Nowhere are the effects of the multiple crises that hit California this year more visible than in the state’s agricultural valleys.
The region faced a list of challenges almost too long to comprehend: record-breaking heat, smog and smoke from historic wildfires resulting in air quality too poor to be outside in. High rates of Covid-19 infections and the anxiety, isolation and job losses that go with it. Tensions around a divisive election. Fears and conflict over immigration policies.
In 2020, California’s Central, Eastern Coachella and Imperial valleys were no longer the outlying edges, but the center of the state’s troubles. A two-week reporting trip in October and November revealed that not knowing the outcome of so much, not knowing where things will go from here, has created a tenor of uncertainty that vibrated through the small towns and across the broad fields.
Lamont, Kern county, California. Discarded shoes. The small town of Lamont has a population of 15,131, and 32.8% of residents live below the poverty level.