Kings County: Dairies where incarcerated people milk the cows


Making license plates is the stereotypical job for a prisoner, but there’s a group of inmates in the Central Valley have very different work. They supply milk to almost all the prisons in the state system. The low hourly wages may shock some people on the outside, but for this story I talked to inmates who say the job gives them something else.

Alpine County: A pop-up coffee house on the Pacific Crest Trail


The thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail start in Mexico, traversing 2650 miles into Canada. The lazy among us might have just read Wild, Cheryl Strayed’s PCT memoir. But the hikers, their toenails fall off, and their feet can swell whole sizes. They say the only thing they talk about more than their feet is food.

Stanislaus County: Nuts for Modesto — baseball, religion, and land


What do baseball, a little-known religious group and a land-use fight have in common? Nuts. Almonds are Stanislaus County’s top crop, bringing in a record-breaking $1.125 billion in gross income in 2013. Walnuts came in third (after dairy). Nuts aren’t just an economic driver, though. They’re also key to the story of this region’s past, and future.

San Bernardino County: The Mitla Cafe is so much more than tacos

San Bernardino’s Mitla Cafe is proof that sometimes a restaurant is more than just a restaurant. Since the 30s, it’s borne witness to — and played a role in — political change, from desegregation to “urban renewal” to fast food. It also happens to be an unlikely inspiration for how mainstream America sees — and eats — Mexican food.

Riverside County: Oasis for date palms, not workers


It’s said that date palm trees want their feet in water, and their heads in fire. It makes sense, then that more than 90% of U.S. dates grow in the irrigated Eastern Coachella Valley, with 120+ degree temperatures. This is a story about agricultural explorers, racist agri-tourism, and the palmeros, palm workers, who tend the trees.