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Nutrition and Security Concerns in California’s Changing Agricultural Landscape:

Lessons from Almond Production

Angela Cho

Sucharita Kanjilal

Silvia Torresi

University of California, Los Angeles

URBN PL 216: Food Studies Graduate Certificate Colloquium

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Abstract

This project proposal considers how an interdisciplinary approach to Food Studies might be used to

understand the growing challenges in California's agricultural systems, using the state's extensive

almond plantations as the point of departure. Using a combination of historical, ethnographic and

quantitative methods, this proposal seeks to show how questions of agricultural practice, public health,

nutrition, sustainability and consumer culture must be studied not as mutually exclusive domains within

Food Studies, but as closely intertwined subjects that can only be thoroughly understood in relationship

with each other. We suggest that a rigorous exploration of the political economy of California's almond

planation systems in particular and the state's agricultural history in general can produce valuable

insights that might eventually shape policy and programs for equitable and sustainable access to food.

Introduction

The mere mention of California might evoke the imagery of lush orange orchards, acres

of bountiful farmland, perfectly ripened avocados, a twenty-first century garden of Eden

(Sackman, 2005). Yet its changing agricultural systems over the past few decades have also led

to serious questions about how to create and maintain sustainable food systems on the national

and community levels (Feenstra, 2001). These questions gain further import given the reality of

rapidly increasing human populations and decreasing resources (Cakmak, 2002). Sustaining

efficient agricultural practices, controlling production costs, producing sufficient and high-

quality food items, and distributing them to the entire population are all key concerns according

to the California Agricultural Vision (2010). California is a major contributor to the national and

global food supply, growing and distributing staple foods such as nuts, fruits, and vegetables

(Jackon et al., 2011). However, the state’s agricultural productivity is likely to face major

environmental challenges over the next few decades, through soil degradation and erosion and

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climate change (Eswaran, Lal, & Reich, 2018). Climate conditions, for instance, have adversely

affected California’s agricultural practices in the form of decreased crop yields, augmented crop

water demands, and increased pests and related diseases (Pathak et al., 2018). Changing

nutritional concerns among the population and new trends in health-related practices and diets

have also pushed for the growth of certain foods over others.

One example of how agricultural practices and have been affected by growing demands

is in the almond industry. With significant concerns about the environmental cost of producing

almonds in a drought-hit state, the almond industry has been forced to respond and innovate.

Over the past 40 years, the Almond Board of California has expanded its research to improve

aspects involving almond production such as water and air quality, bee health and pollination,

tree and soil health, energy conservation, carbon emission, and community health and wellness

("Growing Good", 2017). One major area of research and sustainability has been efficient

irrigation adaptations, with new technologies that could reduce the water required to grow

almonds up to two-thirds of the current amount. This proposal suggests that a historical,

ethnographic and data-driven understanding of California’s almond industry in particular, and

California’s agricultural systems in general, will provide new insights into how to make the

state’s bounty available to all of its citizens in a sustainable and efficient manner.

Research Questions and Literature Review

In this section, we identify the key questions related to our proposed project through an

analysis of the past literature in this field. Our project seeks to build on this background research

so as to suggest new interventions towards sustainable practices.

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Research question 1: How have changing patterns of agriculture in California led to uneven

levels of nutritional security and sustainability concerns in the state?

The historical development of California’s agriculture industry has been viewed from two

distinct lenses (Olmstead and Rhode, 2003). The first is the story of enterprising farmers who

were able to use sophisticated technology and know-how to convert a desert into a flourishing

agricultural producer. The second view is more critical, seeing California’s farmer capitalists as

exploitative grabbers of indigenous land, who used cheap migrant labor to aggressively pursue

agricultural profits. Agriculture in California in the early 19th century was centered largely

around the large-scale production of wheat. By the end of the 19th century, this was replaced by

small-scale intensive cultivation of fruits such as grapes and oranges, supported by investments

in state agricultural research. By the early 20th century, cotton was introduced, bringing with it

greater mechanization and an intensive use of power and industrialized irrigation practices. The

state’s relationship with agricultural labor, however, has been more controversial, which has

been ridden with racist policy (Chan, 1989), violent – though successful – labor movements

(Ganz, 2009) and concerns about deteriorating workers’ health (Olmstead and Rhode, 2008).

