Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Harvest Empire: A History of California Agriculture. By Lawrence J. Jelinek. Second Edition. San Francisco: Boyd & Fraser Publishing Company, 1982. Maps. Charts. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. 126 pages. $5.95 Paper.
California is the United States’ leading agricultural income producing state, and has been for a long time. Incredibly, there is no major comprehensive history of agriculture in California. Until one comes along the best starting place is Jelinek’s Harvest Empire, which introduces the major topics and themes of agriculture in California and then supplements them with an excellent and partially annotated bibliography. The book is brief, but covers Indian, Spanish and Mexican agriculture (one chapter each) and the development of Anglo-American agriculture, especially wheat, specialty crops, industrialization of agriculture and the commercialization of farming. He stresses the role of irrigation, available labor, crop experimentation and unique responses to transportation and marketing problems. Although San Diego is not mentioned in the index, there are appropriate references to agriculture in the area throughout the book. The most important contribution of the second edition is the updated bibliography.