farmers are dependent on irrigation projects, such as the Central Valley Project, for water. With the exception of only a few commodities, such as barley, most of the state’s numerous crops are grown on irrigated lands. Some 79 percent of California’s cropland was under irrigation in 2005. Livestock ranching is the main activity on the nonirrigated farmlands. However, livestock are also frequently raised on irrigated pastures. California leads all other states in the total amount of land irrigated. Although many crops are grown in each of the farming areas of the state, within each area the individual farms tend to specialize in certain products.
A great variety of crops, especially fruits and vegetables, are grown in California. The state accounts for nearly the entire U.S. production of walnuts, almonds, nectarines, olives, dates, figs, pomegranates, and persimmons. It leads the nation in the production of vegetables, including lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, celery, cauliflower, carrots, lima beans, and spinach, and also of apricots, grapes, lemons, strawberries, plums and prunes, peaches, cantaloupes, avocados, and honeydew melons. It is the nation’s leading producer of hay and the second leading producer of cotton. California is also the second ranking state in the production of rice, oranges, tangerines, grapefruit, apples, pears, sweet corn, and asparagus. Nearly every crop grown in the United States is represented in California fields.
Crops account for nearly three-fourths of the state’s annual farm income, with the rest coming from livestock and animal products. Vegetables are grown primarily in the Central, Imperial, and Salinas valleys. Cotton is raised primarily in the southern San Joaquin Valley. Citrus fruit production is centered in southern California and the southeastern San Joaquin Valley. Grapes, peaches, potatoes, barley, and figs are raised chiefly in the San Joaquin Valley; and rice, sugar beets, and pears are raised mainly in the Sacramento Valley. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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