In August, the Fresno Art Museum opened an exhibition entitled, “California: A Landscape of Dreams.” The show, which runs through the end of December 2011, provides a rare forum for art that responds directly to the state’s agricultural landscapes and politics. Linda Cano, Executive Director of the Museum and the curatorial visionary behind the show, explains, “the guiding principle was to show varied perspectives on the perception and reality of land use in California.” A series of paintings in the central atrium highlight “idyllic pastoral scenes of California rivers, meadows, valleys, coastal areas, and farmlands.” But as museum-goers peel off into the galleries featuring installations by esteemed Chicana artist Amalia Mesa-Bains (the show’s headliner) and the photographs of San Francisco-based photographer Barron Bixler, a starkly different portrait of California–and especially the Great Central Valley–takes shape. Read more

In 1999, Sarah Cantril began to pursue her vision of a community gardening program for low-income women and their families. That year, she worked with six Latina women to develop a 300-square foot garden, and, for the next four years, Cantril volunteered her time to help a half-dozen families annually obtain plots in community gardens, mentor one another on gardening practices and harvest food.

In 2004, the group organized as Huerto de la Familia (The Family Garden) and moved their main site to the Churchill Community Garden in Eugene, Oregon. From the 12 initial families with whom Cantril launched the nonprofit, the group has grown to serve 55 families in three community gardens as well as eight families who launched, in 2008, a cooperative berry farm. Read more

In 2008, the MacArthur Foundation awarded urban farming visionary Will Allen, CEO of Growing Power, a genius award. The announcement made Allen a food justice icon and fueled public interest in urban agriculture. With this interest in view, I will be profiling here, and at my blog envo, nonprofits, social entrepreneurs, and small farmers who are transforming the urban food landscape one plot, one market, and one community at a time. Read more

California’s little-known Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) entered the spotlight this month as scientists, farm workers, and activists rallied against the department’s proposal to approve methyl iodide for use in the state’s $2.1 billion strawberry industry. (Civil Eats first reported on methyl iodide here.) On Thursday, DPR officials along with scientists testified at a State Senate hearing on the controversial fumigant, which chemists classify as a neurotoxin and carcinogen. Dozens of activists attended the hearing and delivered to Governor Schwarzenegger some 40,000 letters of opposition to the DPR proposal.

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