James has received a number of research grants, including a Gilder Lehrman Fellowship in American History. She directs and conducts the oral history collection, field interview strategies, post-interview processing methods and preservation techniques consistent with the professional principles, standards, and guidelines of the field. Her research interest include Latino history, Immigration, African American women in the southwest and braceros.
In conjunction with its partners, the Institute of Oral History launched the Bracero Oral History Project, to conduct oral history interviews with individuals that participated in the Bracero Program. Navarro has overseen the development of the single largest bracero related archive in the country. To date they have collected more than interviews as well as photographs and historical material documenting the history of the Bracero Program. His current project entitled The California South: Race, Labor and Justice on the California Border, explores the formation of agricultural empires in the California desert and the exploitation of natural resources and Mexican labor that made it possible.
His areas of research and interest include the culture of work, immigration, industrial history, and work imagery. Wesley Johnson Prize. Velasquez started as an intern in the National Museum of Natural History in His background is Latin American Archaeology, collections management and material culture studies. She has conducted research, written, lectured, and curated exhibitions on slave life and work, everyday material culture of the home, consumerism, the American ceramics industry, and the history of collecting at the Smithsonian.
As co-curator of NMAH's recent America on the Move exhibition, Lilienfeld extensively researched the relationships between politics, communities, and transportation choices in Chicago. To grow tomatoes there requires mind-boggling amounts of fertilizers, fungicides and pesticides on roughly the same acreage of tomatoes, Florida uses about eight times as many chemicals as California. The tomatoes are, in effect, grown hydroponically, and the sand seems useful mostly as a medium for holding stakes in place. The process, not to put too fine a point on it, is awful, but the demand is there — Florida ships about a billion pounds of tomatoes a year — and the main question has not been quality but fairness to the workers.
And not only have workers been enslaved, they have been routinely beaten, subject to sexual harassment, exposed to toxic chemicals Estabrook mercilessly describes the tragic results of this and forced to wait for hours to find out whether they have work on a given day. The CIW has two major goals: the first is to put the last nail in the coffin of slavery, a condition that sadly still exists not only among farmworkers but others.
The breakthrough for the CIW came in , when after enormous consumer pressure Yum! I get to know the rest of the crew between pulls of sweet, stinging whisky. Alex is a river raft guide during the summers who talks excitedly about surfing in Mexico. Saul, a big Hawaiian man, was in a gang in Colorado before coming west to work on the farm. Elliot used to sell stocks for a big financial outfit and now is the most permanent worker, spending eight months of the year looking after the land. Jeremiah and Bacon have beds downstairs and the rest of us sleep in a loft in the peak of the cabin ceiling.
I climb the precarious ladder up with one hand, my duffle bag over my shoulder and a light buzz.
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I find a place among five other beds and lay out my sleeping bag under a window facing a stand of pines and a sliver of the moon. The next morning we drink coffee and observe the cloud cover that hangs in the valleys below. Like the prized wine regions of Napa and Sonoma counties to the south, there is a magical mix of cool and warm breezes here and a rush of mineral-filled sea air that washes over the hills several times a day.
The inversion layer will lift at about noon and the cloud blanket will dissipate, but now, from our morning perch, it feels like you could walk onto it like a magic carpet. The sun bathes the green houses, making them glow in the clearing down the hill, as we approach for the days work. Ducking under the lip of the plastic roof, there is hardly room to move as we stand face to face with the eight-foot tall plants in varietals like Girl Scout Cookie, Head Band and Sour Diesel. We make our way in the tight rows between the plants and begin plucking. The large fan allows air and light to penetrate.
Everything about this plant is attractive.
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This is the bittersweet fact of marijuana cultivation: only female plants create THC and a single male can ruin an entire crop. The females, thus, stand sticky and pungent, trying fruitlessly to reproduce. Some days the work is light and one afternoon we break early to explore the land.
