The Central Valley stretches for 450 miles through California and is home to so many of the problems America faces today. Nearly half of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables are grown there—largely picked by undocumented workers—and more than half of the residents make less than $16,746 a year. As lines of laborers pick asparagus, other lines form at community food giveaways. Pesticides are sprayed, water wars are fought, and the housing bubble has forever changed the landscape.
Ken and Melanie Light spent five years documenting in words and images the many complexities of the Central Valley. As Melanie Light writes, "I saw the same thing happening all over the valley. The fruit bowl of America was being planted with its final crop: ticky-tacky cookie-cutter houses and gated communities with waterfront homes on man-made lakes.”
And you can see it all in Ken Light’s photographs. You see farmland and new housing developments battle it out—and abandoned homes show that no one is winning. But it is not all grim. Farm workers dance the night away, and a girl celebrates her Quinceañera. As the California Aqueduct surges through the landscape in one photo, a boy flies over the San Joaquin River on a rope swing in another.