Editor’s Mixing Bowl

June 24, 2023. Standing on a levee road in the middle of Tulare Lake.

Egrets, ibises, stilts, and avocets wade among acres of drowned young pistachio trees as an indie rock band sets up at a stop sign where the road drops down into the water. Its members all hail from Corcoran, and like many residents of this Southern San Joaquin Valley agricultural town, they had never seen a lake here before the Sierra snowmelt started filling the dry basin this spring. At one time, Tulare was the second largest freshwater body in the United States, but through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the basin gradually became just another part of the vast, continuous Central Valley farmscape as the rivers flowing into it were dammed and diverted.

The band—which has no name for the moment—is waiting for sunset. They’ll record a music video to honor this ghost of a lake, which may remain filled through this year and possibly next. Everyone regrets the hardships suffered by those with no means to save their homes or livelihoods from the flood, but no one who stands here among the wild flapping wings fails to be awestruck by how nature came to reclaim the landscape.

A day later, we’re 30 miles north in Kingsburg, where a water tower decorated like a coffee pot and four brightly painted wooden horses at the railroad crossing salute the town’s 19th-century Swedish settlers. At the Organic Stone Fruit Jubilee, we learn we’re in the heart of the “golden triangle of organic stone fruit growing,” and we’re amply rewarded with peaches, plums, and pluots, still a bit crunchy and tart in this relatively chilly start to summer. There are no apricots yet, but we make our first acquaintance with the peacotum: Yes, a peach/apricot/plum hybrid is a thing.

Most growers here at the Jubilee are actively seeking a restorative balance with nature on their farms, which are often third-, fourth-, or fifth-generation operations. Dorothy Boldt, a fourth-generation farmer at D.E. Boldt Family Farms, tells how they deliberately made a “percolation field” from one orchard when the flood arrived in March, letting the water spread more widely over the land to help replenish the depleted aquifer. A more tangible initiative at D.E. Boldt has been the invention of a solar-powered slow-moving harvesting platform that gives workers a distinct advantage in the heat. Can such regenerative initiatives catch on, spread, and make a difference?

As global climate change brings a more hostile environment, many wonder how the growers and harvesters of our food will adapt. The question keeps me up at night, but connecting with farmers like the Boldts and seeing how they continue to do their work is somehow soothing. Through 18 years of reporting for Edible East Bay, I’ve been in constant awe as I visit growers up and down the state, hearing about how they tend the soil, how they plant and harvest, and how they bring forth prodigious amounts of food, often as part of longstanding family tradition. Here in California, we might take for granted the large and fertile breadbasket we call home, but that food blesses tables all over the world, giving so many people the nourishment and joy they require. In this harvest season, there’s good reason to go out to taste and appreciate the work and resources that go into our food. I hope this issue will inspire you to do just that.

—Cheryl Angelina Koehler