A Geographer Looks at the San Joaquin Valley
By James J. Parsons
1987 Carl Sauer Memorial Lecture

It is part of the venerable tradition of cultural geography that ordinary landscapes or regions are worthy of serious scholarly attention. No theory, however, explains the magnificent heterogeneity of elements that make up a place. When we distill and evaluate our cumulative observations of a landscape value judgements are involved at every turn. Selectivity is forced on us lest we become completely mired in particulars. Emotion, aesthetics and intellectual content inevitably overlap. In a manner similar to the probing of the character of an individual or a group we seek to know better the personality of a geographical space by examining its physical form, its inhabitants, and their relationship with both the land they occupy and the world beyond, most profitably in historical perspective. Cultural geographers, with their concern for a varied earth and their license to range widely, for travelling the back roads, are likely to find such an exercise in 'reporting' particularly congenial but it is the kind of thing that anyone can try his hand at.

There are few places for me more exciting or more rewarding to experience than California's San Joaquin Valley, especially in the blistering heat of an afternoon in late summer when everything seems to be happening at once. It has been called "The world's richest agricultural valley," a technological miracle of productivity where dog-eat-dog competition is at its keenest. Yet even Californians tend to take this big, flat world for granted.

By that name, of course, we refer to but a part of the larger Central Valley of California, that alluvium-filled structural trough between the Coast Ranges and the Sierra that stretches for more than 400 miles from Redding to the Tehachapis. The northern third of the Great Valley, drained by the Sacramento River, is smaller and better watered, more Anglo-Saxon and much less populous that the San Joaquin. And it lacks the cotton fields, the vineyards, the orange groves and the oil fields that are so symbolic of the latter. The San Joaquin, wider and much more intensively developed, includes half a dozen substantial cities, from Stockton to Bakersfield, with Fresno, the regional capital, a metro area nearly as big as Albuquerque.

It is easy to forget that only the northern half of the San Joaquin is drained by the river of that name. The Kings, the Kaweah and the Tule drain into the Tulare Lake Basin, dammed off from the San Joaquin system by the broad fan of the Kings River. Further south the Kern River terminated in two smaller lakes that today, like the former Tulare Lake, have dried up, the waters that fed them long since diverted to irrigation. Despite first appearances the valley is not flat. The eastside fans of the Sierra streams give a marked asymetry to its profile, low shifting the bio-axis of the valley well to the west. The natural levees that border the Sacramento-Feather system to the north, creating the backwater basins of heavy clay soils with their rice farms and duck clubs, are largely absent in the San Joaquin.

The southern part of the valley was a barren desert waste with scattered saltbush (Atriplex) when first viewed by Don Pedro Fages in 1772 coming from the south over Tejon Pass. Beyond he could see the tule marshes, fed by streams carrying Sierra snowmelt, that for several months each year became the wintering grounds for migrating waterfowl, including Canadian geese, pintails, cinnamon teal and whistling swan. But it was and is dry country. Less than five inches of rain annually falls in southwestern Kern County, maybe ten inches at Fresno. Pan evaporation in a summer month on the west side pushes 20 inches.

The valley's summer heat is intense but dry and so much more tolerable than the stifling humidity of a mid-western July or August. The relatively cool valley nights could scarcely be bought at any price in St. Louis. In the last 30 years air conditioning, of course, has immeasureably improved the liveability of the valley. Thanks to the dryness of the air, even a simple 'swamp cooler' is still effective, even though irrigation has perceptibly raised atmospheric humidity. The shade trees grown tall in older parts of so many towns have further eased the worst of the summer heat, in which afternoon temperatures above 100°F as much as the rule as the exception. It is the same heat, of course, that provides such ideal growing conditions for the valley's multitude of crops.

The most disagreeable part of the valley weather is surely the dense tule fog that shuts out the sun for days or even weeks at a time in the winter when stagnant high pressure systems clamp down on California. The effect of the fog on valley life is far-reaching -- chain highway pile-ups, airport closures, business slowdowns, schools on 'foggy day schedules' (a unique valley institution) with busses and classes running one or two hours late. The sometimes persistent blanket of fog has at least one positive aspect. It provides protection for the citrus industry from the threat of damaging frosts that clear, cold winter nights might otherwise bring.

The first Europeans found a substantial Indian population in the valley. Some have suggested that the density was as great as that of any non-agricultural people in any part of North America. They were village-dwelling Miwok and Yokut who were specialized hunters, fishers and gatherers. There were salmon in the northern drainage, lesser fish, turtles and shellfish in the southern lakes and marshes, as well as roots, bulbs and grass seeds to be gathered. This was an open landscape, with locally fine stands of stately valley oaks (Quercus lobata), especially on the fans of the Kings and Kaweah rivers and around Stockton, that were much prized for their acorns. Each of the Sierra rivers supported a diverse riverine vegetation in its lower course of which small remnants still survive. South of Tulare Lake the oaks disappeared, but there were ash, cottonwood and black willow far out onto the valley along the Kern delta. The native grasses, apparently annuals to the south, bunch grasses to the north, were early replaced by introduced Mediterranean species, perhaps a response to excessve grazing pressure from the large numbers of European cattle that early replaced the native elk, pronghorn antelope, and even grizzly bears. Beaver and river otter populations were early decimated by trappers


There are at least three ways of looking at the San Joaquin Valley. The most widespread one seems to be to simply ignore it, or perhaps to denegrate it as irrelevant. California, after all, is the nation's most urbanized state. Most of the population lives packed into the metropolitan areas along the coast and lack personal ties with the agricultural interior. The nine percent of the state's population that lives in the valley is 'out there somewhere' but the other Californians rarely cross paths with them. The most recent enrollment figures show that only some 3 out of every 100 students on the Berkeley campus, for example, come from the 8-county San Joaquin, although it is literally at its back door (they go to Fresno State, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo or UC Davis). Valley landscapes are most often perceived as endlessly monotonous, something to get behind you as quickly as possible on the way to LA, the Sierra, the attractions of Nevada or eastward from there. For those who choose to see it thus, or not to see it, it is a benighted land, cursed by either dank and chilling fog or relentless summer heat, by poverty and arrogant wealth, a land not understood (or perhaps not worth understanding) and so without redeeming features.

J. B. Jackson has observed that disdain for the dull, workaday, utilitarian countryside (and for the rich men who have exploited it so effectively) is part of a peculiar California environmental philosophy that sees only two significant aspects to the world -- the city and the wilderness.1 The valley, first of all, means agriculture and that is an activity increasingly beyond the ken of modern city folk. Who needs farms, as they say, when we have supermarkets?

