Agriculture is the leading industry in Yolo County. The unincorporated area of Yolo County has exceptionally productive soils, an excellent growing climate and adequate water supplies which support its large and diverse agricultural industry. Leading crops are tomatoes, seed crops, rice, wheat, other grains, wine grapes, fruit, and nut crops. Other unique assets in Yolo County that support agriculture are the agriculture and biotechnology programs of U.C. Davis, the growing cluster of biotechnology firms, seed industry research and production facilities, and large and small food processors. Davis, in fact, takes its name from a prominent farmer-settler in the area named Jerome C. Davis.
During the late 19th century, wheat became a major crop in Yolo County due to its deep, fertile soils and suitable climate that allowed the growers to raise the crop on rain-fed water alone. The other major dry-farmed grain crop in the area was barley, which was sold to beer makers in the U.S. and Europe. It is said that “Yolo Beer” in English pubs was in great demand.
Large-scale irrigation began in Yolo County in 1856 when James Moore built a dam across Cache Creek. Alfalfa was the major irrigated crop at first, but in time many specialty crops were common in the Davis area, such as grapes, hops, sugar beets, tree fruits, and nut orchards. With the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, local fruit was sold in markets throughout the eastern seaboard.
Major Crops Today
Yolo County and the Davis area have long been famous for processing tomatoes, and the crop remains the leading commodity in terms of gross revenues in the county, with a gross value of more than $107 million in 2013. The four next most valuable crops in 2013 in Yolo County in order were wine grapes, almonds, rice, and walnuts. Other major crops are alfalfa, field corn, wheat, and sunflower seeds. Those beautiful sunflower crops you see at the edges of town are of particular interest. These crops are grown as planting stock for world-wide sunflower oilseed production, and the area is a concentrated center for the production of this seed.
To view photos of agricultural landscapes in the Davis area, click here.