Much of the remaining agriculture in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties takes place in the High Desert, an eco-region located in northeastern Los Angeles County, southeastern Kern County and western San Bernardino County. The name Antelope Valley is often used to refer to the western tip of the Mojave Desert. Lancaster and Palmdale are the major communities in this area, with approximately 150,000 residents in each. Agriculture is also significant in some of the smaller communities, such as Willow Springs, Little Rock, Newberry Springs and Barstow.
A few decades ago, agriculture used to be the main industry in the High Desert (historically known for its extensive alfalfa fields). Now, the Antelope Valley is a bedroom community to the Greater Los Angeles region, with its population increased from approximately 60,000 in the early 1980s to approximately 485,000 in 2010.
Alfalfa and small grains hay, onions, carrots, potatoes, peaches, pears and nectarines are all grown commercially in the High Desert. Cherries, apples and grapes are also grown commercially but in smaller scales and mostly as U-Pick operations.
The total value of crops produced in LA County in 2009 was more than $189 million, ranking number 32 out of 58 counties in California. San Bernardino is ranked 25 with a total agriculture value of approximately $355 million (CDFA, 2009-2010).
Overall, agricultural production has increased in the Antelope Valley since the mid-1990s due to the increase in production of vegetable crops (mainly onions and carrots) and fruit crops (mainly peaches)--28 percent and 15 percent, respectively. Agricultural acreage of vegetable crops has increased significantly from 9,090 (1999) to 11,670 (2000), primarily due to the influence of the carrot industry.
During the 1950s, Los Angeles County was the largest agricultural county in the U.S. Wheat, orange, dairy and poultry were the main commodities. Over the years, the increasing urbanization of LA County has moved these operations to other areas. Today, it is the largest urban county.
For more information about the history of Los Angeles County agriculture, please click here.