Occasionally, briefly, some place or event calls the valley to our attention: an earthquake at Coalinga, a school bus hijacking out of Chowchilla, a picket line in Delano, a controversy over water or toxic waste disposal, or the discovery of a colony of African killer bees, but by and large it is seen by the editors of the metropolitan press as Dull Valley, USA. In a special issue of the now defunct Coast magazine a few years ago on "The 100 Best Places in California" not one San Joaquin Valley attraction made the list and only the elegantly refurbished Capitol building in Sacramento from the entire Central Valley.

Even valley natives, especially ex-patriates, may adopt this cynical attitude. Listen to the acid pen of Joan Didion:

Every so often along 99 between Bakersfield and Sacramento there is a town: Delano, Tulare, Fresno, Madera, Merced, Modesto, Stockton. Some of them are pretty big now but they are all the sae at heart, 1-2-or-3 story buildings artlessly arranged so that what appears to be a good dress shop stands behind a W.T. Grant store, so that Bank of America faces a Mexican movie house ('dos películas y bingo'). To a stranger driving in an air conditioned car .... these towns must seem so flat, so impoverished as to drain the imagination. They hint at evenings hanging around gas stations and suicide pacts sealed in drive-ins. An implaccable insularity is their mark. They think alike and they look alike. I can tell Modesto from Merced, but I have lived there, gone to dances there; besides, there is over the main street of Modesto an arched sign which reads 'Water-Wealth-Contentment-Health.' There is no such sign in Merced. 2

A second and increasingly common way of looking at the Valley is as a symbol of capitalism gone rampant, of all that is bad about profit-based, large scale, labor-intensive irrigated agriculture. Frank Norris started it, depicted the Southern Pacific RR as the "Octopus," dramatizing the Mussel Slough tragedy in modern Kings County when the railroad ruthlessly drove settlers off the land. Carey McWilliams and John Steinbeck picked it up in the 'thirties with Factories in the Field and The Grapes of Wrath.

Today's critics are as likely as not to depict grasping corporations, made fat by subsidized water, exploiting hapless immigrant field workers in a system excessively dependent on agricultural chemicals, costly machinery and the economies of scale -- or getting bigger. Or they may focus on how the domination of nature, especially the domination of water supplies, can lead to the domination of some people by others through abuse of irrigation laws, such as acreage limitations that were never enforced.3 Recently there has been a growing apprehensiveness as to the long-run sustainability of production under conventional agricultural systems as groundwater reservoirs are mined and aqueducts reach out tentacle-like to bring in more water to irrigate more land that in some cases perhaps never should have been irrigated.

But it is really no news that there are enormous environmental problems confronting the San Joaquin Valley --- too much or too little water, water of the wrong kind and in the wrong place, too much use of pesticides, herbicides, and excessively heavy machinery, land becoming compacted, too salty for cropping, fertile soils going irretrievably under asphalt. Nor is it news that there is an economic crisis building on the highly specialized business that is modern California farming. Shrinking export demand, slumping commodity prices, the nose-dive in land values, and overextended farm indebtedness dating from the euphoria of the seventies are taking their toll. Pinched Kern County farmers, including some of the biggest operators, are even considering selling a part of their allocations of state water to the thirsty Metropolitan Water District of southern California, a move that could make them as much water brokers as farmers. These and other matters undeniably cry out for attention.

A third way is looking --- actually looking --- at the San Joaquin, at the visual, esthetic dimension of the built or cultural landscape and the magnificent diversity of crops giving up the bumper harvests of food and fiber that have made California agriculture for so many one of the wonders of the world.

I happen to like the valley. It's the state's engine-room, where much of the serious work gets done. For me there is a wondrous excitement in the sweeping vistas of fields and orchards from the new, ramped up I-5, the flatness of the horizon, the green and brown checkerboard or the Mount Diablo-based township-and-range survey system (especially as seen from the air). I'm fascinated by the contrast between the endlessly straight section-line roads (or U.S. 99 aflame for half the year with the reds and whites of its oleander plantings down the center strip) and the graceful curves of the great federal and state aqueducts, by the clean geometry of the countless lesser canals and of I-5 itself with its Caltrans 'poppy' designating it a 'scenic highway' --- by the vertical silhouettes of the occasional grain elevators, the cotton gins, the equipment dealers' yards full of bright-colored John Deere harvesters and J.I. Case tractors, the feed lots (85,000 cattle listening to recorded music and giving their special aroma to the air at Harris Ranch,) the stately rows of Washingtonia or Canary Island palms marking the approaches to some of the older ranch headquarters, the modules of cotton like great loaves of bread covered with colored tarps waiting to be hauled to the gin, even the packing sheds, icing facilities and canneries huddled along the tracks in every valley community. Then there are the county fairs with their Future Farmer and 4-H encampments in the animal barns, the Cinco de Mayo celebrations, the wineries and their tasting rooms, Foster Farms (vertically integrated from hatchery to supermarket, producing 40 percent of California's meat birds), the truck stops crowded with big rigs from all over the country, the vernacular architecture of the highway strip developments and new shopping malls, the worn and bare-boned Kern County oil fields, the machine shops and farm service facilities characteristic of so many valley towns. And the color, variety and magic of the valley towns themselves (at least some of them), islands of leafy green in the summer, glued to the railroad tracks that were once their lifeblood, the original plat distinguishable from the newer sections with their streets conventionally oriented to the N-S and E-W of the survey system. Even the Third World barrios of Mexican and Filipino farm workers, a transient population whose economic status and system of values are reflected in the untidy but honest and lived-in appearance of houses and yards, help evoke the spirit of place. But most of all the visitor is likely to be caught up with the endless procession of crops, sometimes identified by signs ("apricots," "figs," "wine grapes") erected by a local service club for the benefit of the 'city slickers' who may have had their curiosities aroused, by the riot of almond blooms in February, of peaches in March, of orange blossoms redolent with fragrance in April, or the westside's vast reaches of snowy-white cotton bolls in September, the bustle and movement of workers and machines at a harvest time that is different for each crop. One's senses are strained to take it all in.


Spanish interest in the San Joaquin had been confined to occasional forays in search of Indians willing to be baptised. In the last few years of the Mexican era a few scattered ranches had been established on belatedly made land grants. Early American activity was concentrated at the north end, close to the navigable waters of the Bay and the Delta, where the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers converge. Stockton, on the way to the Southern Mines, had a certain vitality from the early Gold Rush years. The Butterfield stage route passed through places like Mendota, Visalia and Bakersfield when these were little more than posts for the changing of horses.

