2015-10-10 07.26.35

SEMINAR IV: Eating in the Central Valley: How Food Shapes Culture: The Central Valley is often referred as the bread basket of the world.  Our study will center on the relationship between food processes and community identities.  Key Questions: What is the process of getting food from farm to table in the Central Valley and how does that process (both historic and current) inform our community identity? How does the competition between commercial farming and small farms shape our food rhetoric and symbolism? How is it that although the Central Valley is a center of food production, we also have some of the most unhealthy communities in the United States with epidemics in obesity and type 2 diabetes? What does this reveal about our social, cultural and physical relationship to food? MJC Faculty Organizer: Eva Mo.

LECTURE: October 14, 2015 from 3-5pm at Modesto Junior College, Performing and Media Arts Center (PAC), East Campus, Room 243

Lecture with Mario Sifuentez, Assistant Professor of History, U.C. Merced. Dr. Sifuentez’s research includes immigration, farm worker history, labor history, and food studies. And with Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern, Assistant Professor of Food Studies, Syracuse University. Special guest Ryan E. Galt, Associate Professor of Agricultural Sustainability and Society, U.C. Davis.

YOUTUBE VIDEOS - Dr Laura Minkoff-Zern and Dr. Mario Sifuentez






POWERPOINTS (pptx) - Dr Laura Minkoff-Zern and Dr. Mario Sifuentez

1. LAURA MINKOFF-ZERN – New American Farmer  (pptx)

2. MARIO SIFUENTEZ – Land-Food-Water rights (pptx)

CURRICULAR MODULES: Curricular modules including Food, Agriculture and the Central Valley


DISCUSSION: November 4, 2015 from 3-5pm Bauer’s 66 1/2, 1700 Mc Henry Avenue, Ste 66 1/2, Modesto.
Seminar discussion of required and recommended readings: David R. Montgomery’s Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations; Joyce Goldstein’s Inside the California Food Revolution; William Emery’s Edges of Bounty; David Mas Masumoto’s Letters to the Valley and Epitaph for a Peach; Amy B. Trubek’s The Taste of Place; and the article “Healthy People 2010: Profile of Health Status in the San Joaquin Valley.”


Seminar IV Discussion and Reading Priorities

Highest Priority

1.      David Mas Masumoto. Letters to the Valley. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, pp. 1-45
            and Epitaph for a Peach. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books.
2.      William Emery, Scott Squire. Edges of Bounty: Adventures in the Edible Valley. Berkeley, CA: Heyday Books, 2008, chapter 1.
3.      Fabio Parasecoli.  “Food, Identity, and Cultural Reproduction in Immigration Communities” in Social Research: Food and Immigrant Life, Vol 81, No. 2, Summer 2014, pp. 411-439.


David Mas Masumoto’s Letters is an excellent introduction to this Humanities project. His thoughts and “literary field notes” bring to life the people and issues surrounding agriculture, farming, labor and history. It’s a quick read, accompanied with watercolor illustrations, like the kind you’d find in an old 1940s edition. Enjoy. You’ll also get Masumoto’s classic Epitaph for a Peach. Peruse it, and bring your favorite passages to the discussion. Rare are such insightful and profound descriptions from the farmers themselves that we get from Masumoto.  That’s why we need to rely on the work of outsiders such as William Emery and photographer Scott Squire in their Edges of Bounty. This is the sequel to The Great Central Valley: California’s Heartland, made contemporary with a focus on ediblism (food with the human hand). Meet here, the farmers, the makers, the sellers, invisible and found only the edges of our consciousness. It is through these stories that Central Valley identities become less vague, less of a caricature.  It takes time to get to know people, it demands a slower pace, like the pace of growing something worthwhile.

Part of the goal of this NEH project, The Search for Common Ground, is to make visible immigrant and migrant stories. Fabio Parasecoli’s “Food, Identity and Cultural Reproduction in Immigration Communities” explores immigrant identity through food. It is at once an act of memory that reaches into another time and place, and transformative in its creative dance with local culture and cuisine. The immigrant identity is not a fixed thing; it is not static, but a performance, shared, and continual. Bring to the discussion examples of the immigrant groups you know of, their food, their performance, their transformation.


These three works have highest priority with the reading assignments from your scholars.


