This month marks the 15th anniversary of this column, which began in the Foothills Sun-Gazette as “Homepages” in 2007. This issue, however, marks the opening of a whole new territory of readers with its inclusion in the Mid-Valley Times, the newspaper now serving Dinuba, Reedley, Sanger and environs up there on the holy ground of the Kings River Fan. It seems like now would be a good time to review my purposes in writing and renew my vows to be of service to you all.
“Homepages” began as a way to introduce current residents, both new and longstanding, to books and other writings about this place and the elements that affect it. I write from Lindsay, once the Olive Capitol of the World, on the southern, dry edge of the holy Kaweah River Fan, for readers extending mostly to the northern edge and covering a goodly portion of the citrus belt. But I began my writing life 40 years ago mentally in the Alta Irrigation District service area with research reviewing a study conducted 40 years before that called the Arvin-Dinuba Study. This is just to say that I am aware of some of the differences between our two small sub-regions, as well as the equally important parts we play in our larger watershed, the Tulare Lake Basin.
Sometimes I get cranky. We have so much natural wealth and human capacity, yet we let it slip through our fingers without complaint or protest. Or that’s how it often seems to me. Let this be an invitation to you to comment, complain or protest either with me or against. We all will do better with more communication of our ideas, hopes and fears. I write in part to demonstrate that we can express ourselves without getting killed, because the natural tendency in small towns is to repress these things as a form of respect for others. We can be respectful without being constipated.
I write also to get us to look, really look, at where we are and all that we have just by the fact of our residence here. It’s the same reason Paul Buxman paints, with the same hope: that by increasing recognition of our native values and natural bounty, our determination to protect this place will grow.
For most of my adult life, my primary concern has been small towns and the small farms that support them. Some folks don’t realize there’s a connection between those two things until it gets broken somehow, like the 1990 Freeze made so painfully clear. In the intervening three decades, the connection has practically disappeared with the loss of small family farmers and the concentration of farmland and water rights in the hands of far-away corporations and investors. My hope is that we can somehow reverse that trend.
The heart of my concern for small farms and small towns, however, is human equality. Small farms and small towns do not guarantee that all humans will be considered equal; in fact, small towns have been heavily criticized over the last 75 years for being bastions of conservative, petty tyranny, socially speaking. There’s nothing about small farms, either, that guarantees equality, although I have seen enough evidence since moving here 30 years ago to make the claim that there’s more. The alternative, however—the large-scale, absentee-owned industrial farm system that has always dominated the rest of our watershed, from Mendota to Buttonwillow to Alpaugh geographically, the four primary cities economically (Fresno, Visalia, Hanford and Bakersfield) and the whole basin politically and rhetorically—that system guarantees inequality. I will stand by that equation until I can no longer form words.
I also write to convey grace, as much in thanks as to remind us that we are not alone. It takes faith to rise up and find our voices. I am grateful to the editor and publisher of The Sun-Gazette, Paul Myers and Reggie Ellis respectively, for the huge latitude they have granted me to say these things in the past. I hope that my new readers will find this column’s wide range of topics equally beneficial.
Welcome, new readers. Send us your thoughts.
Love to all, Trudy
Trudy Wischemann is a former researcher who has found her voice. You can send her your verbalizations c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247.
This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.