Cattle ranching dominated land use at first, later replaced by sheep, trailed each summer to Sierra pastures, and about 1870, by bonanza wheat farming. Wheat, a quick dryland crop, required little attention and it shipped well. The market was Liverpool. Huge tracts of land were assembled in this period by land speculators with names like Miller & Lux, Friedlander, and Chapman. Here and there modest diversions of water from artesian wells or Sierra streams were made, as on the Kern and the Kaweah fans (deltas in the local parlance), but the first substantial settlement at Visalia was a determinedly ranch culture of southerners dedicated to avoiding manual labor.4 Confederate sympathizers, they left a lasting imprint, strongly reinforced much later by the Dust Bowl immigration of the Great Depression. The southern San Joaquin is still today the land of chicken-fried steaks, biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, and okra and greens. It is also the land of drag racing, southern country music, and religious revivals. Fundamentalist Protestantism predominates. Jehovah's Witnesses alone have a remarkable 105 congregations between Stockton and Bakersfield and a new giant assembly center outside of Madera (14 acres, 500 parking spaces) to serve them!

With the arrival of the San Joaquin Valley Railroad (later the Central Pacific) in the mid-1870's canal building and irrigated farming began to take hold. With no woodland to be cleared or heavy sod to be broken it was an 'easy' frontier for settlers. The railroad, with its extensive checkerboard land-holdings, supported immigration societies and promoted townsites and land sales. The rails opened the valley to outside markets. The link to Los Angeles via Tehachapi Pass was completed in 1876. Refrigerator cars came a few years later. Swarms of immigrants from the east and from Europe were attracted by 20 and 40 acre plots either in cooperative colonies or private land development schemes. The colony names --- Scandinavian, Temperance, Nebraska, Nevada, Alabama --- tell part of the story. As late as 1910 Patterson, a model community with a street pattern reminiscent of Washington, D.C., was established on the west side by such a promotion. Delhi, an unsuccessful State-sponsored colony on the 'sandy mush' soils of Merced County, came even later.

Such settlements were almost always focused on intensive fruit growing. Grapes that had been accidently allowed to dry on the vines in the California Colony near Fresno in 1875 had given rise to an industry that soon was to dominate that area. Fruit culture encouraged family residence on the land. Towns like Selma, Reedley, Sanger, and Clovis have their roots in what came to be known as the Fresno Colony System. The last two, with Madera, were also early sawmilling centers, terminals for wooden flumes that brought logs and lumber from the Sierran forest to the east. A fence law passed by the legislature in 1874 had made stockowners responsible for damage caused by free-grazing animals, thus acknowledging the primacy of farming. Water rights, however, remained a sticky issue. The Lux-Haggin decision of 1886, insuring the rights of riparian land owners, was modified the next year by the Wright Act authorizing the establishment of irrigation districts. These could sell bonds and levee assessments to finance water developments, a signal victory for non-riparian, small-holder interests. Such districts --- there are more than 50 in the valley today --- have been held largely responsible for the region's rapid agricultural development in the early decades of the present century.

It has been the massive importation of water from the Sacramento River system since World War II, first by the Bureau of Reclamation's Delta-Mendota Canal and later by the Central Valley Project's California Aqueduct, that has brought on the final paroxysm of irrigation development in the valley.5 Below cost contracts for water delivery, especially while the anticipated urban demands of the Los Angeles Basin were developing, made it profitable for some growers who had been dependent on the costly pumping of ground water to shift to the cheaper and more reliable imported aqueduct water. But the chief benefactors have been a relatively few large land-owners, usually corporations, who were in a position to open raw land for the first time.


The succession of ethnic groups that have supplied the hands to plant, till and harvest the crops of the valley began with the Chinese.
6 They were available to provide precisely the kind of seasonal labor that was needed, whether by land baron or small holder, once railroad construction was on the wane. When anti-Chinese sentiment intensified, they drifted on toward the cities. The Japanese came next but in the end suffered a similar fate, tho they were the largest factor in the valley labor market as late as 1909. Today Nisei repatriates from World War II internment camps are among the most successful valley growers. So too are descendants of the wave of Armenian immigration which began arriving in the Fresno area in the 1890's, taking early control of the dried fruit industry. The late William Saroyan, born in Fresno, was their idol.

No ethnic group is more closely tied to one industry than the Portuguese. Dairying (and the value of milk exceeds that of cotton, the valley's number one crop, in most years) is largely in the hands of Portuguese from the Azores or their descendants. Communities like Hanford, Newman and Gustine have especially large Azorean minorities, their presence identifiable by the IDES social hall. There are more Azoreans in California today than in the Azores.

Other European ethnic groups who are closely identified with particular valley places include the Swedes (Turlock and Kingsburg), the Yugoslavs (Delano --- there are said to be some 200 families named Zaninovich in the area), the Dutch (Ripon), Germans (Reedley, Lodi), and the Basques (Bakersfield). Italians and Italian-Swiss are concentrated in the wine industry and in dairying. Only a few years ago Filipinos were still the most numerous field workers in the Delta's asparagus. Like the Sikhs from the Punjab their valley base is Stockton. There are Russians in Kerman, Assyrians in Modesto and Turlock, Japanese around Livingston. For most of these ethnic groups the church provides the cultural glue --- Dutch Reformed, Mennonite, Old German Dunkard, Armenian Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh.

The Dust Bowl immigration of the Depression era was of another sort--white Protestant Anglo-Saxons from Texas and Oklahoma, refugees from drought and poverty. The 'Okies' were immortalized by Steinbeck through the image of the Joad family bouncing west in their jalopies along Highway 66, looking for relatives in Weed Patch and Arvin and 'the water that tastes like cherry wine'. 7 Their indominatable optimism, their determination to survive and to overcome "even if you ain't got the do-re-mi" was captured in the songs of Woody Guthrie, their folk poet, and photographer Dorothea Lange. In those days cotton was still being harvested by hand and seasonal labor demands were large, with migrant pickers at the very bottom of the economic ladder. But mechanization and new irrigation techniques (overhead sprinklers, eventually 'drip' irrigation) changed the job pattern, bringing increased demands for skills and with consequently higher wages. Today they have 'made it'. First and second generation Okies pretty much run the valley.8 The merchants, politicians, the new land barons or growers (in the San Joaquin all farmers are either 'growers' or 'ranchers'; in Mississippi they would be 'planters') as often as not trace their family roots back to Texas or Oklahoma. There is no better confirmation of this than the obituary pages of the Fresno Bee or the Bakersfield Californian.

The black component of the Dust Bowlers, and they continued coming during World War II, is today confined to the larger valley cities. I know of no black rural enclaves nor are blacks often seen doing agricultural work today. A small black colonization project in Kings County, organized in 1910, fell victim to bad water and alkali. It is now a state park.

