the winner for Feature Reporting, a long piece but well worth the time.
“A Kingdom from Dust”
The California Sunday Magazine
I roll past Tulare, where every February they hold the biggest tractor show in the world, even bigger than the one in Paris. Past Delano and the first vineyards that Cesar Chavez marched against. Past McFarland and the high school runners who won five state championships in a row in the 1990s. Past Oildale and the boxcar where Merle Haggard grew up. Past Bakersfield and the high school football stadium where Frank Gifford and Les Richter, two future NFL Hall of Famers, squared off in the Valley Championship in 1947 in the driving rain. And then it hits me when I reach the road to Weedpatch, where my grandfather’s story in America — a poet on his hands and knees picking potatoes — began. I’ve gone too far. The wide-open middle of California did its lullaby on me again.
I turn back around and find Route 46, the road that killed James Dean. I steer past Wasco to the dust-blowing orchards that flank Lost Hills, the densest planting of almonds, pistachios, and pomegranates on earth. This is the domain of Stewart Resnick, the richest farmer in the country and maybe the most peculiar one, too. His story is the one I’ve been carting around in my notebook for the past few decades, sure I was ready to write it after five years or ten years, only to learn of another twist that would lead me down another road.
The Wonderful citrus complex along Highway 99