Our susceptibility to pastoral stories and mythologies affects our world in complex and significant ways. It shapes our agriculture policy. It compels us to buy certain products or brands over others. It allows us to rest assured that we are treading more lightly upon the land and its people than, perhaps, we actually are.
My reasons for choosing the San Joaquin Valley to explore these issues are numerous. Mainly, the region is one of the most important areas of industrial agriculture production on Earth. A staggering 20 percent of our nation’s food is grown there—some 300 commercial crops farmed by an ever-shrinking number of farmers and food corporations. As a consequence, the Valley has suffered environmental degradation the scale of which is still being mapped and understood, let alone mitigated.