New Unique California Ag Field Guide

Two University of Nevada professors produce a fact-filled, entertaining, practical guide.

Published on: Nov 19, 2010
As agritourism, farmers' markets, and the organic and slow-food movements have taken off, so has a renewed interest in America's agriculture. So, the time is ripe for a field guide to California's most consistent economy – agriculture, consisting of more than 75,000 farms and ranches. Two University of Nevada, Reno Foundation Professors have teamed up to produce a fact-filled, entertaining, practical guide to California's production of almost 400 different crops, which has created "the most dramatic modern agricultural landscape in the world," as the authors argue in the book's preface.

Paul Starrs, geography professor, and Peter Goin, art professor, have coauthored a Field Guide to California Agriculture, published by the University of California Press. They spent six years developing the work, obviously engaged in a labor of love, as their respect for the industry, its people and the agriculture's many faces shine through in the 506-page book.

University of Nevada, Reno professors collaborate on California Ag Field Guide "Required reading for every serious foodie, gardener and farmers market junkie," writes the L.A. Times
University of Nevada, Reno professors collaborate on California Ag Field Guide "Required reading for every serious foodie, gardener and farmer's market junkie," writes the L.A. Times

In the book's preface, Starrs explains, "Believe us: we, too, try to share our love for the eccentricity and possibility of California. All those miles, all those conversations (routinely in Spanish, which we both speak with some fluency), have brought agriculture to life."

Starrs' lively and thoughtful writing and Goin's eye-opening and often humorous photographs transform the book from simply a factual "catalog," useful to academics and those in the industry, to an enjoyable survey for a general audience that tells a story of heritage, culture and social significance.

The bulk of the book's pages are taken up with a survey of crops, but the book also contains a historical overview, a section on the state's agricultural regions, and a dramatic gallery of larger-format photographs, The Paradox and Poetics of Agriculture.

Goin's family includes long-standing Californians, and his father worked as a seasonal farmworker in the lemon groves during his time at UC Berkeley. Starrs is a resident of both Nevada and California and has spent much time traveling and discovering the back roads of California. He can still ride, rope and brand, having worked as a ranch hand watching over several hundred cattle and calves grazing high-altitude rangelands.