Stories of California farming history often start at the Gold Rush. Sometimes, they reach back in time to include the Mexican or Spanish eras. But very rarely do we hear about the ways indigenous Californians were tending the landscape to produce food for thousands of years before contact with colonizers. The story of the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band and their stewardship of the land along California’s Central Coast is a crucial part of the history of how humans have interacted with this landscape. What they and other native people across the state have historically done here was NOT farming, they tell me. And yet their stewardship practices literally laid the groundwork for the existing farming industry. It turns out that this story not only stretches the standard timeline of California history back by thousands of years, but it asks us to expand our very definition of agriculture. Which is why it feels like a critically important place to dig in.
This story features A-dae Romero-Briones, Valentin Lopez, Eleanor Castro, Rick Flores and Nancy Vail, with music by Nangdo, Kai Engel and Ketsa. Big thanks, as always, to Cal Ag Roots supporters, including the 11th Hour Project and California Humanities!
Photo Credit: A-dae Romero Briones. Elderberry harvest.