CIRS Blog about Rural California

Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Community Development



There are many heat stress prevention strategies for farmworkers that focus on correcting either individual behaviors (e.g., avoiding caffeinated beverages and bulky sweatshirts) or workplace conditions (e.g., providing shade and regular break periods). Yet, few heat stress-specific health plans take into consideration the conditions of the built and natural environment that farmworkers are returning to at the end of a long day in the fields.

Continue reading
in Farm Labor 4430 0

California is at the leading edge of demographic change in the United States, as the state’s cities, suburbs, and rural towns are inhabited by millions of foreign-born, and their children, who now account for half of California’s population. Many of these groups have been around for generations and have influenced California’s culture—from its arts and politics to its customs and cuisine. Yet, these same groups are often scapegoated when it comes to the state’s sluggish economy, overburdened hospitals, or underperforming schools. The numbers, however, do not tell the full story of how these Californians are shaping the physical and cultural landscape of the state.

Continue reading
in Immigration 11083 0

For decades, the rural housing program has been a mainstay of national and state efforts to improve the living conditions of low-income people in the U.S. At the federal level, Congress adopted a series of initiatives during the 1930s to stabilize rural families on family farms and rehouse the Depression-era rural poor, which laid the groundwork for a national rural housing program. At the state level, since the mid-1970s, the state of California has operated programs targeted specifically to small towns and rural communities and amelioration of the dismal living conditions of farm workers and Native Americans.

At the forefront of these efforts in California has been a strong network of community-based, nonprofit and public organizations and agencies located throughout the state and delivering a variety of housing services. These services include: acquisition, rehabilitation, construction, and operation of rental housing for low-income families, the elderly and disabled, homeless, and farm workers; construction supervision and loan packaging for families participating in owner-build programs; rehabilitation and retrofits of existing owner-occupied homes; installation of sewer, water, and other infrastructure improvements; provision of supportive services; and foreclosure prevention intervention, homeownership counseling, financial literacy training, and asset-building. These services have been funded by an array of federal, state, and local government housing and community development programs, lending institutions, such as banks and nonprofit financial intermediaries, private investors, and others.

The California Coalition for Rural Housing (CCRH) was created in 1976 to represent the interests of this network of rural affordable housing providers and their clients and ensure continuing funding and supportive land use and planning laws. CCRH is the oldest statewide affordable housing coalition in the U.S. Our members include some of the oldest nonprofit housing development organizations in the country, groups that emerged in the 1960s and 1970s to provide decent and affordable homes for California farm workers and other rural poor. They include the largest producers of mutual self-help housing in the country, a precursor of Habitat for Humanity. They also include some of the largest operators of farm labor housing for permanent and migrant workers.

It is this highly successful network of sophisticated, mission-driven, rural housing providers that is currently seriously threatened by shrinking funding resources. The threats are manifold. But, with the threats come several new opportunities.

Continue reading
in Rural California 22045 0

California’s San Joaquin Valley is a place of contradictions. It has some of the most productive and wealth-generating agricultural lands on the planet, but many of the people who live in this region live in poverty, confront environmental contamination, and face serious health risks. Despite efforts to alleviate these problems, the region’s poor air and water quality, concentrated poverty, and uneven access to educational and other opportunities continue to afflict the Valley. Additionally, sustainability of the Valley’s economy is increasingly dependent on the health and well-being of the all of the region’s residents across its diverse rural and urban communities.

Continue reading
in Rural California 18155 0

The Salinas Valley, in Monterey County, with dark, rich soils highlighted by contrasting rows of greens invokes a picture perfect image of California agriculture. It has been nicknamed "the salad bowl of the United States," and grows an abundance of fresh greens and fruit. Despite this seeming abundance, the Salinas Valley is not a stranger to poverty and hunger. 

Monterey County is the third highest grossing agricultural crop producing county in the US, with sales of more than $4 billion in 2010. Despite this agricultural bounty, Monterey County has the highest rate of adults in food insecure households out of all California counties, with a ranking of 58th in the state. There are approximately 51,000 individuals, or 49% of adults, in this county with incomes lower than 200% of the Federal Poverty Level who are food insecure.


Continue reading
in Food Insecurity / Food Deserts 29689 0

Danielle Boule, George Hubert, Anna Jensen, Alannah Kull, Julia Van Soelen Kim, Courtney Marshall, Kelsey Meagher and Thea Rittenhouse

This report was prepared by a team of graduate students at UC Davis in the spring of 2011 for the Yolo Ag and Food Alliance (AFA). The objective was to examine the plausibility of creating a food hub in Yolo and Solano Counties. To achieve this, the UC Davis research team explored recent trends in food hubs across the country and conducted a food system assessment of the two counties to provide a context for how and whether a food hub might be situated.

Continue reading
in Rural California 11911 0

Although most of us have probably participated in agritourism at some point in our lives, not everyone may be familiar with the meaning of term agritourismOne source defines agritourism as “a commercial enterprise at a working farm, ranch or agricultural plant conducted for the enjoyment or education of visitors, and that generates supplemental income for the owner.”  Agritourism encompasses a diverse range of activities such as farm tours, festivals that celebrate regional crops, farm stands, school group field trips, on-farm weddings, farm stay bed and breakfasts, vineyard wine tastings, picking fruit at a u-pick operation, culinary events, and farm classes etc. In addition, agritourism can include attractions that have little or nothing to do with food production but that offer entertainment such as hay rides, petting zoos, pumpkin patches, Christmas tree farms, and concerts.

Continue reading
in Agritourism 21076 0

Jonathan London and Ted Bradshaw


This essay is based on research being conducted for a book by Jonathan London, Ted Bradshaw and Ed Blakely. Ted Bradshaw passed away before this article was written but the concepts and structure were developed in conversation with Jonathan London. In honor of these intellectual influences, this article is credited as a co-authored piece.



