Agricultural producers still our cornerstone

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Huge part of Gillespie County’s economy still relies on the traditional ag trade

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Think tourism is the largest driver of the economy in Gillespie County? Think again.

Agribusiness, as noted in the 2018 Community Visioning report, still makes up more than a third of our local economy. About 37 cents of every dollar comes from agribusiness.

That study also cited numbers showing that roughly 26% of the economy’s revenues came from tourism-related activities, while the other nearly three-fourths were non-tourism related.

That’s not to slight tourism, which is a huge part of our economy, but to hold up agriculture as the cornerstone that got Gillespie County to where it is today and show that it still remains the driving force in our economy.

Agriculture, of course, can include crops (such as peaches and grapes), goat or sheep products and beef.

Some challenges to this industry include the rising cost of land in Gillespie County, access to training programs and post-harvest processing facilities, housing for workers and water use in our semi-arid environment.

Yet opportunities also abound. Ag producers use more advanced technology these days to assist with everything from crop rotation to animal inventory.

Agricultural pursuits also drive quality in other parts of the economy. Our active farm-to-table producers help our top-quality restaurants get known for their freshness and premium ingredients. And Texas Tech University-Fredericksburg is starting a farm-to-table program to increase training opportunities in this field. Food crops also play a part in the processed foods sector, which is a big part of the manufacturing base here.

In the crops category, there have been several large grape production facilities added, many in conjunction with winery operations. This, along with other investment and knowledgeable producers, has helped increase the wine quality in this region. Wine drinkers no longer think of Texas wines as an afterthought and any serious consumer knows there are superb wines being produced here.

We also are excited about the offerings to be had at the future Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, which should multiply educational opportunities in wine and food fields.

Agriculture faces the same challenge in terms of workforce and housing that other industries face, but we are grateful for top minds and investors making inroads in these areas.

We write this to note that agriculture still plays the dominant role in our economy. Let’s not lose sight of that as we keep an eye on peach blooms through this late winter and spring. (See our story on page D1 to show this crop’s fragile nature.)

So throw up a prayer for our peach growers in Stonewall and Fredericksburg to help them avoid a late freeze. Our economy depends on their success — more than we know. – K.E.C.