(April 2, 2010)—Avocados are the top food crop produced in San Diego County, and it is a $140 million-a-year business. However, 2009 was one of the worst years for the local avocado industry in recent memory.
For avocado farmers like Noel Stehly, the last few years have been a challenge.
"It's been pretty rough," said Stehly.
Water cutbacks and water price increases have played a role in the tough times. 10News visited several Stehly's Valley Center farm two years ago when had to stump 30 percent of his trees to save water.
His crop was down 35 to 40 percent last year. It was too hot at times and too cloudy at others.
However, Stehly said, "This crop is great. The crop we're harvesting right now is not a record crop, but we're definitely in better shape."
Stehly added the weather has cooperated, and said, "We've had great rain. The trees are happy."
Growers are also happy because more rain means less watering and less salt in the soil. Growers are seeing plenty of bloom on the trees now.
"We like to see a good, heavy bloom. It's nice. It's encouraging," said Stehly.
Bees have also helped, as they are pollinating trees this spring. Last year, there were too many cloudy days.
In sunny and warm weather, bees love to work, and Stehly said he has more than 1,000 hives full of bees to pollinate his avocado trees.
His trees have plenty of avocados now, with the promise of more to come.
"The consumers will see a little bit of a price decrease at the store level. In turn, they'll hopefully buy more because we have more to sell," said Stehly.
After years of nothing but bad news, local growers said they are finally getting a break.
"You got the birds chirping. You got the bees humming. It can't get any better right now," said Stehly.
Stehly has about 200 acres of avocados that are grown organically.
His family has been growing avocados and other fruits and vegetables in the county since 1962.