Today, technological advancements and cutting-edge research continue to dominate California’s

agricultural landscape. Despite its successes, the story of California’s agriculture is not only one

of human beings’ ability to harness nature optimally to produce successfully and provide for

everyone but rather one of conflicting histories, unequal access to food, and environmental

degradation (Akon and Agyeman, 2011). By establishing and examining this history, this project

seeks to better understand and explain the context of the current production and consumption

patterns in the state.

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Research question 2: How have these changes in food systems been viewed by consumers. How

have consumer choices been shaped by advertising and an increased interest in micronutrients?

Agricultural production is not only affected by climate, technology and capital, but also

the demand for certain food products. In this section of the project, we explore how narratives

about health, nutrition and specific “superfoods” feed back into the agricultural system,

encouraging farmers to produce more of some crops than others. Our specific case study pertains

to the production of almonds in California. We suggest that the increased production of almonds

in California is linked to a growing interest in specific ideologies of nutrition as well as shifts

towards veganism and gluten-free diets, which in turn have increased the demand for almond

flour and almond milk as substitutes for wheat flour and dairy milk. Scrinis et al (2008) have

argued that there has been an increased interest in identifying the individual nutrient components

of food (i.e. vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals). Further, this approach to diet suggests that the

nutritional value of food is the sum of its parts. Scrinis thus argues that this has been an

important way for corporations to market certain kinds of foods and diets as more beneficial than

others. As we hope to show, almond milk is one example of this. For instance, agricultural

majors such as Blue Diamond market products such as Almond Breeze as being high in vitamins

and low in calories. Scholars such as Bladow (2015) have shown that advertising that promotes

ideas of California being an idyllic pastoral paradise have been highly successful in selling both

dairy and almond milk. Therefore, an analysis of consumer approaches towards almond milk –

and California’s agricultural bounty in general – will help us examine the demand side of the

problem, supplementing our examination of the supply chains, nutrition questions and

sustainability concerns.

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Research question 3: What are the main features of California agriculture today? How did

almonds enter California and who has benefited from the growth of this industry? What have

been the down-sides in terms of environmental sustainability?

Qualitative historical research on the almond industry will allow us understand the

context in which it came to be a major agricultural players in the state, the main actors involved

and the environmental impact it has had. This will then help best assess the current situation and

identify possible intervention measures. As shown in the previous section, California’s

agricultural landscape has changed radically over the past 150 years, passing from a grain-based

mono-crop system involving large-scale ranching activities to smaller-scale intensive fruit and

nut cultivation.

The main features of California’s agricultural systems today are listed as follows:

a) Mechanization: This is the result of i) Favorable climatic conditions in the state,

which allowed for longer working hours; ii) the scarcity of cheap labor, which fostered the

search for labor-saving options; ii) the proactive attitude of California farmers towards the use of

electrical power and new technology and iv) the connection between farmers and manufacturers,

which allowed continuous technological evolution. Olmstead (2003) writes that “this process of

responding to the opportunities and bottlenecks created by previous technological changes

provided a continuing stimulation to innovators”.

b) Adaptation capacities: This followed a “biological learning” process, which pushed

research for crops better suited to the state’s specific climate, investment in water control and

irrigation and shared knowledge between the main actors involved: the USDA, the agricultural

research and technology systems and local cooperatives.

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c) Integration in the international markets: This is largely thanks to a highly

developed system that connects growers to manufactures, packing and canning factories,

transportation companies, with the support also of a commercial financial structure.

d) The employment of hired labor and the creation of specialized producer

cooperatives: This includes the California Fruit Growers Exchange created in 1905 and Blue

Diamond, which was founded in 1910 and is still the world’s largest processing and marketing

cooperative for almonds.

