Going On Set To Learn About the Often-Invisible Work of a Hollywood Food Stylist

Hollywood writers and actors are on strike, asking for transparency, fair pay, and protection from AI. They’re not the only ones impacted by labor disputes. In this story, I share the reporting I did before the strikes began, to learn more about the often-invisible work of a Hollywood food stylist.

Farming with ghosts: Mas Masumoto and an uncovered family secret

David “Mas” Masumoto and his family run an organic farm south of Fresno, growing luscious peaches and nectarines. Mas is an author, too. In his new book, Mas writes about the shock of a newly uncovered family secret. He tells me what he learned about this hidden story, and how he rediscovered just how resilient his farming family is.

Cafeteria Cook Makes Gourmet Dishes Inspired by Palauan Childhood

Brennan Temol never takes his apron off. He spends all week cooking at Lassen Community College cafeteria, and all weekend cooking with family and friends. For both, he draws on his culinary school training, and the flavors of his childhood–in the Pacific Island nation of Palau.

Hot temperatures, and a hot real estate market, threaten the Ojai Pixie tangerine

Ojai’s charming downtown draws crowds of the bohemian chic. Part of the charm? This Ventura County town is surrounded by orchards. The valley’s climate has been ideal for citrus, but it’s changing—getting windier, drier, and hotter. Some farmers are questioning whether agriculture even has a future in the Ojai Valley.

How a Hmong market in Yuba County became “everybody’s store”

On the edge of the town of Marysville in Yuba County, there’s market with an inventory that would rival Asian grocery stories in big cities. In the back corner, you’ll find a small, bustling kitchen in the back corner. That’s where I became a fan of the dishes made here, and the woman behind them.

Tuolumne County’s rural Jewish community: ‘We just have faith.’

In February 2020, I went to Sonora to join the Mother Lode Jewish Community in their Tu BiShvat celebration, honoring trees and the harvest. Just weeks later, the Covid pandemic would stop in-person gatherings like these, and create tensions so many communities are still navigating.

Santa Cruz County: Owls, swallows, and bluebirds are farmers’ secret allies

Dennis Tamura never set out to be a bird-watcher. He’s been an organic farmer for over 35 years outside Watsonville. But, with more than 30 bird boxes around the perimeter, birds have become a part of the farm’s ecosystem. New research shows just how much those birds help agriculture.

Three agriculture pioneers California lost in 2020 (Nevada, Yolo, and Sutter counties)

I’ve met some amazing people reporting for California Foodways. At the end of 2020, I learned that three of those people passed away: Amigo Bob Cantisano, Marshall McKay, and Mohinder Singh Ghag. KQED’s California Report Magazine invited me to talk with host Sasha Khokha about three food pioneers, and remind us of their legacies.

Trinity County update: Coronavirus’ impact on Nor Cal food bank

Trinity County is mountainous, and remote, and when I visited in 2017 I learned that it’s also one of the state’s most food insecure places. Many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from, even in the best of times. But the spring of 2020, with the state under shelter-at-home orders because of the coronavirus, is clearly not the best of times. I check in with Jeffry England at the county’s food bank.

San Francisco: Home Baked — A Subversive Response to the AIDS Crisis

The coronavirus reminds us of another public health crisis when the federal government was slow to respond and communities had to take care of each other: the AIDS epidemic. One woman who became an unexpected caregiver is Meridy Volz. Starting in the 1970s, she ran a bakery called Sticky Fingers Brownies. Her daughter Alia — whose memoir Home Baked came out in April, 2020 — narrates.

Humboldt County: How legalizing cannabis impacts food and farming

When cannabis was 100% illegal, the price per pound was high. Since 2016, when Californians passed Prop 64 legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, the economy in the northern part of the state has been in limbo, impacting far more than the cannabis industry. Restaurant owners and farmers are seeing changes, too.

Amador County: Trans man finds, creates refuge in family’s rural cafe

Downtown Jackson is pretty quiet, except when you walk into Rosebud’s Cafe which shouts its values from its walls: bright green paint, huge family portraits, tons of flyers for arts events, local homeless initiatives and LGBTQ rights. Rosebud’s has become a refuge for people who don’t always feel accepted, including the family that runs it.

Shasta County: How a humble burger helped fuel the building of the shasta dam

In Redding, there’s a hamburger joint that’s been making its signature item the same way since the 1930s — a burger so thin it gets crispy on the edges, and never, ever comes with a tomato. Damburger helped fuel one of California’s most impactful engineering feats — the Shasta Dam — by nourishing the workers who built it.

Siskiyou County: Beef is much more than “what’s for dinner”

Jim and Mary Rickert came together because of cows. They fell in love at Cal Poly. Within a decade, they were managing a ranch just below the Oregon border in Siskiyou County. It was a struggle. But their lives, and the business, changed when they got a really weird offer, and they said yes.

Merced County: Invasive 20-pound rodents could wreak havoc on ag

Merced County is California’s sweet potato capital. In this story, Angela Johnston and I meet a sweet potato farming family that’s facing a crisis that could wreak havoc on the entire agricultural industry. It’s the non-native nutria, a 20-pound rodent with orange bucked teeth that can eat a quarter of its body weight a day.

Mariposa County: From bear feeding shows, to bear-proofing in Yosemite

When you camp in Yosemite and other parks with bears, you can’t just leave your food out on the picnic table or in your car overnight. Anything with a scent has to be stored in bear-proof containers. Reporter Marissa Ortega-Welch joins me to report on this problem of bears wanting to eat human food, a problem we humans created.

Madera County: Providing a taste of Oaxaca to the Central Valley

Former farmworker Rosa Hernandez co-owns Colectivo Sabor a Mi Tierra in the back of a market in the town of Madera. She cooks food from her native Oaxaca, and says, the key to cooking mole is patience and love. “You can’t make mole in a rush.”

Butte County: Can ag and wildlife co-exist? Rice farmers think so

Over 90%. That’s how much native wetland California has lost due to agriculture and other development. That dramatic change in the landscape may sound grim, but in the Sacramento Valley, California’s rice country, some strange bedfellows are working together to address the historic loss of wildlife habitat, and to insure rice farming is part of the solution.

Tulare County: Frozen burrito royalty in the Central Valley

Recently, I visited a kind of factory I’d never seen before. I got suited up in safety gear — smock, rubber gloves, a hair net — not to protect me, but to protect the product made here. It’s in almost every convenience store, college dorm, school cafeteria, and in thousands of family freezers around the country: the frozen burrito.

Del Norte County: Fish blood in their veins, not in their river

This fall, the number of chinook salmon making their way from the ocean up the Klamath River in California’s far north is the lowest on record. That’s devastating news for the Yurok tribe, which has lived along and fished the Klamath for centuries. Salmon’s essential to Yurok ceremonies, for food, and for income.