Don’t miss the “25 Stories” exhibit!

UPDATE: Read the Vida en el Valle story,‘River parkway exhibit features Valley’s people,’ here.

Beginning this week and continuing through the end of March, San Joaquín Valley residents will have the opportunity to check out an awesome exhibit at the San Joaquín River Parkway and Conservation Trust.

The exhibit, “25 Stories from the Central Valley,” includes photographs that depict the environmental issues in the region – from poor air quality, to contaminated drinking water, to big ag – and features the courageous women who are fighting to improve the health and environmental health in their communities.

Tracy Perkins, a photographer and graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, is the project director for the exhibit.

In the exhibit, you will see pictures of Teresa DeAnda, an Earlimart resident who was poisoned by pesticide drift, and since then has become a champion for pesticide reform. (She is pictured below.)

You will see pictures of Alejandro Alvarez, of Avenal, below, whose daughter was born with birth defects and later died. The photo of Alvarez is just one of the images capturing the ongoing environmental justice fight in Kettleman City.

You will also see photos of the Valley in all its beauty – when the orchards are in bloom each spring – and all its ugliness – when thick fog practically obscures the view of an ethanol plant.

But I don’t want to give away the whole exhibit.

Rather, I encourage you to visit the River Parkway Trust’s Ranch House to see the exhibit for yourself. The exhibit is sure to bring alive the urgent health issues in the Valley, and the people fighting for change.

  • There will be an artist’s reception this Friday at 5:30 p.m. at the Ranch House. The event is free and open to the public. People can view the exhibit on Saturdays and Sundays between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Note:  Photo of Alejandro Alvarez by Daniel Cásarez of Vida en el Valle. The rest of the photos above are by Tracy Perkins. Perkins’ photos were originally posted on the Women’s Foundation of California’s website.

Day 1 of the #SowChange tour

The first day of the Women’s Foundation of California’s Sowing Change 2010 tour began in Bakersfield, and continued to Wasco, McFarland, Pixley, and Kettleman City. Read a past post about the tour here.

  • Stop 1: Wasco

If you have ever wanted to see how various polluting industries could have cumulative health impacts, you only need to travel to Wasco, a Kern County city of 24,724 people that was the first stop on the Women’s Foundation of California’s Sowing Change tour.

In Wasco, we met a group of women who are part of el Comité de las Rosas (Rose Committee,) named, in part, to recognize Wasco’s designation as the rose capital of the country.

The women live in a 250-unit labor camp, which is located across the street from a coal plant. It’s located a few blocks away from a facility that produces bio-pesticides, and the women said a “fishy” smell is always wafting from the factory.

They live steps from the railroad tracks; children cross the tracks to go to school, and mothers push baby carriages across the tracks to do their shopping.

But what’s neat about Wasco – and so many of the other Valley communities we visited on the tour – is that the residents are joining together to create change. One woman from the committee is now a leader on the city’s housing board, and another told us about the possibility of  establishing an organic farming cooperative in Wasco.

  • En route to Pixley:

On the way to Pixley, Earlimart resident Teresa De Anda described how her small community was poisoned during a pesticide drift incident in 1999. Since then, De Anda has become an unstoppable and indefatigable champion for pesticide reform.

She pointed out the sign above, which was situated near a group of workers picking and bagging grapes.

  • Stop 2: Pixley

As I’ve reported before, Pixley – an unincorporated Tualre County community of 2,586 people, 68.2 percent of who are Latino - is an amazing example of how a community can band together to create healthier environments.

Pixley has long been considered a food desert, because residents have very limited access to fresh and affordable fruits and vegetables. In response to that situation, a group of families helped establish a community garden at the local school.

One Pixley resident told us about the advantages of planting and harvesting her own fruits and vegetables in the community garden: She saves money on produce; she doesn’t have to buy expensive, poor-quality fruits and veggies; and she and her family get physical exercise while working together in the garden.

After hearing about the community garden, as well as the local youth folkloric dance group, Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers, declared Pixley to be “an oasis” among San Joaquín Valley communities.

“I think this is just remarkable,” she said of the residents’ collaborative efforts to make their community a healthier place for their families.

I tweeted throughout the Sowing Change tour. If you don’t follow me on Twitter (@HarvestHealth,) you can catch up on the tweets here.