Almond production in California began in the 1840s from stock brought from southern

France and began spreading around the state by 1860. The development of almond agri-business

intensified most significantly between 1960 and 1975. In this period the almond acreage in

California grew from 113,000 acres to 290,000 acres (Patterson, 2005). This expansion of nut

trees in California allowed also the utilization of the most advanced planting and harvesting

technologies, pushing almond production to maximum levels. Producer organizations, such as

Blue Diamond, have played a critical role in opening up new international markets for California

almonds. In addition, "they created new demand for almonds in the domestic market by engaging

in aggressive ad campaigns geared at housewives and the confectionary, bakery, and ice cream

industries" (Patterson, 2005). Further, we suggest that a growing interest in almond meal and

almond milk has also led to almonds being a key agricultural player in the state of California.

The main beneficiaries of this excessive production have been large-scale investors, insurance

companies and agribusinesses. For instance, Paramount Farming, now Wonderful company LLC,

was, according to the American and Western Fruit magazine, the top nut Grower in 2014.

Similarly, TIAA-CREF, a financial services corporation based in New York currently manages

approximately $8 billion in farmland assets and commitments around the world (Philpott, 2015).

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Other beneficiaries include family farms that grow almonds. According to figures released by the

Almond Board of California, 91% of the 6,800 almond farms in California are owned by

families. Finally, manufacturers and transport industries that are involved also stand to gain from

the worldwide almond boom.

California is the world leader in almond production and while this has benefited the state

economy and certain groups of people involved in the industry, its cultivation has impacted the

environment in several ways:

a) Water: California produces at least 74 major agricultural commodities, thus

representing one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world thanks to the combination

of productive soils, temperate climate and skilled water-management techniques. Agriculture

accounts for around 80% of all the water used in the state, according to the California

Department of Water Resources. Over the last two centuries, California’s farmers have carried

out several practices to improve irrigation techniques. This has included draining and safeguard

yields from possible flooding through the construction of ditches and levees, as well as the

development of irrigation systems, very often as a result of private initiatives. The first half of

the 20th century brought with it the increasing utilization of groundwater, which still continues

today.

Almonds require almost 10% of California’s water: one single almond needs one gallon

of water to be produced. Due to their specific characteristics, almond trees need to be regularly

watered even in years of drought and this has led farmers to increasingly use groundwater to

replace what they will usually take from the Colorado river and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The direct consequences of water pumping from wells are aquifer depletion and land subsidence

(Sneed, 2013). In another study produced by UCLA and the University of Houston, researchers

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analyzed water consumption in the Central Valley from 2002 to 2016. They revealed significant

water loss during the last two droughts that hit California. This loss was due to a change in the

type of cultivated crops, reduced rainfall and snow packs and hotter temperatures, clear signs of

the increasing impact of climate change (Pathak, 2018). The utilization of groundwater for crop

irrigation has therefore a huge environmental impact, which also implies economic consequences

for the farmers and for the state in general. In 2014, a new legislation was introduced to regulate

groundwater use, but its implementation will only start between 2022 and 2040.

b) Soil, air and water pollution: One of the major concerns regarding air quality is that

the level of PM2.5 fine particulate matter is extraordinarily high in the Californian almond

districts. In fact, there are nine counties from California among the top ten most polluted areas

from PM2.5 across the United States (Larghezza, 2018). According to the California Air

Resource Board, PM2.5 is one of the two “pollutants of the greatest concern from a public health

perspective” together with ozone (Sources of Air Pollution, 2018). Further, the use of chemical

fertilizers and pesticides has serious consequences for the soil and related wildlife, as well as the

quality of the water that goes into the aquifers owing to rainfall and irrigation. Pesticides and

herbicides that are used in these intensive plantations get concentrated in the top 2-6 inches of

soil for several months.

