Monterey County farmers in California grew more strawberries than former champion Florida, where this strawberry grew in 2019. (Zack Wittman/for The Washington Post)

Congratulations, Colquitt County, Ga. You’re the turnip-green capital of America! And Cumberland, N.J.? You did it! You lead the nation in escarole and endive.

Every five years, the Agriculture Department’s Census of Agriculture allows us to answer important questions about the nation’s vast farm sector. It also allows us to settle bar bets by anointing the true “capital of America” for everything from lentils (Sheridan County, Mont.) to cranberries (Plymouth County, Mass.) to mushrooms (Chester County, Pa.).

This census can’t count a town’s heritage or identity, but it’s our definitive source for what American farmers are producing here and now. For consistency, we focus on total acres harvested or the nearest available equivalent, often something like acres grown or, in the case of maple syrup (Franklin County, Vt.), taps.


We placed commodities in loose categories to keep things manageable, but don’t consider these designations canonical. If you amateur agricultural taxonomists out there think we should re-categorize your favorite produce or county, email us.

Redundant, limited or obscure categories were eliminated. The USDA sometimes suppresses data for smaller geographic areas to prevent folks from gathering intel on specific farmers. To limit data suppression, we’ve restricted our search to the county level.

Berries, nuts and miscellaneous other crops

Monterey County, Calif., is the Strawberry Capital of America.

The duel for Strawberry Capital of America is heated. In fact, we first became fascinated with the business of naming national agricultural capitals during a story about unusually low life expectancies in Stilwell, an eastern-Oklahoma town once proclaimed Strawberry Capital of the World.

They don’t grow many strawberries in the rocky soil of the Ozark foothills these days. The real honors go to Monterey County, Calif., where wide-open fields and powerful farming interests harvest more acres of strawberries (about 11,700) than the rival California counties of Ventura and Santa Barbara, and more than Florida champion Hillsborough County, home to the city of Tampa.

In an era when more and more farm income is earned by a few vast farming operations, the capitals of popular crops such as strawberries tend to be found in counties whose soil and topography are best suited to industrial-scale agriculture.


The unfortunate truth? Stilwell probably needs strawberry-related attention more than Monterey does. Anchored by the city of Salinas, the coastal California county is just one crop behind neighboring Fresno County in the race to be America’s Agricultural Capital. Monterey holds the title for a cornucopia of vegetables, including artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach, and sugar and snow peas.

Berries, nuts and other miscellaneous crops

CropTop county, 2017Top county, 2012
AlmondsFresno, Calif.Kern, Calif.
BlackberriesMarion, Ore.Marion, Ore.
BlueberriesWashington, MaineN/A
BoysenberriesMarion, Ore.Marion, Ore.
ChestnutsOttawa, Mich.Alachua, Fla.
Christmas treesClackamas, Ore.Clackamas, Ore.
CranberriesPlymouth, Mass.Plymouth, Mass.
English walnutsSan Joaquin, Calif.San Joaquin, Calif.
HazelnutsMarion, Ore.Yamhill, Ore.
HopsYakima, Wash.Yakima, Wash.
MacadamiasHawaii, HawaiiHawaii, Hawaii
Maple syrupFranklin, Vt.Somerset, Maine
MushroomsChester, Pa.Chester, Pa.
PeanutsGaines, Tex.Gaines, Tex.
PecansDona Ana, N.M.Doña Ana, N.M.
PistachiosKern, Calif.Kern, Calif.
RaspberriesWhatcom, Wash.Santa Cruz, Calif.
SesameJones, Tex.Colorado, Tex.
SodPalm Beach, Fla.Palm Beach, Fla.
StrawberriesMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
SunflowerSully, S.D.Sully, S.D.
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture

Field and grain crops

Pulaski County, Ind., is the popcorn capital of America.

The Midwest is littered with would-be popcorn capitals, from North Loup, Neb., to Marion, Ohio, but the latest data show a surge in production has propelled Pulaski County, in northwest Indiana, into the lead. The two previous censuses placed the popcorn capital in the central Illinois county of Mason.

The overall corn title is more complicated. If you look at grain corn, Brown County in northeast South Dakota takes the top spot, but the nation’s sweet corn capital is now Palm Beach County, Fla., as changing tastes lead to a steep drop in production in many northern counties.

