Stories from California: Revisiting Agricultural History

The fifth in an eight-part series from multimedia documentarian jesikah maria ross about the people, land, and stories of rural California’s Cache Creek.

Once channels were made and creek water was diverted, it just opened up the realm of agriculture as to what could be produced. —Lynnel Pollock, Farmer

I grew up in a beach town in Northern San Diego County. We didn’t have a Future Farmers of America club at my school, and the 4H group was pretty spare. Besides visits to my grandparents walnut farm in Modesto, California, I didn’t really have any agricultural education. The result: like most urban and suburban residents, I don’t know much about the agricultural history of where I grew up.

It’s only now, as I’m trying to tell the story of California via the Restore/Restory project, that I realize how many of my generation of forty-somethings don’t know much about the role agriculture played in the places we were raised. When you think about it, most of the areas we live, work, and play today were—not that long ago—ranches, orchards, and farm fields. What does it say about us as a nation that we’ve chosen to convert so much agricultural land to other uses? What does it mean that we are so far removed from this part of our past? And why is it important to educate our youth about agricultural history and agri-culture? These are the kinds of questions that floated through my mind as I spoke with Lynnel Pollock on the stream banks of the Cache Creek Nature Preserve.

Lynnel is the current executive director of the Cache Creek Conservancy, the organization that manages the Nature Preserve. For the past forty years, she’s also run a 137-acre farm with her husband and two sons. Along the way, Lynnel served as President of the Yolo County Farm Bureau, on the board of the California Farm Bureau, and as a Yolo County Supervisor for two terms. All of that makes Lynnel uniquely positioned to speak on the history of agriculture in Yolo County, connecting the dots between past struggles and current realities.

Check out her take on the Nature Preserve’s agricultural history. And send us some stories of your town’s agriculture past. —jesikah maria ross

Go here to learn more about the agricultural history of Cache Creek. To read and listen to other perspectives on the history of the area, visit