Mario Sifuentez

4.      Raj Patel. Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System. Brooklyn, NY. 2007, chapters 2 and 3.
5.      Joyce Goldstein. Inside the California Food Revolution: Thirty Years that Changed our Culinary Consciousness. Berkeley, CA. 2013, chapter 8.


Laura-Anne Minkoff-Zern

6.       Minkoff-Zern, Laura-Anne. “The New American Farmer: The Agrarian Question, Food Sovereignty and Immigrant Mexican Growers in the United States.” Food Sovereignty: A Critical Dialogue: International Conference Yale University, September 14, 2013, Conference Paper #16.
7.       Minkoff-Zern, Laura-Anne. “Crossing Borders, Overcoming Boundaries: Latino Immigrant Farmers and a New Sense of Home in the United States.” In Food Across Borders: Production, Consumption, and Boundary Crossing in North America, edited by Melanie Dupuis. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.


Comparative and Global

8.      Amy B. Trubek.  The Taste of Place: A Cultural Journey into Terroir. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008, pp. 6-9; 12-17; 93-107
9.      David R. Montgomery’s Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, preface and chapters 7 and 8.


Amy B. Trubek’s The Taste of Place focuses on the concept of terroir, “the notion that the natural environment can shape the taste of wine.” Use this piece as background and inspiration on how to look at the Central Valley. Trubek focuses more on northern California, and one needs to know the Central Valley to notice when she is actually referring to this place (the Gallos on page 99 for example). However, her comparative analysis between France and California is useful in situating our place here in the Central Valley. And her focus on the relationship between place and taste brings us full circle to our first seminar on Place.

Seventeen years ago when I started teaching at MJC, many of my students had personal connections to the Dust Bowl migration. Stories of life in the tent city (now McHenry Village) abounded from grandparents. Few if any of these stories remain with my students today, presumably now four generations apart from those ancestral experiences. Is there a break between the third and fourth generations, is that where the threads that bind us to our past begin to fray? Or have these children all migrated away? David R. Montgomery, a labor and environmental historian, tells the story of dirt, and the loss of nutrient rich soil in his Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. The parallels and ironies proliferate. Loss of stories and identity along with the loss of fertile ground; The Dust Bowl beginning with a massive drought with images of abandoned farms and withered crop. What are the lessons of our past that we refuse to learn from?


Reports and Snapshots

10.  Central Valley Health Policy Institute, CSU Fresno: “Healthy People 2010: Profile of Health Status in the San Joaquin Valley.”
11.  California Department of Public Health: Obesity in California: The Weight of the State, 2000-2012
12.  Central Valley Crop Report


Healthy People 2010

This is a very long document, so I don’t recommend printing the whole thing out. However, much of it is very interesting as it provides an overall view of health in the Central Valley (or lack thereof). There are only a few pages I’m assigning (many of which are graphs and maps). Word of warning, the pages I assigned are listed in the pdf file, however, notice there are 7 pages before page 1. This means you’ll have to take that into account if specifying pages to print on your print function. The picture you will see is that we are not a healthy people, despite the fact that we live in the largest center of agriculture in the United States (or is it because we live here that we are unhealthy?). Ponder the ironies. We who taut the feeding of the world no less, do not feed our own. Water, Wealth, Contentment , Health?

Introduction: pp. 2-3 (print pages 9-10)

Demographic information: pp. 8-13 (print pages 15-21)

Overweight and Obesity: pp. 16-18 (print pages 23-26)

Environmental Quality: pp. 33-36 (print pages 40-43)


Obesity in California: The Weight of the State, 2000-2012

Notice that Healthy People 2010, although quite extensive, mentions nothing on heathy fresh food access. The closest thing to this is a single picture of a farmer’s market on page 55. Mostly, it mentions physical activity as the curative to obesity in the Central Valley. This is why I’ve added this report, which is also quite long. Mostly I’ve assigned maps and tables. Don’t print the whole thing, I’ve assigned very little. Warning, 1 cover page before page 1 (add a page to the number if you warn the right pages to print out).

Executive Summary: pp. 1-3

Obesity by County: pp. 20-26


Water and Agriculture

13.  UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences: Economic Analysis of the 2015 Drought for California Agriculture.

14.  Agricultural and Resource Economics: The Economics of Drought for California Food and Agriculture.



Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer