The collapse of a major flower grower and heavy spring rains drove down the value of San Mateo County's crops in 2011, the fourth straight year of overall decline, according to the county's annual crop report.
Floral and nursery crops, which account for more than three-quarters of the county's agricultural value, saw the most significant plunge at 6.6 percent, while the overall drop was 4.7 percent. Other areas saw improvement, however, particularly Brussels sprouts, local production of which has surged in recent years.
The total gross value of the county's agriculture -- everything from artichokes and honey to timber and hogs -- was $137 million in 2011, according to the report, approved Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors. That's down from a 10-year high of more than $180 million in 2002.
The May 2011 bankruptcy of Nurserymen's Exchange, a major Coastside employer that had posted revenue of $62.7 million in 2010, was a major factor in the drop in value among indoor crops such as shrubs, hydrangeas and tulips. Fruit and nut crops, including wine grapes and strawberries, were down 27 percent.
Still, there was good news. Vegetables and timber were up 4.3 and 57 percent respectively, while products like honey and cheese saw strong gains.
"We have two segments of our industry where there were some losses," said county agricultural commissioner Fred Crowder, "but all the other segments posted pretty significant increases."
But the recession crippled demand for ornamental plants and flowers, and growers, also contending with foreign competition, have yet to recover. The value of indoor-grown potted plants like orchids and miniature roses has dropped from $91.1 million in 2007 to $79.5 million last year. The value of cut flowers has fallen from $10.5 million to $6.5 million over that same period.
"Everything has changed, and the economy's a large part of it," said B.J. Burns, owner of Bianchi Flowers Inc. in Pescadero. "People aren't buying like they used to buy."
Nurserymen's Exchange emerged from bankruptcy last year under new under ownership.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.