A bag of psilocybin mushrooms sits in the freezer for any such occasion. We eat a few with lunch and decide to take the Rhino, a four-wheel-drive golf cart, down to a creek just past our property. Saul, who works as a mechanic and reads Big Rigs magazine for fun, is our designated driver. I am sitting shotgun and Bacon is in the back, the turret seat, with a Daisy pellet gun and a bottle of bourbon, his trusty green vest strapped to his chest, like he is about to land at Normandy.
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The farm dog, Mara, a squat, overly-excited black lab, is waddling fast behind us. The road turns from gravel to dirt and sticks as we cross into the neighboring property. The mushrooms are working on me now and I feel a tinge of paranoia, understanding the lawless nature of this area and the seriousness of trespassing here. Saul maneuvers the Rhino around a large downed tree in the road and parks.
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Bacon stands up, surveying the area. Twenty yards from us a gallon tank and three coils of brand new hose are cached under a tree. We have stumbled on another operation. We stand, looking around for more signs of a camp. Just then a truck door closes on the road below us. We stop and listen for a moment. A cold shot of reality washes over me. We hear the low idle of a big truck through the thicket and scurry down the hill like teenagers running from the cops.
But this is potentially a much more dangerous situation. We move quietly but quickly to the rig and Bacon wrangles Mara to keep her collar from jangling. I leap in the back and Saul puts it in gear, moving slowly, quietly at first, over the sticks that crack under tire. Then he punches it and we fly up the hill, wind in our hair and palms sweaty, grasping the supports of the buggy, bouncing up the dirt road.
I realize immediately how bad that could have been as we glide home, Mara panting behind us. The plants are recognizing the shorter days of late autumn and have begun their final ripening stage. Almost too large to support themselves, they push large conical flowers towards the sky and stretch big branches of leaves in every direction. Their bulbous flowers are dense and hard to the touch, almost cartoon-like in this exaggerated state.
The leaves are dying, textured like alligator skin, they blush an inky purple, the melanin release of late-season growth. The harvest is a physical haul.
Bacon and Leif work a pair of heavy-duty garden sheers, cutting the thick fibrous stocks and hefty buds, and laying them on a plastic tarp nearby. When the mound is full, we carry the weighted tarp to the yurt to be hung and dried. I will be following Jeremiah as he drives the load into town. This, thankfully, is never discussed. The drive down is one of the riskiest parts of the operation. Exposed in transit with more than pounds of weed, we are vulnerable to any number of scenarios. The boss, however, maintains a Zen-like attitude that morning. I am going to drive fast, so keep up. I have been on the hill for over a month and it is beginning to show in my appearance.
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A scruffy beard covers my chin and cheeks and my hair is full of sticky cannabis particles, pressed under a beanie. I have lost weight and dark bags hang under my eyes after months of sleeping on couches and floors. I am no longer an innocent bystander here; I am an active member of an illegal operation. The sun is setting over the Humboldt coast and the pink clouds are settling into the valley as we head west towards town. We pull out onto the main highway and into a flow of traffic, some of which includes trucks and trailers like ours, filled with similar cargo. The history of this land is rich with a courageous pioneer spirit that still fuels the economy here.
From gold miners, bootleggers, loggers, and homesteaders to cannabis farmers, the remote hills of Northern California have always attracted a unique breed of American. A person willing to brave dangerous conditions in a steep, wooded land and the very real threat of prison, to find riches and a way of life no longer available anywhere else in the country. In a way they are the most American of all, reaching the far coast of the continent and pushing the nation into uncharted territory. As we cross over the Eel River, I peer down to the thin, algae-covered water, its banks wide and exposed like the ribs of a malnourished child.
The drought in the West is one of the worst in decades, and in Northern California the number of grow operations pumping water from the tributaries of the Eel and Trinity rivers have left them a gaunt trickle of their former selves. We arrive at the house well after dark and tuck the trailer inside the fence.
The one-story rental is half-home and half-business. The garage, attic and greenhouse in the back yard, are all converted into grow rooms.