At the state level, Iowa remains the grain-corn capital, while Minnesota retains its sweet-corn title. As a rule, state capitals for each crop change less often, but the geography is too broad for our purposes.

Field and grain crops

CropTop county, 2017Top county, 2012
BarleyToole, Mont.Bottineau, N.D.
BuckwheatFranklin, Wash.Kidder, N.D.
CanolaCavalier, N.D.Cavalier, N.D.
CottonLynn, Tex.Lynn, Tex.
FlaxseedWard, N.D.Ward, N.D.
Grain cornBrown, S.D.Iroquois, Ill.
Hay (inc. Haylage)Cherry, Neb.Cherry, Neb.
MilletWashington, Colo.Cheyenne, Neb.
OatsAroostook, MaineAroostook, Maine
PopcornPulaski, Ind.Mason, Ill.
RiceColusa, Calif.Colusa, Calif.
RyeKingfisher, Okla.Kingfisher, Okla.
SafflowerMeade, S.D.Box Elder, Utah
Sorghum (grain)Nueces, Tex.Hidalgo, Tex.
SoybeansCass, N.D.Cass, N.D.
SugarbeetsPolk, Minn.Polk, Minn.
Sweet cornPalm Beach, Fla.Grant, Wash.
TobaccoJohnston, N.C.Wayne, N.C.
WheatWhitman, Wash.Chouteau, Mont.
Wild riceShasta, Calif.Shasta, Calif.
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture

Much of the nation’s farm revenue is concentrated in a handful of fertile Midwestern states, but when it comes time to crowning the beet capital of America, they just can’t compete with specialists like Genesee County, N.Y., outside of Rochester. The farm-belt states tend to pour their energy into headline crops such as soybeans (Cass County, N.D.) and corn (Brown County, S.D.).


Fruit

Hidalgo County, Tex., is the watermelon capital of America.

To the outside observer, it often seems places that declare themselves the nation’s flaxseed (Ward County, N.D.) or cherimoya (Ventura County, Calif.) capital are really just seeking an excuse to invite everyone to an outdoor celebration while the weather’s still nice. Watermelons are more or less synonymous with that sort of party, so of course there’s no shortage of pretenders to the watermelon capital throne.


According to the Orlando-based National Watermelon Promotion Board, watermelon capitals include: Cordele, Ga.; Hope, Ark.; Weatherford, Tex.; Green River, Utah; Naples, Tex.; Beardstown, Ill. and Rush Springs, Okla. But the true capital, USDA data shows, is Hidalgo County, Tex., at the southern extreme of the state along the border with Mexico. Watermelon production has fallen in Texas, however, and on the state level it has ceded its crown to Florida.

[Philip Bump: Would Trump object to Mexico seizing Hidalgo County, Tex.?]

Fruit

CropTop county, 2017Top county, 2012
ApplesYakima, Wash.Yakima, Wash.
ApricotsStanislaus, Calif.Stanislaus, Calif.
AvocadosVentura, Calif.San Diego, Calif.
BananasMiami-dade, Fla.Miami-Dade, Fla.
CantaloupeFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
CherimoyasVentura, Calif.N/A
CoffeeHawaii, HawaiiN/A
DatesRiverside, Calif.Riverside, Calif.
FigsMadera, Calif.Madera, Calif.
GrapefruitSt. Lucie, Fla.St. Lucie, Fla.
GrapesFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
GuavasMiami-dade, Fla.Miami-Dade, Fla.
HoneydewFresno, Calif.Sutter, Calif.
KiwifruitTulare, Calif.Tulare, Calif.
KumquatsSan Diego, Calif.San Diego, Calif.
LemonsVentura, Calif.Ventura, Calif.
LimesSan Diego, Calif.San Diego, Calif.
MangoesMiami-dade, Fla.Miami-Dade, Fla.
NectarinesFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
OlivesTulare, Calif.Tulare, Calif.
OrangesTulare, Calif.Hendry, Fla.
PapayasHawaii, HawaiiHawaii, Hawaii
PassionfruitMiami-dade, Fla.Miami-Dade, Fla.
PeachesFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
PearsHood River, Ore.Hood River, Ore.
PersimmonsFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
PineapplesHawaii, HawaiiN/A
Plums and prunesSutter, Calif.Sutter, Calif.
Pluots and plumcotsFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
PomegranatesMadera, Calif.Kern, Calif.
PrunesSutter, Calif.Sutter, Calif.
PumpkinsMason, Ill.Tazewell, Ill.
SquashOceana, Mich.Miami-Dade, Fla.
Sweet cherriesSan Joaquin, Calif.San Joaquin, Calif.
TangelosTulare, Calif.Tulare, Calif.
TangerinesTulare, Calif.Kern, Calif.
Tart cherriesLeelanau, Mich.Oceana, Mich.
WatermelonHidalgo, Tex.Hidalgo, Tex.
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture

Vegetables

Oceana County, Mich., is the asparagus capital of America.

