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Colors of California Agriculture

From the Sierra Nevada to irrigated Mojave farmlands to the expansive Central Valley to cool, coastal ecoregions to the northern forests, California’s varied ecosystems allow for agricultural production on a massive scale. The state produces 450+ commodities, accounting for more than a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts. Milk and cream, grapes, almonds, cattle and calves, lettuce, strawberries, pistachios, tomatoes, walnuts, and broilers comprise the top-ten valued commodities, and this doesn’t even include the most probable number one crop, cannabis, generating in more recent estimates upwards of $25 billion annually. In Locavore parlance, California is not only a leader of the “farm to table” movement, it’s also a leader in agricultural production under-the-table.

Colors of California Agriculture is a compendium of interpreting the agricultural archives of The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. These photographs and visual artifacts from California’s history combined with a major gift of nearly 1,500 photographs by Peter Goin to The Bancroft are signs leading to a fundamental truth about the pride of agriculture. Photographing California agriculture means ingesting the signs and metaphors of perfunctory objectness—the crop is lettuce, or berries, or pistachios, or olives or everything grown or raised, there in full color, like a ripe tomato. On another side of the faceted jewel of California’s agriculture are the disguised workers toiling under a hoodie with rake, earning field-hand wages while ensuring timely harvesting that is critically important to growers and consumers. The countless workers come and they go, some stay, and where they live is even less known. This book is the story of agriculture, the new nature.

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