The state of California boasts the eighth-largest economy in the world. California’s contribution to the United States outpaces even its immense size and population.
Many people guess incorrectly when asked what California’s number one economic sector is. It’s not high tech. It’s not films. It’s farming! California’s agricultural juggernaut supplies much of the world with crops of almost all kinds, from grapefruit to grass-fed beef.
In warm Southern California, citrus trees rule much of the landscape; you can even find grapefruit groves in the harsh climate of the Anza-Borrego Desert. The Central Valley’s flat, fertile fields produce everything from rice to corn to tomatoes. In the summertime, tomato trucks drive routes all around Sacramento to processing plants that create that all-important American staple food: ketchup.
The cooler Central Coast  region grows sweet strawberries and spiky artichokes in abundance. As the fog gets colder and drippier in Marin, ranchers take advantage of the naturally growing grasses to ranch herds of cattle destined for the growing sustainable-food market. In truth, cattle are ranched all over the state, from the far-north reaches down to the southern deserts.
Today, as awareness grows about the harmful affects of pesticides and petrochemical fertilizers on both the land and consumers, organic farms and ranches are proliferating across California. In addition to the giant factory farms so prevalent in the Central Valley, you’ll also see an increasing number of small farms and ranches growing a variety of crops using organic, sustainable, and even biodynamic practices. Most of these farmers sell directly to consumers by way of farmers markets and farm stands—almost every town or county in the state has a weekly farmer’s market in the summertime, and many last year-round.
And then there’s the wine. It seems like every square inch of free agricultural land in the state now has a grapevine growing on it. The vineyards that were once primarily seen in Napa  and Sonoma  can now be found on the slopes of the Sierra Foothills, down south in Santa Barbara , and even close to coastside in Mendocino and Carmel . Surprising to some, it’s actually the wine industry that’s leading the charge beyond mere organic and into biodynamic growing practices, such as using sheep to keep the weeds down in the vineyards and provide natural fertilizer, or harvesting grapes and pruning vines according the moon’s cycles to promote optimum wine quality. (In truth, it makes sense, and serious wine drinkers are willing to pay premium prices for top-quality vintages.)
The motion picture industry draws the most publicity to California. Though little filming takes place in and around Hollywood  today, it’s still the home of the major studios and their prominent executives.
In Northern California, Silicon Valley  has made a name for itself as the epicenter of the technology industry. Despite the expense of property in the Bay Area , nearly every major high-tech company maintains a presence somewhere near Silicon Valley, as many were founded and are still headquartered there. Major tech legends include Hewlett-Packard in Palo Alto , Apple Computer in Cupertino, and Intel on the border of Santa Clara and San Jose .
Google remains loyal to its hometown of Mountain View, and Microsoft has opened offices throughout Silicon Valley . During the “dot-com boom” of the early 1990s, nearly everyone in the region seemed to somehow be employed by the tech industry, and when the bust came it hit the region like a ton of outdated CRT monitors.
Today, the tech industry still provides hundreds of thousands of top-paying jobs in Silicon Valley  and throughout the greater Bay Area and most residents of the region tend towards the tech-savvy.