Last February, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge has ordained “California

agricultural officials to stop spraying pesticides on public and private property to control insects

that threaten the state's $45-billion agriculture industry” (Mohan, 2018). This sentence came

after the decision of environmental groups to sue the California Department for Food and

Agriculture on a specific issue: the possibility of being exempted from releasing information

about the health risks of certain pesticides sprayed in emergency situations.

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As part of our analysis, we found it particularly challenging to find information about the

consequences of the use of pesticides and fertilizers in California agriculture on people’s health,

which leads us to believe that further investigation in this regard is warranted.

c) Bee population: California’s almond trees require a growing number of pollinators,

bees, to help farmers keep up with the demand. Colonies of honeybees are transported to

California every year at the beginning of the bloom period to ensure pollination of the 1.000.000

acres of almond orchard currently present. Even if the honey industry is currently booming,

beekeepers struggle to stay alive due to honey frauds, in the form of adulterated honey coming

from China and several Asian countries (Phipps, 2016) and bee killings, mainly due to the use of

pesticides. What becomes a lifebelt for beekeepers is a very risky activity for the health of

honeybees. Bringing almost all the US hives in one part of the country means: i) mixing and

concentrating bees, making it easier to pass diseases among them; ii) exposing them to chemicals

used in almond orchards, like fungicides often sprayed in the groves or pesticides; iii) that they

can be stolen as it happened from 2014 to 2017 to several beekeepers (Rotten – Layers, guns &

honey).

Research question 4: How can the California’s agricultural industry carry out sustainable food

practices to meet the high demand for nutritious foods and keep up with growing populations?

According to the World Bank, the global demand for food is expected to increase by at

least 20% over the next 15 years, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia. Natural

resources are being depleted at rates never seen before and climate change and conflicts are

harshly affecting food production (Food Security. Understanding poverty). This project seeks to

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understand how lessons from California, specifically, might help provide answers to these

extremely complex and intertwined challenges.

Some possible ways of addressing these issues are:

a) Investing in the agricultural sector, particularly in local sustainable agriculture (I.e.

training and educational programs to farmers, high quality seeds, small scale loans).

b) Fostering new initiatives i) to improve health and education conditions of people

living in developing countries; ii) to allow the participation of these countries in the global

economy and iii) to support and increase technological transfer to these countries.

c) Reducing food loss and waste through public awareness campaigns, education

initiatives/programs, promoting the diversification of crops, working on food donations, etc.

d) Fostering political stability: good governance is essential to reducing poverty in a

sustainable way, ensuring food security and economic growth. Political stability also fosters

investments and discourages flight of capital.

California provides particularly gripping new technological developments in the

agricultural sector, which might produce interesting models for global practices. The new smart

farming system is expanding in regions like California’s Central Valley. Sowing, watering,

fertilizing and harvesting are computerized operations and allow for water savings. Another

element of this new type of farming is the work on the crop genomics to improve yield

productivity (The Future of Agriculture). However, this would require further investigations into

how we can make sure that GM crops are safe in the long run.

Another avenue for further research is the creation of new community spaces for

sustainable food systems. Some projects dealing with family farm production practices,

agricultural work and businesses and increasing healthy food access to people in the community

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are already under implementation in California under the University of California Sustainable

Agriculture Research and Education Program (SAREP). Those projects focus on the creation of

four types of spaces: (a) “Social” with the objective of gathering citizens to share

preoccupations, ambitions, activities and to consolidate relationships; (b) “Political” to

institutionalize sustainable food systems at political local level, to involve policy makers and

measure impact; (c) “Intellectual” to gather diverse disciplines and community points of view to

create the vision of the community food systems; (d) “Economic” to integrate into the local

financial capital and to try to combine new financial resources. The main driving themes of these

projects are public participation, partnership and principles (Feenstra, 2001).

Research Question 5: As a state that produces more than half of the US’ fresh fruits and

vegetables, which of its successes can we learn from and apply more broadly?