For those who care about rural places, whether scholars or practitioners (or, in the case of these authors, both) the inadequacy of analytical frameworks for understanding and therefore intervening in rural change is troubling. Alternately framed as an immaterial anachronism in an increasingly dominant metroscape; a victim of over-determined and extractive structures of modernity, capitalism, and globalization; a romanticized lost agrarian world, or an uncritical site of local progress, the dominant rural discourses provide little basis for satisfying intellectual or political projects.

Continue reading
in Rural California 16753 0


Fueling California's growth and diversity is the increased migration of populations into the state's various regions. Much of the recent growth has come from migrants and historical minority groups such as Latinos (mostly of Mexican descent) who now comprise over a third of the state's population and are projected to triple to over 31 million, or 52 percent of the state's population, by 2050. In 2000, only two of California's 58 counties (Imperial and Tulare) were 50 percent or more Latino. By 2050 it is expected that 22 will be over 50 percent Latino and 16 will be between 30 percent and 50 percent [1]. The continued association of many Latinos with their places of origin has produced transnational identities and cultural practices, yet this will no doubt change given that most Latinos will be native born in the near future [2]. The fact that California is now a “majority-minority” state underscores that we are truly at a cultural crossroads. However, struggles over place have become a battleground for issues related to anti-immigration and xenophobia. Everyday manifestations of these antagonisms include gang injunctions, curfew laws, zero-tolerance zones, and punitive day labor ordinances.



The tensions arising from the growth of Latino communities in California and the rest of the United States were the impetus for a series of “diálogos” sponsored by the Latinos and Planning Division of the American Planning Association. A total of nine forums were held in a number of states beginning in 2005 where professionals were asked to identify and prioritize key community planning challenges. Some of the states included California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Several themes emerged as the top priority issues. These included the lack of participation of Latinos in planning decisions, the cultural divide that exists between practitioners and communities, and community designs that do not meet the needs and preferences of many Latinos.


One outcome of these discussions was the publication of Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities (Routledge 2012). The aim of this educational resource is to assist individuals seeking to learn about, engage, and plan with Latino communities. One example is the growing practice of incremental construction in rural areas [3]. Incremental construction is a gradual process of construction and upgrading of dwellings as funds become available. With roots in common building practices in Latin America, this type of housing production occurs when there are few guiding regulations. However, it can take years to improve and expand houses, and site and home improvements depend more on the resources and needs of property owners than the concerns of neighbors. While there are benefits and challenges of incremental construction, it is a form of affordable housing for many Latino households that do not have access to mortgage financing. The adoption of local regulation to allow incremental forms of housing construction is important, as is the development of guidelines to meet health and safety standards. This example highlights the need for local policymakers and planners to rethink their assumptions and redirect their energies toward novel, creative, and adaptive strategies to accommodate the needs of low-income communities.


Different visions of “home” among Latinos often come into conflict with existing cultural norms. For many Latinos, local places provide a common sense of identity despite the fact that these groups often have roots elsewhere. One characteristic is a longing for homeland across national borders and thousands of miles away. One manifestation is the formation of hometown associations, or clubes de oriundos, that fundraise in the U.S. to implement public works and social projects in many rural towns in Latin America. A networked and expanded notion of home is inclusive of both material (that is, a house or piece of land) and immaterial qualities such as memory and imagination. This multifaceted conception of home also has implications for policy and regulation as many Latino families utilize their houses in ways that are out of compliance with local zoning ordinances. The use of residential sites for home businesses and household occupancy that exceeds “single family” standards are some examples. Becoming more familiar with how Latinos perceive their belonging and how these understandings may differ from local custom is an important step toward creating a community that everyone can call home.


Placemaking occurs when people attach associations and construct meanings in the places in which they live and work, play and pray. Civic engagement is one way in which Latino communities create a sense of belonging as they struggle to build community, and gain social and political standing. However, most methods of civic participation fall short when it comes to engaging Latinos in a meaningful way. By contrast, novel approaches to participation can build cross-cultural bridges between Latinos and non-Latinos, especially in rural communities that are often divided along cultural lines. One successful method is scenario planning and was used in the Central Valley to consider multiple, plausible realities, rather than a single plan or vision. Facilitated by the Great Valley Center, the aim was to develop a means by which Latinos could give a voice to their present condition and future prospects. Scenario planning, in this case, evaluated the differentiated effects that plans had in the Central Valley's Latino communities.


The growth of Latinos has implications for the immanent shape of California and will undoubtedly impact communities on multiple scales from metropolitan transportation policies to local land use configurations. However, the issues emanating from the changing landscape of California do not suggest that cultural differences are to be viewed as a problem to overcome. The increasingly diverse world we live in today presents an opportunity for elected officials, policymakers, and planners, among others to learn and apply new skills as cultural brokers. An important task is to not only build and make places with local communities, but also to reimagine how we practice democracy in a country that is yet to come, but is already here in California.




[1] (State of California, Department of Finance, Population Projections for California and Its Counties 2000-2050, Sacramento, California, July 2007).


[2] D. Myers, J. Pitkin, and R. Ramirez, “The New Homegrown Majority in California: Recognizing the new reality of growing commitment to the Golden State,” Population Dynamics Research Group, School of Policy, Planning, and Development, USC, April 2009.


[3] Giusti, Cecilia & Olivares, Miriam (2012). Latinos and incremental construction: a case study of Texas colonias. In Michael Rios & Leonardo Vazquez (Eds.), Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities (98-110). New York: Routledge.

Continue reading
in Agriculture in the Community 1263 0

Sign Up for our E-newsletter