Here at the Chamber we are preparing for our 21st year of celebrating Santa Maria’s favorite fruit: the strawberry. Each year, thousands gather at our Strawberry Industry Recognition Dinner and the Strawberry Festival paying homage the delicious commodity and those who work so hard to keep the local industry thriving.

If you’re like most Californians you enjoy about 7 pounds of this savory crop every year. In fact, last year alone, consumers bought 174,604,452 flats of California-produced strawberries – nearly 1.4 billon individual packages! That’s a lot of love for the strawberry! But while you’re enjoying the tasty fruits, have you ever stopped and thought about all it takes to produce the berries and get them to your grocer, or the rich history that brought them to your backyard?

Today, of the 85% of the nation’s berries that are grown in California, Santa Maria Valley is the third largest producing region growing 8-10 varieties and around 212 million strawberry plants each year and employing thousands of people. As one of our valley’s top 3 commodities, the strawberry industry fuels our economy to the tune of over $75 million each year. Here’s a brief overview of the extensive process: plants are developed by scientists at UC Davis; growers buy, plant and grow them; packing companies make boxes and clamshells and give them to the growers; farm workers harvest the berries and package them;  they are sent to cooling houses; and finally they shipped to various grocery stores for your enjoyment.

If the economic impact wasn’t enough to celebrate about this sweet treat, here are some of the incredible nutritional facts we can all appreciate.

  • One serving (about eight strawberries) fuels the body with a powerful combination of essential vitamins, fiber, potassium, phytonutrients and antioxidants: antioxidant levels in strawberries are among the highest of all fruits
  • Regularly eating strawberries may help reduce the risk of heart disease, fight certain types of cancer and lower blood pressure
  • Deliciously sweet, strawberries are exceptionally low in sugar
  • One serving of strawberries contains more vitamin C than an orange
  • CA Strawberries are a delicious and nutritious super fruit for every day

It is for all of these reasons and many others, that we happily join with Major Sponsor, California Giant and all of those in the California Strawberry industry in highlighting this important facet of our community at the annual Strawberry Industry Dinner.  The event evolved to recognize farmers, employees and other individuals who contribute so much to the industry. A committee gathers nominations for special recognitions that are presented that evening including: Grower of the Year, Cooler of the Year, Sales Association of the Year and Supervisor/Manager of the Year.

The dinner attracts businesses who do business with the Strawberry growers as well as individuals who want to know more about the industry. Please, join us in paying tribute to these fine families and workers, and of course the bountiful berry itself on April 13th at the Santa Maria Fairpark. Cocktail hour featuring live entertainment by Mariachi Alma de Jalisco begins at 6pm with dinner and program at 7pm. The event will be emceed by George Chavez (L&G Farming/ Sunberry Sales) and Tony Gonzales (Mega 97.1 FM). Dinner will be a Santa Maria Style BBQ with strawberry flair catered by Testa Catering. And ambiance provided by DJ Pete Ruiz of A Class Act Entertainment. Make reservations no later than April 4 online by clicking here. For more information, contact Marcy at marcy@santamaria.com or 805.925.2403 x816.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA GIANT: California Giant is one of the nation’s leading strawberry grower-shippers, producing over 13 million crates annually. Although headquartered in Watsonville, they also have major growing and cooling operations in Oxnard and Santa Maria. Their berries are offered in a variety of pack styles, are shipped year-round to customers all over the world, and are known for their excellent quality. California Giant is a leader in the fresh produce industry in many areas. Their on-going breeding research program continues to develop new varieties best suited to each of our growing districts’ unique climates with the important characteristics of excellent taste and appearance. They are even testing varieties on a global level, with varieties now growing in Argentina, Australia, Italy, France, Guatemala and Spain. They are proud of our products grown here in the Santa Maria Valley and shipped all over the world, and proud to be a part of the Santa Maria Valley business community.

Also, special thanks to Naturipe Berry Growers for sponsoring the entertainment at the Strawberry Dinner!