As California is a state that produces more than half of the United States' fruits and

vegetable supply, it is crucial to address emerging concerns and to also identify reasons for its

successes. According to the California Agricultural Vision (2010) report, the state carries high

regulation standards for producers including environmental quality, farm labor practices, and

food safety. While these regulation standards may have contributed to high quality productions

and bringing California to be a world leading food supplier, regulatory compliance costs have

severely raised operating costs for crop producers. Moving forward, costs should be lowered

while maintaining quality production and reserve water usage. Furthermore, California has lost

more than 350,000 acres of agricultural land in the last few decades due to urban development

and lost immensely productive crop lands ("California Agricultural Vision", 2010). Policies

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could be implemented to conserve both land and water resources in the state for economically

efficient and sustainable agricultural industry.

Methodology:

Study design: The proposed project seeks to combine both qualitative and quantitative

research to present a holistic picture of California’s nutrition landscape, and use this work to

suggest key interventions towards food security and environmental sustainability. The study will

be designed as a long-term, collaborative project with multiple researchers. It will combine both

historical and qualitative research methods with quantitative research methods and nutritional

analyses. These methods will help us best address our research questions.

1. Qualitative historical research: By understanding how agricultural systems have

changed in response to particular political and economic climates in the USA, we can begin to

see what factors led to the situation we have today. Thus, an extensive historical review of

literature on the state’s agricultural systems will allow to contextualize this work, as well as the

need for specific interventions. The benefits of a historical approach to question of food safety,

nutrition and sustainability are made evident in the work of Hannah Landecker, who argues that

a historical approach to nutritional and agricultural sciences “reminds us that the history of

human metabolism is intercalated with the manipulation of agricultural and industrial

metabolisms at multiple levels” (Landecker, 2018). We hope to use a similar approach to

understand the political, economic and historical-cultural processes that shaped California’s food

systems today.

2. Ethnographic/anthropological field research: To present a richer picture of who the

stakeholders are in terms of food security and sustainability, anthropological research in the form

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of ethnography is key to understanding whether policy interventions have actually changed

people’s lived realities and how cultural considerations affect the ways in which nutrition and

sustainability is viewed by California’s diverse population. To this end, we suggest carrying out

ethnographic fieldwork and sustained interviews with those especially vulnerable, such as

marginalized consumers, ethnic and racial minorities, as well as those are make the decisions that

affect them, such as policymakers, farmers, the heads of agricultural corporations and so on.

Ethnography is the practice of “thick description” (Geertz, 1973), through which the researchers

immerse themselves in the lived realities of their interlocutors in an effort to understand specific

processes as they are experienced. Ethnographic data provides a richer picture than purely

quantitative data, and as a result can be used to understand those factors that get lost between the

numbers, such as the importance of socio-cultural values, the relationships between people,

capital and the state, and specific challenges that cannot easily be recorded demographically.

3. Nutritional analysis: To make effective claims about the effects of California’s

agricultural practices on the state’s population, we will need to gather empirical data on

agricultural production, nutritional security, barriers to food access, differences in consumption

patterns based on factors such as income, ethnicity, and race. This data can be gathered through a

combination of collating government and FDA data, as well as carrying out randomly sampled

surveys to substantiate missing pieces of information.

Agricultural practices can have significant impacts on its population health and

nutritional intake. Higher productivity in crop growing leads to higher affordability and

consumption of nutritious foods and many crops have been disseminated to contain essential

micronutrients such as zinc, iron, and vitamin A with biofortification methods (Fan, 2015).

Agricultural practices are also a key source of income for rural communities, hence contributing

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to their economic well-being and ability to afford nutritious foods and improve their health.

According to the State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables published by the Center for

Disease Control (2013), California is among the top three states in America that has the highest

median daily fruit and vegetable intake among adults and has one of the highest percentages of

cropland acreage harvested for these agricultural products. Despite the overall economic success

of the agricultural industry in California, there is still a clear health disparity between population

groups varying on social factors such as socioeconomic status, geography, race, and ethnicity. In

the U.S., individuals of low-income neighborhoods who were ethnic minorities, primarily the

Latino and African American populations, consistently have the highest prevalence of obesity

and chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes according to the State of

Obesity report (2018). These low-income communities have a limited access to fresh produce

and healthy food choices yet greater access to nutrient poor, calorie dense foods which promote

unhealthy eating behaviors and weight gain (Caprio et al., 2018) (Rahman et al., 2011) (Lobstein

et al., 2015). Negative health outcomes cannot be fully explained by individual choices alone,

and it is evident that the food environment plays a major role in determining dietary risk factors

for severe health conditions.

