One of the most productive agricultural regions in the United States is California’s Central Valley. It is the world’s largest supplier of canned tomatoes, and a third of the country’s produce is grown here. When a seven-year drought hit the land, however, it has threatened the viability of the valley’s farmland, leaving many local communities to suffer greatly as a result.
Joris Debeij’s short documentary When a Town Runs Dry offers a window into the front lines of the water crisis. In the film, which is based on Diana Marcum’s Pulitzer Prize–winning reporting, we hear from several residents of Stratford, a farming community in which much of the land was decimated by the drought.
“Being able to work with the ground and with nature has been very satisfying,” says one farmer, “but of late, when the water becomes scarce, we don’t get a lot of help from the people who want the food that we grow.” The man, who inherited the farm from his father, has been forced to sell land as a result of the aridity. “This year, half of the farm has not been put into cultivation, because of a lack of water,” he says. “Without food production, there’s no jobs out in the rural communities.”
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