Oceana is back! The self-proclaimed “Asparagus Capital of the Nation” hadn’t led the nation in asparagus acreage for years, but in 2012 it wrested its title back from California’s fertile San Joaquin County, home of rival capital Stockton’s San Joaquin Asparagus Festival. It continued to outproduce the California county in 2017.


In fairness, Oceana’s triumph was primarily a function of falling production in California’s Central Valley. Oceana County’s asparagus production has remained fairly steady this millennium, while production in the California county has plunged 86 percent since 2002.

Vegetables

CropTop county, 2017Top county, 2012
ArtichokesMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
AsparagusOceana, Mich.Oceana, Mich.
BeetsGenesee, N.Y.Genesee, N.Y.
Bell peppersPalm Beach, Fla.Palm Beach, Fla.
Black-eyed peasJackson, Fla.Autauga, Ala.
BroccoliMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
Brussels sproutsMonterey, Calif.Imperial, Calif.
CabbageMonterey, Calif.Hidalgo, Tex.
CarrotsKern, Calif.Kern, Calif.
CauliflowerMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
CeleryMonterey, Calif.Ventura, Calif.
ChickpeasWhitman, Wash.N/A
Chili peppersLuna, N.M.Ventura, Calif.
Chinese cabbageSan Luis Obispo, Calif.San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Collard greensColquitt, Ga.Colquitt, Ga.
CucumbersBay, Mich.Saginaw, Mich.
DaikonFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
Dry beansGrand Forks, N.D.N/A
EggplantFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
Escarole & endiveCumberland, N.J.Monterey, Calif.
Fresh herbsVentura, Calif.Hidalgo, Tex.
GarlicFresno, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
Ginger rootHawaii, HawaiiHawaii, Hawaii
GinsengMarathon, Wis.Marathon, Wis.
Green onionsImperial, Calif.Fresno, Calif.
HorseradishModoc, Calif.Madison, Ill.
KaleMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
LentilsSheridan, Mont.Williams, N.D.
LettuceMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
Lima beansSussex, Del.Sussex, Del.
Mustard cabbagePalm Beach, Fla.Hawaii, Hawaii
Mustard greensMonterey, Calif.Colquitt, Ga.
OkraFannin, Tex.Imperial, Calif.
OnionsBenton, Wash.Fresno, Calif.
ParsleyFresno, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
PeasUmatilla, Ore.Umatilla, Ore.
PotatoesBingham, IdahoBingham, Idaho
RadishesPalm Beach, Fla.Palm Beach, Fla.
RhubarbPierce, Wash.Clackamas, Ore.
Snap beans (green and wax)Portage, Wis.Portage, Wis.
SpinachMonterey, Calif.Monterey, Calif.
Sugar and snow peasMonterey, Calif.Canyon, Idaho
Sweet potatoesMerced, Calif.Merced, Calif.
TaroHonolulu, HawaiiKauai, Hawaii
Turnip greensColquitt, Ga.Colquitt, Ga.
TurnipsNewaygo, Mich.Newaygo, Mich.
WatercressFresno, Calif.Ventura, Calif.
Note: Dry beans exclude chickpeas.
Source: USDA Census of Agriculture

Of course, if your favorite county lost its spot on top of the rankings for horseradish (Modoc County, Calif.) or potatoes (Bingham County, Idaho), you’ve got plenty of excuses. County (or equivalent, such as parish) is an inconsistent geographic unit, and gives states with enormous counties, such as Arizona, an advantage over states with smaller ones, such as Virginia.

It also may split a crop’s heartland, or otherwise dilute a farm’s contribution toward a region’s status as peach or parsley (both Fresno County, Calif.) capital of America.