4. Meta-data/environmental data: To detail the sustainability aspects of this project, we

will collate broader data on California’s water conservation and water control, drought, soil

degradation, air and water pollution, the population of honey bees, and climate change impacts.

5. Case study: To demonstrate how our study design might work towards providing

specific solutions to some of our research questions, we have chosen the case study of almond

plantations in California. The state is the world’s largest producer of almonds, and almond

production consumes around 10% of its water resources. The cultivation of almonds in the

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drought-hit state has received considerable media as well as scholarly attention in terms of both

almonds’ nutritional value as well as cost to the environment. By using the combination of

qualitative and quantitative research methods and delving more deeply into the state’s almond

production debates, we will be able to demonstrate our methodology for a specific case, which in

turn will help draw broader conclusions about the challenges facing California’s agricultural

landscape today.

Implications for the future of Food Studies: The field of food studies explores the history of

food through an interdisciplinary approaches. Our project is concerend with questions of

agriculture, the anthropology of food, nutrition and sustainability. By exploring the changing

patterns of the agricultural industry in California through the last decades, we can draw richer

data that will help address into issues and concerns for nutritional security, policies, food justice,

food and environmental sustainability, and consumer attitudes and behaviors in order to propose

more efficient and resourceful practices for the years to come. These research methods could

open doors for professionals in these fields to work together in order to improve the future of the

food systems and public health in California. Relevant findings and results may be applied to or

contributed to creating more effective interventions and solutions to the increasing global

concerns of food security and sustainable agricultural practices.

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References (and annotated bibliography)

Alkon, A. H., & Agyeman, J. (2011). Cultivating food justice: Race, class, and sustainability.

MIT Press.

Bagott J. (2016). About Those Nutty Almond Investors. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from

www.wsj.com/articles/about-those-nutty-almond-investors-1473722301

Bladow, K. (2015). Milking It: The Pastoral Imaginary of California’s (Non) Dairy Farming.

Gastronomica: The Journal of Critical Food Studies, 15(3), 9-17.

This article, written by an indigenous studies scholar, examines the relationship between

consumers of dairy and non-dairy milk, California’s agricultural history, and the role of

advertising and packaging in promoting ideas of the state as an idyllic pastoral paradise.

It considers the aesthetic and emotive dimensions of milk, and traces how it became a

symbol of harmonious technological advancement and industrialization in the state.

The paper is useful for understanding how food histories and rhetorical power influence

consumer choices in tangible ways, with concrete repercussions on agricultural

production and choices. It also provides useful summaries of California’s dairy and

almond industries. Further, its critical take on the shift in consumer practices from

ingredient-centered consumption towards nutritionism – a preoccupation with

micronutrients – presents an important argument for why almond milk has

counterintuitively become a key commodity in a drought-hit state.

California Agricultural Vision: Strategies for Sustainability. (2010). A Report by American

Farmland Trust to the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the State

Board of Food and Agricultural.

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Caprio, S., Daniels, S. R., Drewnowski, A., Kaufman, F. R., Palinkas, L. A., Rosenbloom, A. L.,

& Schwimmer, J. B. (2008). Influence of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture on Childhood

Obesity: Implications for Prevention and Treatment: A consensus statement of Shaping

America's Health and the Obesity Society. In Diabetes Care (Vol. 31, pp. 2211-2221).