It is different with the Mexican-Americans or Chicanos. Since World War II a distinctive Mexican sub-culture has emerged in the valley. The old stock Hispanics, some dating back more than a century, are rarely found in the fields today. It is the newer arrivals from Mexico, whether legal or undocumented, who do the pruning, planting and picking. In each of the valley counties between 20 and 30 percent of the population is Hispanic, with Fresno at the high end. The United Farm Workers (UFW) under the charismatic Cesar Chavez has given them a new self awareness as well as an increasing political presence. It was Carey McWilliams, they like to say, who first "lifted us way up high, so we could see from above". They are in the valley to stay. More than others the Hispanics resist assimilation, for they have that minimum mass, as well as their language and religion, and that easy access to a supportive mother country that tends to keep them together, a culture within a culture.

The most recent migrant wave has been composed of refugee Hmong-speaking tribal people from the highlands of Laos. There may be 25,000 such hill folk--no one knows--mostly indigent, illiterate peasants who have arrived in the past three years, a staggering welfare burden on the valley communities affected. The population of the city of Merced with 9,000 Southeast Asian refugees, is 15 percent Laotian, with 100 new arrivals each month. The Merced phone book lists more than 100 subscribers with the surname of 'Xiong', 60 'Mouas', 35 'Vangs', apparently all Laotians. Fresno has as many or more. Yet there are virtually none of these in Madera, Modesto or Bakersfield. This is the kind of piling up in a few places that is likely to especially intrigue cultural geographers. Most are second and third stage migrants who, after an initial establishment elsewhere in the country, have moved to the valley on hearing of the congenial climate, the job opportunities in farming, and the low cost of housing.


To talk of the valley is to talk of agriculture. It could hardly be otherwise when five of the top ten agricultural counties in the U.S. are in the San Joaquin Valley, with Fresno, Kern and Tulare year after year ranking 1-2-3.
9 This billion dollar outdoor hothouse is said to produce some 200 crops that are shipped in carload lots. Except for cotton, no crop accounts for more than ten percent of the total production or area cropped. But this flat, linear world of California's Heartland is somehow outside the American rural farm tradition. There is no tobacco, no soybeans, no peanuts, and relatively little corn, wheat or even sugar beets. Mixed farming, based on an integration of crops and livestock in which the farmer feeds most of his crops to fattening animals, is unknown. Pigs are a rarity and beef cattle are pretty well confined to the unirrigated higher ground along the valley margins and a few feed lots. Without livestock, except in the dry-lot dairy districts, fences are unnecessary. The San Joaquin's is a speciality, cash-crop agriculture, in which the product is often perishable and subject to violent and unpredictable market fluctuations. It is dependent on a mobile labor force, adequate irrigation water, a long growing season and relatively rain-free summers. Rains at any time between June and October can be disastrous. Raisins drying on trays between the vines are especially vulnerable. Powdery mildew and brown rot have ruined many a harvest of table grapes or peaches. Untimely winter rains may knock the blossoms from early-blooming varieties of fruits or nuts or slow the pollenation activities of honey bees, a special concern with almonds, which require cross-pollenation.

Nothing has changed the structure of valley agriculture quite so much as mechanization. Mechanical picking of cotton was in place by 1950. Then came the tomato harvester and now most recently the mechanical harvesting of grapes, the vines especially trellised to accommodate the machines. It is the larger owners or farm management companies that are able to afford the investments that these represent altho rental equipment is widely available.

No one has successfully produced a map of the specialized crop districts of the San Joaquin Valley. The pattern is simply too complex, too much subject to rapid change. Water, soils, microclimate, pests, economic and historical parameters and the whims of judgement of individual farmers are all involved in the decision as to what to plant. Some crops, like almonds and alfalfa, are found almost everywhere. Others are sharply confined to restricted areas such as olives (Lindsay), cherries (Linden), asparagus (the Delta), carrots (Arvin), early potatoes (Shafter), tokay grapes (Lodi), bare-root roses (Wasco), and sweet potatoes (Atwater). Most of the orange growers are in a narrow thermal belt close to the mountains on the east side, centering on Porterville, Exeter and Woodlake. Patterson calls itself "the apricot capital of the world," Mendota "the cantaloupe city." Raisin grapes, chiefly Thompson seedless, are found especially on the sandy soils north and south of Fresno, table grapes around Lodi, Reedley and Delano. Cotton, with more than a million acres, is confined to the southern two-thirds of the valley, with most of it west of the SP railroad-Highway 99 axis. The northernmost gins are in Merced County.

Several crops have migrated into the Valley as a result of urban land pressures in the coastal metropolitan areas. Southern California orange growers moved en masse some years ago to the thermal belt in Tulare and Fresno Counties. Earlier walnut production had made the move north, especially to Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties, in part in search of a more pronounced dormant period and winter chill. Santa Clara Valley prune and apricot growers migrated to the Patterson area, reinvesting their monies from sale of their orchards and in the process driving up land prices. Whole communities have moved in response to such situations, their information and social networks assuring that most of them end up again as neighbors in the new valley location. In field crops there have been similar recent migrations, as with the shift of processing tomato acreage from the Woodland-Sacramento area to western Fresno County and garlic from the Hollister-Gilroy district to the disease-free soil and cheaper labor of Kern County. It has been happening, too, with dairies, those from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties finding new homes in Tulare and Kings, those from the Bay Area counties of Marin and Sonoma going to Stanislaus and Merced, as urban pressures have mounted.

There is a continuing search for viable new crops. A few years ago it was safflower, the thistle that provides an edible vegetable oil. More recently it has been pistachios, persimmons, and pomegranates (for juice). There is a push at the moment for kiwis, pecans, pineapple guava (feijoa), Granny-Smith apples, and a new tangerine as well as the desert jojoba shrub (for industrial wax) and even eucalyptus (for biomass heating). New strains of old crops and new hybrids are constantly being developed to increase yields, to counter pests and disease, to improve drought resistance, or to shorten the growing period sufficiently to permit double-cropping, as with grain sorghum and feed corn. Olive growers are looking for varieties with a reduced tendency to cyclical bearing, processing tomatoes have been developed with tougher skins that are adaptable to mechanized harvesting, grape root stocks have been found that are resistant to phylloxera. California has recently set record corn yields per acre with the development of hybrids tolerant of the relatively cool summer nights that are characteristic of the valley. Experiments with cotton at the USDA Shafter Field Station in Kern County have brought higher yields, stronger, whiter fibers, and improved resistance to verticillum wilt, gains that have been fixed by the one-variety cotton law that since 1925 has permitted only the high quality Alcala cottons to be planted in the San Joaquin Valley.

