The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of Agribusiness in California

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9781565848771: The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of Agribusiness in California

For over a century, California has been the world’s most advanced agricultural zone, an agrarian juggernaut that not only outproduces every state in America, but also most countries. California’s success, however, has come at significant costs. Never a family-farm region like the Midwest, California’s landscape and Mediterranean climate have been manipulated and exploited to serve modern business interests. Home to gargantuan accomplishments such as the world’s largest water storage and transfer network, California also relies on an army of Mexican farm laborers who live and work under dismal conditions.

In The Conquest of Bread, acclaimed historian Richard A. Walker offers a wide-angle overview of the agro-industrial system of production in California from farm to table. He lays bare the long evolution of each link in the food chain, showing how a persistent emphasis on productivity and growth allowed California to outpace agriculture elsewhere in the United States. Full of thunder and surprises, The Conquest of Bread allows the reader to weigh the claims of both boosters and critics in the debate over the most extraordinary agricultural profusion in the modern world.


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About the Author:

Richard A. Walker is professor emeritus and former chair of geography at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of The Country in the City and The Conquest of Bread (The New Press) and a co-author, with Michael Storper, of The Capitalist Imperative and, with Andrew Sayer, of The New Social Economy. He lives in Berkeley, California.

From Publishers Weekly:

Walker, a Geography professor at UC Berkley and co-author of The Capitalist Imperative, has written an all-encompassing study of one of California’s main cash cows outside the silver screen and dot-coms—food. Methodical and meticulous, he examines key aspects of the state’s agriculture industry, delving deep into its history and patiently setting forth explanations of its inner workings. With its 200-plus crops and substantial canned goods business, California is king among the states in production and revenue for both farming and food processing. After introducing this landscape of abundance, Walker discusses the essential components of California’s agribusiness: laborers, growers and landowners; the land and its products; machines and biotechnology; and marketing and capital. He explores each topic systematically, providing a chronological view of the industry’s development, complete with details about the state’s rich historical background. More than a few charts and graphs accompany the text, but Walker’s writing is rarely technical or overly academic. Though much has been written about farming in California, Walker’s command of that literature and the relevant statistics allows him to present a comprehensive overview of California’s thriving agribusiness.
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