Monterey County, California, is one of the world’s richest agricultural producers, as the county Farm Bureau notes:
[C]rops grown in Monterey County supply large percentages of total national pounds produced each year: 61% of leaf lettuce, 57% of celery, 56% of head lettuce, 48% of brocolli, 38% of spinach, 30% of cauliflower, 28% of strawberries, and 3.6% of wine grapes.
In other words, if it’s green and on your dinner table, there’s a good chance it came from Monterey County.
And just how much do all those agricultural commodities bring in? Consider this graphic from the latest annual report [PDF] from the Farm Bureau:
According to the latest  U.S. Department of Agriculture Census of Agriculture [PDF], all those riches are produced on 1,179 farms with an average size of 1,076 acres, and each selling crops worth $2,527,341.
That’s a lot of wealth.
But Monterey County is also the home a tremendous income inequality, with some of California’s richest living it Carmel and Monterey, as well as in lavish homes along some of the state’s most spectacular coastline.
Head inland to Salinas — where many of the farm laborers live who produce all that wealth — and things are different, giving rise to high levels of poverty, as evident in these two charts from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis:
Estimated Percent of People of All Ages In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 17 percent
Estimated Percent of People Age 0-17 In Poverty for Monterey County, CA — 25.2 percent
When there is great disparity of wealth, political tensions are inevitable.
And that brings us to the latest edition of Days of Revolt, the weekly series for teleSUR English by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges, focusuing on the political struggle in Salinas:
Days of Revolt: Company Town
From the transcript:
CHRIS HEDGES: Joining me in the studio is Jose Castaneda. He is an independent radical city councilperson who big business has made war against. And Anthony Prince, an attorney who has been working with groups in Salinas to fight back against the power of big business, and all the ways that they are distorting life within the city, including of course going after what has become a large homeless population. Thank you, Jose, and thank you, Anthony.
HEDGES: What do they produce, primarily?
CASTANEDA: This is lettuce, iceberg lettuce. We have strawberries, as well.
HEDGES: Driscoll is there, right, which is huge.
CASTANEDA: Driscoll’s one of the major ag-business as well, Taylor Farms, Tanimura and Antle. There’s a long list of these agriculture–what I call agriculture empire within the county. And it’s an international market, now.
HEDGES: Whole parts of your city have, in essence, been destroyed by these corporations. Perhaps you can give us a picture of what’s happened and what it looks like.
CASTANEDA: I can tell you, the $8 billion industry has controlled, directly and indirectly, the politics. We can go into history. For example, John Steinbeck’s writings of In Dubious Battle, The Grapes of Wrath, Mice and Men, Tortilla Flats, just pick any novel and you’ll see how the, the Depression, as well as oppression in regards to the worker–.
HEDGES: We should be clear that Steinbeck was based in Salinas, right?
CASTANEDA: That is absolutely right. Until Steinbeck was banned, and his books were burned and he had to come to New York, as well, and finish a lot of his work there. That same lineage has continued to control the, the governance system as well, as a state. And it continues to be the case in 2015. I have experienced that myself, even running as an independent.
HEDGES: We should be clear, when you were elected, it used to be under the old rules that any city council member could bring an issue to be discussed at the council. And because they knew that you would be bringing issues that they did not want discussed they just rechanged–changed the rules. Perhaps you can explain what happened.
CASTANEDA: Sure. You’re absolutely correct. And the last time there was any type of rule change it was 1994. Once I defeated two candidates that were part of the status quo horses in this race, we had a 30-day waiting period, which was a certification of election results.
So one week before I took the oath of office at the city council, those rules were already being changed, with the action of the old council. And that’s implemented as rules of the quorum. It was a buddy–so-called buddy system, where you needed at least two council members at a minimum to agree to put any item on the agenda. Of course, what has affected, historically, my district area, which is considered the East Salinas, or the Alisal, as drawn and depicted in John Steinbeck’s books, where you have more–half of the major–half of the population in a concentrated five-mile radius. And that’s where you have the housing issues, water issues, crime.