New varieties of nectarines with improved size, flavor and juicyness have led to a recent tripling of their acreage, almost all in Fresno and Tulare counties. Less frost sensitive avocados have permitted significant plantings of this crop, new to the valley, on hillsides bordering the east side citrus belt. Smudge pots or wind machines may still be required to break up the atmospheric inversion on an occasional cold winter night.

Changing market conditions may also lead to rapid-land use shifts. Demand for canned fruit has declined sharply in recent years, as occurred earlier for dried fruit, with resultant sharply reduced acreages of peaches, apricots and figs (prunes are almost entirely confined to the Sacramento Valley). The mix of wine grapes has tilted away from reds towards the white varieties in response to the rising popularity of white table wines and wine "coolers." With its much warmer summers, the valley cannot compete with the California coastal counties in the premium table wine market but it makes up in higher yields what it loses in prices paid by wineries.10 The higher sugar content of San Joaquin-grown grapes makes them ideal for sweet wines, raisins and table use and in these markets the valley reigns supreme. Eighty percent of California's grapes and more than half of the total of all grapes grown in the United States are produced in the San Joaquin Valley.

Both among large-scale and small-scale farmers nut crop plantings have soared in recent years, many of them on hardpan soils on older terraces, the 'hog-wallow' or 'red lands' along the east side, made accessible by chisel plowing and new irrigation technology. A few very large plantings, as in Kern and Madera, may suggest that almonds are largely a crop of agribusiness, but the Almond Growers Exchange has a whopping 5,800 members, mostly with fewer than 50 acres of orchard. Every county is well represented on their roster. Almond acreage now far exceeds that of any other tree crop and is nearly half of that in cotton. As with most California orchard crops, export sales are critical to the economic health of the industry.

The spectacular increase in pistachios (now 40,000 acres), concentrated in Kern and Madera counties, has been in significant measure the result of tax shelter strategies of non-resident investors. Much of the planting has been speculative, on leased land. The coincidence of the timing of the Iranian crisis and the cessation of imports from that country gave pistachios an early and unanticipated boost in the marketplace. Now, imports from Iran, dyed pink to hide imperfections and with a mandatory country of origin label, face a punative tariff of more than 200 percent ad valorem.

Increasingly other countries, especially those with Mediterranean climates, are finding that they can grow the same crops that California does and at lower costs. Brazilian orange juice, Chilean fresh fruits and wines, Mexican vegetables, both fresh and processed, Spanish and Italian olives and wine, as well as a growing number of crops produced by the heavily subsidized farmers of the European Economic Community, are leading Valley growers to call for protective tariffs or import quotas, thus reversing their traditional position in support of a policy of free trade. But each specialty crop is on its own, fighting its own battle, and the influence of any one of public policy and legislation is predictively minimal.

Growers associations, processing and marketing co-ops with names like Sunkist, Sun-Maid, Blue Diamond, and Blue Anchor that are household words in America, have been a distinctive feature of California and valley agriculture. They have represented a banding together of producers to do together what no single one could do separately. State and federal marketing orders permit crop Advisory Commissions to set standards for grades and sizes as well as the level of weekly shipments to encourage more orderly marketing conditions but, coincidentally, also to hold up prices. These commissions or boards may also involve themselves in product research and publicity. Twenty-one Bay Area advertising firms were bidding recently for an $8 million Blue Diamond account to promote almond sales. Promotional expenditures by the raisin producers, faced with a recurrent market glut, are often even higher.

The agricultural labor question is always just under the skin in the valley. The social system remains reminiscent of the plantation South, with a class of ethnically distinct and social inferior manual laborers that has proved to be generally impervious to union organization. The majority of farm-workers live in the towns and cities, commuting to fields by private car, truck or bus, often as members of a close-knit work crew that may stay together under a Spanish-speaking labor contractor for an entire season or longer. Wage rates are high compared to other parts of the country, but employment is limited for most to a few summer months each year. As a result government unemployment figures for valley counties tend to be among the highest in the nation. Dependence on welfare and food stamps is high.

Large-scale, corporate farming in the valley, and its socio-economic impact on local communities has been long discussed. 11 The U.S. Census of Agriculture12 provides an unsatisfactory data base for the study of this phenomenon because of confidentiality rules, the masking effect of statistical averages, and the fact that significant areas of non-agricultural upland, mostly range, are held by San Joaquin Valley operators (e.g., Tejon Ranch) and are included in the 'land in farms' category. The large size of valley counties, all but one of which extends eastward to the crest of the Sierra Nevada, further limits the value of both Census Bureau and State Department of Agriculture crop acreage and production figures for geographical analysis and mapping of the sort that has been done elsewhere.13 The blue-print land-use maps of the California State Department of Water Resources 1:16,500, based on ground-checked air photography, are available for most irrigated areas but dates of coverage vary. These, and the Agri-Land Atlases for each county, 14 periodically updated, nevertheless offer intriguing opportunities for the interested researcher.


The valley, of course, is not all agriculture. The 'kicker', especially in the far south end, has long been petroleum. Kern is the nation's Number One oil-producing county, accounting for more than half of the state's production even when the off-shore component is included. Kern alone produces more crude oil than Oklahoma!

The Kern River field came in immediately northeast of Bakersfield in 1899. Production had begun at Coalinga a few years earlier. But the real boost came with the celebrated 'Lakeview gusher' in 1911. With news of that roustabouts by the thousands converged on southwestern Kern County to erect a forest of derricks on the bare, rolling hills, giving rise to the giant Midway-Sunset field and to the city of Taft (named for the then occupant of the White House). Even today Taft is a "Texas-type" movie-set oil town, quite a-typical of the valley. Nearby is the Elk Hills Naval Petroleum Reserve. The Kettleman Hills anticline, the first oil-bearing structure developed under unitized, one-company management, came into western Fresno County in 1929.

Right now oil, as is well known, is in big trouble. Most of the Valley output is heavy, low-gravity stuff too thick to flow to the surface without help. Producers are increasingly dependent on costly secondary recovery techniques, especially the injection of super-heated steam into the sub-surface structures to coax the molasses-like crude towards the wellhead. Altho thousands of the older 'stripper' wells recently have been shut down in the San Joaquin, the smell of oil, the flavor it gives to life and landscape, will not soon be lost.

