Subscriptions click here for 20% off! E-Mail:

Git Home!


The Silent Harvest

By Gerry Tsuruda

The Final Harvest © Gerry Tsuruda Ground Zero © Gerry Tsuruda
The Final Harvest, Sutter Co., Calif. 1999
Ground Zero, Tracy, Calif. 2000
LEFT: In the spring of 1998 I happened upon an almond orchard in full bloom. Minus my camera on that particular day, I promised to return the following year to photograph that location. This is what remained of the orchard. RIGHT: Just over the hill from the heavily populated San Francisco Bay Area lies the once rural town of Tracy. Now growing at over 5 percent per year with a population exceeding 50,000, Tracy is symbolic of other rapid growth areas of the Central Valley.

I first became aware of the loss of agricultural land in the early ’90s. I was involved in photographing rural landscapes in the Central Valley of California. Over the course of the next decade, it became clear that many of the pristine views, the subject of earlier photos, were no longer there. What had once been farms were now the sites of housing developments. What had once been orchards were now Wal-Marts. Faced with that realization, I needed to know more.

What evolved was quite unexpected, considering that I was a hard-line landscape photographer who had spent years avoiding “people photographs” at any cost. However, attached to the loss of ag land was the human story of how the land was first cultivated, shaped and formed, sometimes passing through generations of one family. What also evolved was an understanding of the constant pressure on family farmers faced with falling crop prices, rising costs and eager developers with ready cash but no real sentiment for the land or its history.

Those elements formed the basis for the Silent Harvest, a photo-documentary about the disappearance of the family farm. Through the images and accompanying stories, a mosaic of family farming emerges, from the changes in the land to the changes in farm family structure, and finally, in the loss of rural tradition, one I refer to as the “culture of agriculture.”

The Machados © Gerry Tsuruda
The Machados, Elk Grove, Calif. 2000
When Troy and Doug Machado’s grandfather started this dairy in 1951 there was no such thing as development pressure. There were no housing developments, no proposed shopping malls and no talk of incorporating their rural property into a growing town. Fifty years later, the Machados are looking at all those prospects.
Handmade, Reedley, California 2000
With the disappearance of rural communities comes the loss of
traditions passed down through the generations. Today, most quilts are stitched by machine. Will the art of hand-stitching quilts in this small town die with these ladies?
Handmade © Gerry Tsuruda
Jack Davis © Gerry Tsuruda
Jack Davis
East Nicolaus, California 1999

When Jack and Dale Davis look out their front door, they see a farm that has survived five generations. Their kids are grown and live elsewhere. One son has promised to come home and take over the operation, but increased development around their farm paints a bleak picture for the farm’s future.
The Judging, Gridley, Calif. 2000
“tra-di-tion” (American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition)–The passing down of elements of a culture from
generation to generation, especially by oral communication.
The Judging © Gerry Tsuruda

Although the project focuses on a specific geographical location, it is really the story of what is happening throughout the United States, be it Iowa, Minnesota, or North Carolina. Thomas Jefferson once said that our bond with the soil was essential to our nation’s spiritual well-being. It would be advice well-taken if we would consider the consequences of breaking that bond.

Photographer Gerry Tsuruda resides in Yuba City, Calif. Thirty-five images from The Silent Harvest recently completed a successful run at the California Museum of Photography in Riverside. For project information, please go to <> or call 530-674-8216.

Table of Contents | Git Home!

To Subscribe: Please click here or call 1-800-RANGE-4-U for a special web price

Copyright © 1998-2005 RANGE magazine

For problems or questions regarding this site, please contact Dolphin Enterprises.

last page update: 04.03.05