I have traveled through California’s San Joaquin Valley (also known as the Central Valley) a number of times, once on an organized tour but mostly on my own. I find agricultural landscapes interesting, plus I am interested in seeing where my food comes from.
So here is a collection of my best pictures of agriculture in the Central Valley. (Home page readers, click on the link below to see the rest of the pictures.)
Lots of grapevines … I remember someone on the tour saying that a lot of grapes for California wine are grown in the Central Valley, the Napa Valley being just the ‘windowdressing’ for the California wine industry.
Much of it is forage for the many dairy cows in residence throughout the valley. The Central Valley is the nation’s largest dairy producing area, and is also home to the world’s largest ice cream plant.
The Central Valley is irrigated agriculture, so there’s plenty of water infrastructure to distribute the water around the valley. This is Friant Dam, one of numerous dams that catch the snowmelt from the Sierras for agricultural use,
and the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project deliver additional water from the Bay-Delta for irrigation in the Central Valley, as well as supplying the metropolitan areas of Southern California. This is a picture of the Dos Amigos Pumping Plant by Los Banos.
Irrigation water is delivered into a pond near the field, and then pumped out to the fields. Unlike the Imperial Valley, the infrastructure is under ground.
Besides receiving canal water, many farmers pump groundwater as well. Groundwater depletion is a major concern here.
One of the persistent problems with irrigated agriculture – not only in the Central Valley but in pretty much all irrigated agriculture – is dealing with salts. Drainage water laden with salts must be dealt with or the land will become to salinated to use.
The salinity issues are greater in some portions of the valley than others. This was taken out the window of the tour bus on the road to Alpaugh.
This has led to some fields having to be retired due to salt buildup.
One of the more successful crops is Jose Tall Wheatgrass, which can be used as a supplement feed for dairy cows.
Here are a few other shots of the Central Valley …
I love the colors of the foothills in the spring. This is looking south at the foot of the Tehachapis.
These are the gates to the California Aqueduct for water leaving the O’Neill Forebay, which is by the San Luis Reservoir.
And this is the San Luis Reservoir located outside of Los Banos. It is a joint reservoir of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project.
The California Aqueduct is not the only major canal in the Central Valley. This is the Central Valley Project’s Friant-Kern Canal, which runs from Friant Dam on the east side of the valley down to Kern County.
Mendota Dam creates the Mendota Pool, and regulates water released into the San Joaquin River.
To learn more about the Central Valley:
- Central Valley’s Wikipedia Page and/or San Joaquin Valley’s Wikipedia Page
- Central Valley Agriculture – a PBS video that discusses the future of the Central Valley
- San Joaquin Valley – Largest human alteration of the earth’s surface, a USGS Publication
- San Joaquin Valley agriculture – from UC Davis