Oil and gas, together with the alternate 640-acre sections granted the railroads in the 19th century, has had a direct casual relationship with the 'bigness that we associate with agriculture in the southern San Joaquin. Much of the Southern Pacific land was sold off to Standard Oil, Texaco, Shell and others early on in the petroleum era. When the technology for deep-well turbine pumping, and later, subsidized water from state and federal water projects became available the oil companies found themselves becoming farmers. Sometimes as leasors, sometimes as operators, like Superior Oil and Tenneco (which took over the Kern County Land Company), they became major players in the new agricultural sweepstakes, with the capital, the technology and all the advantages that size brings. Now, with some of the gloss off of farming, they appear to be looking for ways to cut back or to get out.


Fresno, self-proclaimed "agribusiness capital" and the valley's center point, is a city of 270,000, its metro area now pushing 400,000 population. It has been sprawling northward towards the San Joaquin river, engulfing Clovis, Fresno State University and the state's principal fig-growing district and giving rise to the lush commercial strip along suburban Shaw Avenue. Fresno emphasizes its centrality in promoting state-wide meetings of business or government organizations in its big downtown Convention Center. As every Californian who has filed a Form 1040 knows the IRS regional processing center is in Fresno, with 6,000 employees (80% women) under one roof in a structure the size of 14 football fields. And Fresno State, with specialized programs in ag engineering and agribusiness, is today a school of 15,000 students, one of the largest in the state university system. The success of the 'Red Wave' athletic teams with their new 30,000-seat stadium, has generated a significant new pride of place and sense of identity through much of the valley. Direct air service east via Salt Lake City or Denver has helped end any feeling of isolation, and Los Angeles and San Francisco are only hours away by freeway or Amtrak.

But for all its advantages Fresno has an image problem. It received national recognition two years ago when in a much publicized rating of U.S. cities it placed dead last, 277th out of 277 Standard Metropolitan Areas. There was a storm of protest. 15 The Bee published a special 108-page edition to refute the "slander". The author, when brought to Fresno by the Chamber of Commerce for a look around, conceded that he indeed had been well off the mark. An average summertime daily maximum of 98° had heavily weighted the scoring. The publicity has had a certain positive effect, bringing a new concern about what 'quality of life' means and a commitment to 'to try harder'. A strong civic pride, perhaps born in part of inferiority complexes, is a characteristic of virtually all San Joaquin communities.

The other major valley cities, smaller than Fresno, may be growing even faster. Stockton is the valley's port and the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta area's regional capital, the most cosmopolitan of the bigger places. Modesto, its population exploding, is the food processing capital with the world's largest winery (Gallo) and the world's largest cannery (Tri-Valley). Bakersfield is an oil town but also the operational base for some of the state's leading farming corporations. Tenneco's role as a land developer has become visually more conspicuous than its traditional one in agriculture and petroleum as it has converted Stockdale Avenue in West Bakersfield into an upscale residential and business area with the regional headquarters of half a dozen major oil companies. Its centerpiece is the Cal State University-Bakersfield campus in much the same way that UCLA and UC Irvine were earlier the pivots for major land developments in Westwood and in Orange County.

Recent population growth in the San Joaquin Valley has been outpacing that of the state as a whole. In-migration, not natural increase, accounts for most of this. Bakersfield has begun to receive spill-over from Los Angeles, as Tracy, Manteca, Modesto, Stockton have from the Bay Area. Half of the new home buyers in north Modesto are said to commute over Altamont Pass to either the Livermore Valley or the South Bay. Many new arrivals are elderly folk who have cashed in their equity on more expensive properties elsewhere to buy retirement homes in the valley at one-third the cost. Newcomers talk a lot about tradeoffs. There are no longer in the 'Big City' or near the beaches but the Sierra is only an hour away and the Mother Lode and the foothill reservoirs, where fishing and boating are major attractions, are even closer. To a growing number of harried city folk the valley, with its lower living costs seems to be the last frontier of 'the California Dream'.

New industry is aggressively courted to offset the strong seasonal swing in farm employment but few except agricultural processing concerns have as yet been attracted. Most new plants have been located in planned industrial parks on the recently annexed outskirts of cities. Major government facilities such as the Lemoore Naval Air Station (Kings County), Castle Air Force Base (Merced), the Defense Department depots near Tracy and Stockton, are significant sources of employment. Two Kings County communities, Corcoran and Avenal, will soon have the new state prisons for which they vigorously lobbied. A pro-business climate has meant minimal zoning standards and pollution controls, but for how long? An early morning veil of brown smog lays low on the Fresno horizon with increasing frequency. During rush hours air traffic patrols direct commuters on the local radio. High ozone counts are suspected of reducing cotton yields and damaging the lower Sierra forests. The greatest lure continues to be the availability of land. The real boom may yet be several years away.


There is a popular conception of valley farming as dominated by huge corporations, with landscapes of big ownership stretching from one end to the other. Yet dispersed rural farmsteads, seldom exceeding half a section (320 acres), still characterize half of the San Joaquin's cultivated land. The areas in which each predominates can easily be identified on satellite imagery or even by the density of the road net on a good highway map. The finer-grained vineyard, orchard and dairy landscapes that characterize the earlier settled east side generally have a prosperous if not ostentatious air about them. For the most part they are the creations of family-type farming in which labor requirements and available technology has limited the amount of land that could realistically be handled. Within 30 miles of Fresno, for example, there are said to be 5,000 raisin growers and 20 packing houses. Most raisin producers are small-timers, the average vineyard being less than 40 acres. 16 With more sophisticated techniques and costlier machinery there inevitably have been property consolidations, along with the renting of additional acreage to attain higher production, but the familiar pattern of squared-off small holdings has not disappeared.

It is the newer lands of the west side, dominated by cotton and other row crops and opened up by costly deep-well pumping and more recently by the availability of imported federal and state water, that especially bear the stamp of large-scale corporate farming. The bed of what was once Tulare Lake is perhaps the extreme example, reclaimed by levees and drainage ditches and divided up between the Boswell and the Salyer interests into endless fields of cotton, grain and alfalfa. Here both people and farm structures are absent. It is field after field, squared off in sections or half sections by drainage ditches and irrigation canals almost to the horizon. One can see the same sort of thing on newly developed plans the Kern County section of I-5, or even on some of the rolling terraces on the valley's eastern margin that new techniques of irrigation have made farmable for the first time.

