Climate Change

Photo Essay: Climate Change in the Central Valley

June 23, 2019

Photographer Jonno Rattman spent a week photographing the Central Valley for Bay Nature’s summer 2019 cover story, “A Time of Reckoning”. He was struck, as he traveled, by the near total absence of people — it was, he says, one of the brightest, emptiest landscapes he’s ever worked in.

wood chipper
Felled trees are shredded into wood chips.

Reckoning in the Central Valley

“Reckoning in the Central Valley” is a collaboration between Bay Nature and KQED Science examining how climate change is laying bare the vulnerabilities of California agriculture.

“Centers of Insurrection”: Central Valley Farmers Reckon With Climate Change

The Disrupters Meet the Disruption: Tech Steps Up to Big Ag and Climate Change

A Time of Reckoning: Climate change is upending agriculture and land use in California’s Central Valley

A fallowing area where the trees have been ripped out by Fowler Brothers Farm Management contrasts with the growing orchard behind it.
nursery saplings
Saplings grow in plastic tubes at the Duarte Nursery outside Modesto, where they’re tested against the conditions expected of California’s changing climate.
A nursery worker waters seedlings at the Duarte Nursery. The nursery specializes in tree nuts and fruits.
Almonds grow on a tree at Burroughs Family Farms in Denair, California. Fifteen years ago, Ward Burroughs began transitioning the farm from conventional to organic.
pistachio trees
Pistachio trees stretch across the landscape at Gary Norton’s pistachio farm southwest of Fresno. The heat and drought-tolerant pistachio is increasingly popular with Central Valley growers; “Almonds are for yourself,” Norton jokes. “Pistachios are for your kids and your grandkids.”
farmer Gary Norton inspects a pistachio tree
Pistachio farmer Gary Norton inspects a tree in his 940-acre orchard southwest of Fresno. Pistachios tolerate heat well, but Norton still estimates that 10 percent of his crop will be “blanks” due to inadequate low-chill hours.
About the Author

Jonno Rattman is a photographer and master printer. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Yorker, and The Atlantic, among other publications. Rattman was recognized as one of Photo District News' 30 Emerging Photographer to Watch in 2015.