Cakmak, I. (2002). Plant Nutrition Research: Priorities to Meet Human Needs for Food in

Sustainable Ways. Plant and Soil, 247(1), 3-24. doi:10.1023/A:1021194511492

Food security and sustainability issues are significant concerns with the growing human

population and decreasing agricultural resources on our planet. To meet the increasing

demands of food production while meeting nutrient needs in areas experiencing severe

malnutrition, there are plant research efforts that aim to tackle these concerns. In North

America, the estimate of soil degradation in agricultural land was 26%, and 38% total

globally. Applying fertilizers to maintain soil fertility would contribute to dramatically

increasing food production to meet the projected estimated food yield needs but it may

severely compromise environmental health such as drinking water pollution and

increased gas emission that causes global warming. At least 60% of cultivated soils

around the world currently have mineral toxicities or deficiencies. Cakmak discusses how

plant nutrition research aims to create more efficient nutrient system for crop production

for long-term sustainability without harming the environment.

Chan, S. (1989). This bittersweet soil: The Chinese in California agriculture, 1860-1910. Univ of

California Press.

Eswaran, H., Lal, R., & Reich, P. (2018). Land Degradation: An overview. Retrieved from

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/soils/use/?cid=nrcs142p2_054028

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Fan, S. (2015). How agriculture can improve health and nutrition. Retrieved from

https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/04/how-agriculture-can-improve-health-and-

nutrition/

Feenstra, G. (2002). Creating Space for Sustainable Food Systems: Lessons from the Field.

Agriculture and Human Values, 19, 99-106. Retrieved from

https://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/johns-hopkins-center-for-a-livable-

future/_pdf/projects/FPN/academic_literature/Creating_space_for_sustainable_food_syst

ems_Lessons_from_the_eld.pdf

This article discusses the history of shifts in the trends of food systems, especially new

community spaces made as efforts towards sustainability of agricultural systems.

Feenstra describes that community food system projects have been initiated for long-term

sustainability in family farm production practices, regulating agricultural jobs and

businesses, and increasing healthy food access to people in the community. Four types of

spaces were identified in order for protection and creation of these community system

food projects- social, political, intellectual, and economic space. Despite these initiatives,

consumers may prefer mainstream retailers, for example, rather than the farmer’s market

for obtaining fruits or vegetables. The three themes she describes that emerges from these

spaces are public participation, partnerships, and principles. Feenstra argues that patience

and time is required in order to see greater support and witness a measurable impact of

these projects.

“Food Security”. Understanding Poverty. World Bank. Retrieved from

http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/food-security

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Ganz, M. (2009). Why David sometimes wins: Leadership, organization, and strategy in the

California farm worker movement. Oxford University Press.

Geertz, C. (2008). Thick description: Toward an interpretive theory of culture. In The Cultural

Geography Reader (pp. 41-51). Routledge.

Growing Good. (2017). Almond Sustainability 2017.

This document defines sustainability efforts to production of California almonds, which

makes up 90% of family farms in California. The Almond Board of California has been

expanding in this field of funded research for the last 40 years to improve all aspects

involved in almond production including water and air quality, bee health and pollination,

tree and soil health, energy conservation, carbon emission, and community health and

wellness. One major area of research and sustainability efforts have been in efficient

irrigation adoption which has successfully used water-saving technologies that reduced

over a third of the amount of water required to grow almonds. Another highlight is efforts

for bee health and pollination, given that bee health has been on a decline due to

beekeeping and crop production methods in recent years. The Almond Board of

California developed the Honey Bee Best Management Practices (BMPs) for all

California almond farmers, which helps to welcome bees in orchards while protecting the

crops.

Hamblin J. (2014). The Dark Side of Almond Use. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/08/almonds-demon-nuts/379244/

Herrick C. (2014). American and Western Fruit Grower’s 2014 Top Nut Growers. American

Fruit Grower magazine and Western Fruit Grower magazine. Retrieved from

www.growingproduce.com/nuts/2014-top-nut-growers/

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Jackon, L., Wheeler, S., Hollander, D., O'Geen, A., & Orlove, B. (2011). Case study on potential

agricultural responses to climate change in a California landscape. Climatic Change,

109(1), 402-427. doi:10.1007/s10584-011-0306-3

Landecker, H. (2016). Antibiotic resistance and the biology of history. Body & Society, 22(4),

19-52.

