Modoc County: 75 years later, Japanese-Americans recall incarceration, forced farm labor


President Trump’s “travel ban,” and his proposed Muslim registry, reminded Japanese Americans of their wartime incarceration 75 years ago. I joined a busload of people traveling to the former Tule Lake Segregation Center, and learned about the role of agriculture in Japanese American incarceration.

Sutter County: 100 years of Sikh farming history


Every year, 80,000 people flood Yuba City to watch a parade, filled with floats, motorcycles and martial artists. They’re celebrating a Sikh holiday, the 500-year old religion from India’s Punjab region. This colorful gathering is the largest of its kind in the U.S., because Sikhs have lived and farmed in this community for over 100 years.

Monterey County: Farmworker housing causes tension in a former “company town”


Few growers have a legal obligation to house employees. Little state and federal money is earmarked for worker housing. In barely-affordable Salinas Valley there’s not enough decent housing for all the people needed to pick crops like lettuce and strawberries. Which all lead to development, and tension, in Spreckels.

Inyo and Mono Counties: Trucks, planes, and flying fish


If you’re driving along Highway 395, chances are you’ve come to fish for trout in the alpine lakes. Fishing is synonymous with life in communities here, luring nearly half of all tourists to Inyo and Mono counties. But there’s almost nothing natural about trout in the Eastern Sierra. Why are we so crazy for trout in the West?

Napa County: Malfatti goes from mistake to legendary dish


Napa Valley tourists visit exclusive wineries and fine restaurants, but locals love a more humble dish, born out of Napa’s deep Italian history, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and a fortuitous mistake. Malfatti’s a spinach and cheese dumpling, smothered in sauce. The most famous malfatti comes out the back of Val’s Liquor.

Calaveras County: After fire, rancher heal soil and community


2015’s Butte Fire may be a barely-remembered headline, but residents of Calaveras County feel its impacts every day. Volunteers helped rebuild the soil they know is essential to their own, and their neighbors’, survival. That’s how I ended up on a scorched hill, with farmers and ranchers tossing straw on the ground.

Lake County: “Chasing the burn” for black morel mushrooms


The 2015 Valley Fire that hit Lake County was one of the most destructive in state history. The hills here, once thick with trees, now look like a moonscape. But this environment draws mushroom hunters who ‘chase the burns’,” in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.

Nevada County: Amigo Bob Cantisano — tree hunter


In Nevada County, an unusual explorer with an unusual name — Amigo Bob Cantisano — hunts for remnants of the Gold Rush, just not the kind you might expect. The treasures Cantisano seeks are trees, the fruits and nuts and ornamentals planted at homesteads and stagecoach stops and small orchards in the late 1800s.

Sierra County: Cattlewomen hold side gigs to stay in business


There are plenty of people who can pursue their passions because they have steady jobs on the side to pay the bills. Think: a novelist who does PR, an actor who waits tables. But a rancher? Meet mother and daughter cattlewomen in Sierra County whose supplemental work has helped keep their family in the beef business.

El Dorado County: The Hangtown Fry was a Gold Rush status meal


If you want to recreate the Gold Rush experience — without all the terrible conditions — you can pan for gold, even descend into mines. In a few places, you can even eat the most prized meal of the Gold Rush, with a kind of bizarre combination of ingredients. I went to El Dorado County in search of the Hangtown Fry.

Kern County: Forgotten Filipino pioneers of the Delano Grape Strike


United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez are household names, but before he became the embodiment of the 1965 strike and eventual international boycott, a small group of Filipino farmworkers walked off the fields. Now, people in the small town of Delano and across California are determined to share this rarely-told history.

Placer County: Can imperfect produce fight climate change?


Some experts say one key to being environmentally friendly is just stop wasting food. From the farm to the fridge, it’s estimated that 40 percent of what could be eaten just isn’t, and that can impact climate change. But there’s a new partnership addressing food waste by selling “imperfect” produce at the grocery store.

Orange County: From pop star to sandwich maven


What do Jimmy Buffett, Jay-Z and Kenny Rogers have in common? They’ve all parlayed their fame to sell food, in restaurants and chains. In Orange County, there’s a banh mi sandwich shop run by Lynda Trang Dai, a Vietnamese pop star who’s as comfortable behind the stove as she is behind the microphone.

San Diego County: A sit down dinner for military families


Members of the military are often deployed or stationed far away from their extended families. When military families make friends, they often move. But there’s a place in San Diego where active duty service members, their spouses, and kids can always share a meal with their extended military family: the USO Downtown.

San Luis Obispo County: Dry farming and the drought


You think your water cut-backs are tough? Try farming…without irrigation. Lots of crops like wheat and grapes are dry farmed across the state. There are tomatoes on the Central Coast, squash in Humboldt, and walnuts in San Luis Obispo County, which is where we go for this story about dry farming advocate Jutta Thoerner.

San Benito County: Warmer winter nights hit cherry crops


There’s just something about cherries: small, sweet and crunchy, with an early harvest that tells us summer’s coming. This beloved fruit is also a canary in a coal mine, warning about climate change and its impact on future tree crops. To find out more, I went to Fairhaven Orchards to meet the Rajkovich family.

Marin County: CCC kitchen patrol feeds the trail blazers


With “Hard work, low pay, miserable conditions, and more!” the California Conservation Corps puts young adults to work outdoors. In Marin, the “Cs” have the tough job of building and maintaining world-class trails. These young people burn thousands of calories a day…and their menu has barely changed since the 30s.

Tehama County: Wine in the wilderness


Cistercian monks have made wine in Europe since the 12th century. In California, they’re turning to those traditions to try to survive in the 21st. The monks of New Clairvaux have a website, a Facebook page, a PR guy. They host wine release parties. They engage with the outside world all so they can pray in peace.

Imperial County: Eating Chinese food on the US/Mexico border


The most notable regional cuisine in the city of Mexicali, Mexico isn’t street tacos or mole. It’s Chinese food. Just north of the border in Imperial County, the population’s mostly Latino, but Chinese restaurants are super popular, too, serving some dishes you won’t find anywhere else. Why? How? The Chinese Exclusion Act.

Yolo County: A California tribe bets on olive oil

The Capay Valley is pretty serene, except for the cacophony inside its most lucrative business: the Cache Creek Casino. Up to 2,000 visitors a night swell the valley’s population and traffic, causing tension between local farmers and the tiny tribe that runs it. In this story we ask: do farming and gambling mix?