Located on the west side of California's San Joaquin Valley, Huron is the only town in Westlands Water District, the largest private water district in the United States. Every March and November, when Huron produces 90 percent of all the lettuce in the United States, the population expands from 6,000 to nearly 12,000. Most of the influx consists of single, transient men who follow the lettuce circuit. Huron has five labor camps and 8 bars. Huron has no McDonalds, no Boy Scouts, and no high school. Huron lacks a lot of things most towns take for granted. It is little more than a giant farm labor exploitation camp. This essay puts a human face on a situation that all too often is reduced to statistics and bar graphs.
This project is part of a multi-volume, multi-decade effort uniting scholarship, literary journalism, and social documentary photography. It underscores the huge and widening gap between rich and poor in rural California, where a dozen small, increasingly impoverished, dysfunctional farm towns exist on the edge of chaos, drifting in and out of bankruptcy, little more than giant farm labor exploitation camps. This trend has always existed, but in the past ten years has accelerated. My work questions the over- dependence on industrialized, petro-agriculture. My goal is to heat up the debate about the nature of agribusiness, nudge food production toward a more humane and sustainable system, and provide a model that encourages academics to adopt a broadened and more engaged approach to scholarly enquiry.
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California Rural Legal Assistance
California Institute for Rural Studies
Fund for Investigative Journalism
Knife Fight City