Growers, Specialty Crops, and Labor, 1875-1920
In Cultivating California, David Vaught shows how fruit and nut growers were neither industrialists nor agrarians. From the very outset, he explains, these "horticulturists" saw themselves as guardians of California's unique culture–raising crops for market while self-consciously building healthy and prosperous communities. Every grower was not, in fact, like every other, Vaught argues, whether one examines their labor systems, recruiting methods, harvest needs, marketing strategies, farm size, or their relationships with their communities, unions, and the state. The hard work, foresight, and devotion to detail required to nurture an orchard or vineyard made them, they insisted, cultivators of a better society. Over time, however, labor relations, market imperatives, and changing political conditions undermined the growers' horticultural ideal.
About the Author
David Vaught is an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University.
This is an important book because it dares to take on—with considerable success—a paradigm that has prevailed since the publication of Carey McWilliams's Factories in the Field in 1939. Cultivating California is a crisply written, fast-paced narrative based upon extraordinary research. It is also a courageous effort to clarify the history of agriculture in California by making room for the high ideals of the turn-of-the-century horticultural generation.
This detailed history of four central and northern California agricultural communities is developed around pivotal issues of race, gender, market forces, and entrepreneurial vision. It is local history at its best.
Cultivating California is expertly researched and gracefully written... [It] is an extremely important book that will be read by scholars in agricultural, labor, and California history.
Vaught... is a good writer, but an even more valuable trait... is his dedication to research. This book tells an intriguing story, and it should thus rank very high on the reading list of any historian interested in the history of agriculture and labor in the American West.
A must for scholars interested in the Golden State's controversial history.
Cultivating California broadens our understanding of California agriculture and offers scholars an important new view into the culture of agricultural management in the early 1900s.
There is much to admire in Vaught's work. Besides looking at the details of the crops upon which he focuses—readers will feel as if they are right on the ground in Vaught's accounts—Vaught illustrates clearly how linkages developed between marketing, labor, and the self-images of the growers.
Going beyond the traditional approaches, Vaught's fascinating new study provides California's specialty crop growers with a human face.
This significant work... Offers significant implications for the understanding of both California and American history during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
An excellent pathway into the world of rural baseball.
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