Government attempts to reduce agricultural surpluses by paying growers not to produce, or to compensate for lower prices designed to restore slumping export sales by increasing subsidies, have rewarded large operators disproportionately. Recent multimillion-dollar payments to cotton growers in the San Joaquin Valley have termed "obscene" by critics. 17 Payments to the A.G. Boswell Company, the Corcoran agribusiness giant cultivating 62,000 acres of cotton and 30,000 acres of wheat, were expected to exceed $10 million in 1986 according to the Department of Agriculture. In addition the tightly held company may receive as much or more as the market handler for its own cotton, grown largely for export markets. Another Kings County operator, Salyer American, was scheduled to collect nearly $3.4 million on its 28,000 acres of cotton as a result of the same 1985 Farm Law, passed in a growing atmosphere of desperation over the loss of United States export markets. At the same time a Kings County dairyman was being paid $8 million for going out of the dairy business under the Department of Agriculture "buy out" program designed to reduce the huge surpluses of milk and other dairy products. In recent years farm subsidy payments have been curbed by a $50,000 ceiling on checks to any single producer but the 1985 law created numerous intentional loopholes in payment limits. Large-scale operators have frequently split up their properties into smaller units, often parceling out land among family members or other partners to collect multiple $50,000 subsidy payments. As similar device has been employed to circumvent the acreage limitations on federally subsidized water, originally set at 160 acres by the Reclamation Act of 1902 but recently raised to 960 acres.

Life in the valley is inexorably tied to the crop calendar. A bewildering array of festivals, fairs and queen contests fill the spring, summer and fall months. There is movement everywhere, the highways crowded with trucks loaded with product of orchard, field or dairy, shiny steel tankers carrying milk to LA or the Bay Area, wine to Modesto, liquid fertilizer to the fields. In the winter, the dead time, naval oranges are picked and the pruning crews are busy in the vineyards and deciduous orchards. Truckloads of out-of-state bees arrive in January in time for the almond blooms. Cotton planting begins in April or as soon as the soil has warmed to 50 o F. There is an appealing freshness, and authenticity to many of the farm communities. Each seems to have its own cannery or packing shed and more often than not a machine shop or two where imaginative farmers and metal workers have combined to develop specialized agricultural machinery and irrigation equipment for their distinctive needs and those of their neighbors. The level of technological innovation in these shops is worthy of a Ph.D. dissertation. It is best displayed at the big Ag Machinery fairs each winter at Tulare and at Stockton. There is not a valley town worth the name that does not have one or more such shop. Caterpillar Tractor, after all, got its start in Stockton. So did R.J. LeTourneau, the earth-moving equipment manufacturer. The Stockton gang plow, the Berry steam harvester, the Fresno scraper and the Delta tule breaker were early local developments to meet specific valley conditions and needs. So, later, were the tomato harvester (a joint project of the University and a Rio Vista machine shop), the mechanical grape harvester, rotary orchard pruners, tree shakers and sweepers for nut harvesting, the cruise stacker for alfalfa, and the countless refinements of that behemoth of the fields, the air conditioned, 4-row cotton picker.

There is much to see and to wonder at in this magnificently complex, man-made countryside of the San Joaquin Valley. There may be those for whom the idea of studying, much less admiring, the landscapes of modern agribusiness seems somehow repellent. But no certain relationship exists, Peirce Lewis reminds us, between moral virtue and aesthetic values. 18 The landscape is morally neutral. Is the valley less interesting, its color and geometry less worthy of our attention, because some of its harvests go to enrich soulless corporations, its landscapes creations of the producers of non-union table grapes or boycotted wines? The prairies, oak parks and marshes, the wildflowers and tule elk may have been replaced by something quite different but, it seems to me, still intriguing, even exhilarating. It is the vernacular or built landscape of the cultural geographer, the commonplace or unplanned space of everyday rural living. To judge it from I-5 or even old Highway 99 is to miss much of the best of it. One needs to get onto the back roads, even the meanest of which in the valley are asphalted.


The San Joaquin is today a battleground where a whole production system is on trial. There is not only the matter of the social and economic consequences of very large-scale producing units and the huge monetary windfalls that so often have benefitted their owners. There is also the very nature of the chemical and energy dependent farming that has evolved here and the question as to its long-run viability as presently organized. The suspicion is dawning in some quarters that the high costs of inputs may not always be balanced by what comes back. Are we really ahead, it is being asked, when we use some of our best land to produce cotton or milk we don't need, or which can only compete in the world market with fat government subsidies? Can we endlessly douse the land with chemical fertilisers. pesticides and herbicides without eventually paying the price?

Environmental contamination, declining soil productivity, salinization, groundwater overdraft, the losing battle to maintain the levees of the Delta islands, and other problems resulting from conventional agricultural practices are beginning to receive a critical airing. So is the continuing conversion of superior soils to urban use and the paradox of poverty and farm bankruptcies in rural communities located on some of the best farmland on earth. 19 Recent conferences on "sustainable agriculture" sponsored by the University of California, long accused of a farm research strategy that has favored big landowners and the chemical industry, suggest a possible shift in the wind. It seems likely that alternative concepts, using a new vocabulary --- holistic or organic farming, agroecology, minimum tillage, integrated pest management, closely controlled water application --- will be increasingly on the agenda.

Recently a new dark cloud has appeared over San Joaquin Valley agriculture. The key words are 'Kesterson' and 'selenium'. 20 On much of the newly irrigated west side an impermeable substrata, the 'Corcoran Clay', keeps water from percolating down normally through the soil. When irrigated over a period of time a 'perched water table' or confined aquifer results that may eventually drown the roots of crops. Capillary action leads to lethal surface accumulations of salts and soluble minerals derived either from the soil itself or from the water applied to it. The introduction of large-scale irrigation to the high-selenium soils of the Panoche Creek fan, formed by outwash from the Coast Ranges, let the genie out of the bottle.

Migratory waterfowl wintering at the federal Kesterson Wildlife Reserve near Los Banos were the 'canary birds' that provided the evidence that things were not right. Deformities and deaths attributable to accumulations of selenium in the food chain at Kesterson began to attract national attention in 1984. It even made "60 Minutes". The selenium has been shown to derive from the drainage water coming off the newly irrigated soil derived from outwash from the Cretaceous rocks of the Coast Ranges to the west. Today the state and federal water bureaucracies are under siege with charges of 'cover-ups' and demands that they meet their 'public trust' responsibilities to protect endangered wildlife and the quality of public waters. The plugging of the drains of some 42,000 acres of the giant Westlands Water District land near Mendota which empty into Kesterson has been carried out under orders from the Secretary of the Interior in apparent recognition of possible violations of international migratory bird treaties as well as other legislation enacted by Congress.