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californiana. Rivista di frutticultura e di ortofloricultura. Retrieved from

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mandorlicoltura-californiana/

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Pathak, T., Maskey, M., Dahlberg, J., Kearns, F., Bali, K., & Zaccaria, D. (2018). Climate

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8(3), 25. doi:10.3390/agronomy8030025

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Patterson A. L., Josling T.E. (2005). Mediterranean Agriculture in the Global Marketplace: A

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as ‘Honey”. International Honey Market.

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Sackman, D.C. (2005). Orange empire: California and the fruits of Eden. Univ of California

Press.

This history of California’s agricultural systems provides a compelling account of the

linkages between nature, culture and society. It uses the orange industry as its primary

example to develop insights into how California’s natural and social landscapes were

transformed over the 20th century through changes in agriculture. It shows how industry

practices such as putting up huge billboards with pictures of perfectly ripe oranges all

along the freeway system got households to increase their consumption and consequently

come to hold certain views about the purity of nature and good health.

By using a historical approach to food, this book shows how we might begin to

understand the deeper and richer complications of the agricultural industry, household

22
consumption and the natural world. It will be especially useful towards developing the

background information and context for our project, given that modern agricultural

practices cannot be seen as discontinuous from their past histories.

Scrinis, G. (2013). Nutritionism: The science and politics of dietary advice. Columbia University

Press.

This classic text in the sociology of food has been used widely to understand how

nutrition scientists, dietitians and public health experts have in different ways led modern

consumers to think about food in terms of the micronutrients they contain. Scrinis writes

that the “nutritionism” approach reduces food to its minute components and has replaced

older ways of eating that considered more broadly which foods were healthy, what to eat

more of and what to avoid. More importantly, Scrinis argues that this preoccupation with

the micronutrients in food has been “co-opted by the food industry” so that they can

target consumers in new and powerful ways.

Scrinis’ argument is a crucial part of understanding industrialized food systems and

consumer choices. It provides important anthropological and political grounding for why

products such as almond milk or avocados or oranges have gained popularity in post-

industrial states such as California because they are now seen not as beverages or fruits,

but as sources of calcium, monounsaturated fat and vitamin C.

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Northern part of the San Joaquin Valley, California, 2003-10. Scientific Investigations

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State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables. (2013). Center for Disease Control. Retrieved

from https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/downloads/state-indicator-report-fruits-vegetables-

2013.pdf

Pathak, T. (2018). Climate Change Trends and Impacts on California Agriculture: A Detailed

Review. Retrieved from http://www.mdpi.com/2073-4395/8/3/25

Climate conditions have deeply changed in California negatively impacting the state

agricultural industry, including crop yield decreases, augmented crop water demands,

increased pest and diseases, just to name a few. In analyzing those climatic modifications

and the ones to come, the article highlights the importance of climate adaptation research

to be locally focused and the role and the engagement of the main stakeholders in the

implementation of adaptation strategies.

The Future of Agriculture. (2016). The Economist. Retrieved from

www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2016-06-09/factory-fresh

This article uses the example of California almond production to outline some of the

advantages of smart farming – where computers control sowing, watering, fertilizing and

harvesting – and of crop genomics. These technologies bring increasing profits to

farmers, in the short term, thanks to cost cuts and to the augmentation of yield

performance. Will these new technologies contribute to facing the increasing world food

demand?

The State of Childhood Obesity - The State of Obesity. (2018). Retrieved from

https://stateofobesity.org/childhood-obesity-trends/

Xiao M., Koppa A., Mekonnen Z., Pagán B. R., Zhan S., Cao Q., Aierken A., Lettenmaier D. P.

(2017). How much groundwater did California's Central Valley lose during the 2012–

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2016 drought? Geophysical Research Letters. Retrieved from

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2017GL073333

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