The southern half of California’s Central Valley – named for the San Joaquin River – sprawls from Stockton to the turbine-covered Tehachapi Mountains, southeast of Bakersfield. Everything stretches to the horizon in straight lines – railroad tracks, two-lane blacktop and long irrigation channels.
The tiny towns scattering the region retain their Main St Americana appeal while slowly embracing the influence of the Latino labor force.
This is a place of seismic, often contentious, development. Arrivals from the coastal cities have resulted in unchecked sprawl. What were once actual ranches and vineyards are now nostalgically named developments: a big-box shopping complex named Indian Ranch, a tidy row of McMansions named Vineyard Estates. More green lawns appear as the irrigation systems drain dry. Water rights is the issue on everyone's minds.