The situation at Kesterson has reached a climax because the Bay Area has refused to accept the discharge of the axial valley drain (the San Luis Drain) that was originally planned to solve the salt and toxic waste discharge problem. Construction was stopped when it was only half completed and its waters were diverted into 12 shallow holding ponds or reservoirs within the marshy tract that had been designated a wildlife refuge. Possible ways of 'cleaning up' Kesterson, now that the drains are plugged, are under investigation. Most proposals have appeared either technologically impractical or involve unacceptably burdensome costs at a time when profit margins in farming are already severely depressed. The best hope may be a sharp reduction of drainage flow without unduly sacrificing yields through more closely controlled water delivery, perhaps combined with a shift to less water-demanding crops. Evaporation ponds, inevitably an attraction to wildlife, hardly offer a viable option where selenium accumulates in toxic quantities. Its removal by reverse osmosis, deep-well injection, flushing the poisoned water and scraping off the toxic bottom sediments, piping it across the Coast Ranges to Monterey Bay are among the possible solutions that have been under consideration.

Other areas ultimately will be affected by the lessons being learned at Kesterson. An even larger refuge and irrigation district nearby known as The Grasslands also contains worrisome levels of selenium and other minerals. The stakes are high. The valley's transition from wilderness to technological dominance took scarcely a century. It is not going to give up easily.

So we come back to the humanized landscape, the valley as a dynamic organism, an area to be appreciated for its own sake. The complexity of its patterns and problems, the countless adaptations and human decisions from which it is always evolving, make it a place of excitement and even of subtle beauty and grandeur, one of critical importance for California's present and future society and economy.

Human geographers view humans as cultural beings who live in a physical landscape. Geographical standing holds the promise of sharpening awareness, awareness of our environment and curiosity about it. As I have before, I would paraphrase the sage words of Carlos Casteneda's Yaqui Indian friend, Don Juan: "The world is stupendous, awesome, mysterious, unfathomable --- and above all beautiful... We are going to be here in this marvelous place at this marvelous time only a short while, in fact far too short for witnessing all of its wonders."

But time has a way of running out on us.

The San Joaquin Valley is only one small fragment of the giant tapestry that is the American land. It is a land lavish in scale and rich in potential for exploration and discovery, for "environmental appreciation" and the study of "locality as humane art." 21

Presented as Carl O. Sauer Memorial Lecture, Alumni House, University of California, Berkeley, April 30, 1986. Professor Parsons became Professor Emeritus at the university two months after this lecture, which is here slightly revised from the original.


1. J.B. Jackson, American Space: The Centennial Years, 1865-1876. New York: W.W. Norton, 1972, p. 194.

2. Joan Didion, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968, pp. 180-182.

3. Donald Worcester, Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity and Growth of the American West. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

4. Jackson, footnote above.

5. The California Water Atlas, (William L. Kahrl, ed.). Sacramento: Department of Water Resources, 1979; Worcester, footnote 3 above.

6. Carey McWilliams, Factories in the Field. Santa Barbara: Peregrine Smith, 1971, originally published 1935; California, The Great Exception. New York: A.A. Wyn, 1949, pp. 150-170. Sucheng Chang, Bittersweet Harvest: Chinese Immigrants and the Transformation of California Agriculture, 1860-1920 (MS).

7. Walter J. Stein, California and the Dust Bowl Migration. Westport, CT. and London: Greenwood Press, 1983.

8. James Gregory, American Exodus: The Emergence of an Okie Subculture in California (in press).

9. McWilliams 1971, footnote 6 above, William Preston, Vanishing Landscapes: Land and Life in the Tulare Lake Basin, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1981; Anne Foley Scheuring (ed.), A Guidebook to California Agriculture, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983; "Agriculture and the California Land" in California Tomorrow, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1983; Ellen Liebman, California Farmland: A History of Large Agricultural Holdings, Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Allenheld, 1983; Donald J. Pisani, From Family Farm to Agribusiness: The Irrigation Crusade in California and the West, 1850-1931, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1984; Kevin Starr, Inventing the California Dream: California Through the Progressive Era, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 128-166, and bibliographical essay, pp. 352-357.

10. Gary Peters, "Trends in California Viticulture," Geographical Review, Vol. 74, No. 4 (1984), pp. 455-467.

11. Walter Goldschmidt, As You Sow: Three Studies of the Social Consequences of Agribusiness, Montclair, NJ: Allenheld Osmun, 1978, originally published in 1947; James J. Parsons, "Corporate Farming in California," Geographical Review, Vol. 67, No. 3, pp. 354-357; Don Villarejo, Getting Bigger: Large-scale Farming in California, Davis: Institute for Rural Studies, 1981; Barbara Grondin, "Does Big Business Spell Community Doom," California Farmer, May 3, 1986.

12. United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, "1982 Census of Agriculture," Vol. 1, Pt. 5, "California state and County Data," Washington: Department of Commerce, 1983.

13. John Fraser Hart, "Change in the Corn Belt" in Geographical Review, Vol. 76, No. 1 (1986), pp. 51-72.

14. Agri-Land Atlas. San Mateo: Echoe Map Publishing Company, property ownership maps, 1984-1986, for each San Joaquin Valley county, 8 vols.

15. Sanford Ungar, "Fresno, Number 277," Atlantic Monthly, September 1984, pp. 18-26.

16. Peter King, "Ups and Downs in Raisin Land, Los Angeles Times, May 15, 1986, p. 1.

17. Jim Drinkard, "Big Farms in Line for Huge Subsidies," San Francisco Chronicle, July 25, 1986, p. 39.

18. Peirce Lewis, "Facing Up to Ambiguity," Landscape, Vol. 26, No. 1 (1982), pp. 20-21.

19. Eroding Choices, Emerging Issues: The Condition of California's Agricultural Land Resources. San Francisco: American Farmland Trust, 1985; Sally Lehrman and Lynn Ludlow, "Harvest of Despair," San Francisco Examiner, March 16 through 21, 1986.

20. "Selenium and Agricultural Drainage: Implications for San Francisco Bay and the California Environment." Proceedings of a Symposium held March 23, 1985 -- San Francisco: The Bay Institute, 1986; Tom Harris, "Selenium, Conspiracy of Silence," Sacramento Bee, September 8 through 10, 1985; William Davoren, "Selenium from the San Joaquin Valley and What it Means to Downstream Resources, Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Fisheries Society and the California Natural Resources Federation, Fresno, CA., January, 1986; Bill Sweeney, "The Central Valley and the Public Trust Doctrine -- Some Questions that Should be Asked and Answered," Talk at Los Banos Fairgrounds, October 6, 1984.

21. Donald Meinig, "Environmental Appreciation: Locality as a Human Art," Western Humanities Review, Vol. 25 (1971), pp. 1-11; "The Great Central Valley," a photographic project by Stephen Johnson aand Robert Dawson, with "Voices of a Place," an essay by Gerald Haslam, Pacific Discovery, Vol. 39, No. 3 (1986), pp. 15-30.

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