Dispute of California's Central Valley's Greatness
October 17, 2005 11:43 AM   Subscribe

What has California's Great Central Valley done to deserve that moniker? Why is it so great? I know agricultural central of the world, yada, yada, whatever. but I need convincing of it being a defined place rather than a loose set of ideas.

The wikipedia entry on the valley is vague. I am leaning toward believing that this place is just a place of reminisence for Muir, Stienbeck and Gary Soto, not a place of greatness as their literature on the place would make it seem. It seems that during the agricultural revolution, the valley was a hotbed of racism, poverty and greed. Furthermore, who coined that phrase?
posted by FearAndLoathingInLJ to Society & Culture (10 answers total)
Uh, "great" also means "large." As in the Great Lakes.
posted by scody at 11:52 AM on October 17, 2005

Maybe they mean "great" as in "really large easily-geographically-defined area" (which it is), not "great" as in "awesome".
posted by Asparagirl at 11:52 AM on October 17, 2005

What scody and Asparagirl said; and I think Steinbeck is generally more associated with the Salinas Valley, which is a bit to the west of the Central Valley.
posted by LionIndex at 11:56 AM on October 17, 2005

Seconding Asparagirl here - if you take a look at a satellite view (like this one), that big ovaloid bowl you see is the Central Valley. Check out the scale there - it's many hundreds of miles long. Those tiny gray patches you see? The southern one's the LA area, the one towards the middle on the coast is the SF Bay Area.
posted by wanderingmind at 12:03 PM on October 17, 2005

The Great Central Valley used to be a desert until the advent of irrigation - back when I was a kid (I grew up in Merced in the '60s and '70s) the valley was known as the country's (world's?) supplier of almonds and raisins, and not so much of other stuff like peaches and figs (among many other things like military bases, etc.).
posted by DandyRandy at 12:39 PM on October 17, 2005

C.f. the Great Plains, the Great Salt Lake, the Great Canyon. Maybe not so Great as all the other Greats, but it's one big-ass flat valley.

And there's nothing romantic about it. It's more like California swallowed Oklahoma.
posted by fleacircus at 12:45 PM on October 17, 2005

Along those lines, it is still a hotbed of racism, poverty, and greed. It has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, is below average in per capita income across the board, one of the highest pollution rates in the country and until recently had the largest meth production. Land values are sky-rocketing as bay area transplants search for housing while developers and politicians seize and rezone land. On top of this illegal Mexican workers are consistantly treated in the same manner as dust bowl era Oklahomans were subject to in the Grapes of Wrath era. Oh, and "Great meaning large or immense, we use it in the pejorative sense"
posted by arruns at 1:00 PM on October 17, 2005

It has its own native music -- the Bakersfield Sound.
posted by footnote at 4:52 PM on October 17, 2005

Yeah, I never understood why the depression was so great, either. Doesn't sound very fun to me.
posted by dhartung at 5:00 PM on October 17, 2005 [1 favorite]

John McPhee in Assembling California writes very eloquently about how this landform is unique on the earth. It is very flat, and has been that way, apparently, while the rest of California has been rising, deforming, and moving around it.

I have driven up and down this valley many times and I gained a new appreciation for it after reading this book.
posted by Danf at 9:35 PM on October 17, 2005

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