A photo blog of world events by Sacbee.com Assistant Director of Multimedia Tim Reese.
Subscribe to feed Subscribe to this blog's feed
March 1, 2009
Crisis in Mendota
In the San Joaquin Valley, drought and environmental concerns led to severe cuts in irrigation water deliveries from Northern California last year. As the state faces its third year of drought, residents in the town of Mendota are worried there will be no farming jobs available this season. Unemployment in this town of 10,000 is nearing 40 percent. Bee photojournalist, Renee C. Byer recently spent time in the rural farming community documenting life there. (19 images)

Read the story
See an audio slideshow

Follow The Frame on Twitter at sacbee_theframe

Ismael Diaz, 35, waits at the unemployment office in Mendota to try and extend his unemployment benefits which consist of $522 every two weeks. A legal immigrant who was sponsored by his father, he worked far less last year than previous years because of fewer plantings by a ranch in Firebaugh, a neighboring town. He has no idea, he said, when he'll be called back to work. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com


A man bicycles through downtown Mendota. The town calls itself the Cantaloupe Capital of the World, but with California in a third year of drought, residents wonder if they'll get enough food to survive. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Mendota Mayor, Robert Silva, right, listens to the concerns of laid off workers. "The bottom line is where is the help?" Silva asked. He recently traveled to Sacramento to plead his case to legislators. His town has been severely impacted by the water shortage in the San Joaquin Valley. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

"They are caring about the water but not about human life" said Jose Ruiz, 42, of Mendota, who has worked at Pappas Farm Company since 1984. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Fernanda Cervantes, 7, holds hands with her father, Luis Cervantes, 38, after they visited their foreclosed home in Mendota. Cervantes, a father of four, was a vegetable farm foreman who earned good money, but his hours were steadily cut back until he was laid off. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Chris Kenner a service technician for pump rentals does a series of tests to see how much water a pump will produce for a new well that was drilled on Wayne Gowens' Farm west of Mendota. Farmers are spending more than $600,000 to drill wells for water to keep their produce alive. Gowens owns an almond farm and has installed three wells in an effort to save his trees. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

A lock on a water valve on the Todd Allen farm near Mendota. Allen is trying to sell his farm equipment and because he can't operate his farm without water. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Rosa Herrera, 34, right, prays for help so she and her husband will be able to pay the rent in their home where they live with their four children. Members of the Mendota community gathered to pray for employment and hope on Feb. 17 in Mendota. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

From the left, Maria de los Angeles Mediola, 38, Micoela Mendez, 49, Gustavo Garcia, 47, Rosa Herrera, 34, Ruben Martinez Chavez, 50. Jose Fernandez, 36, and Carmen Delagado, 44, pray for jobs, food, lost homes and hope at a prayer service in Mendota. All are unemployed farm workers. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Gustavo Garcia, 47, a laid-off farm worker prays for help. Garcia sold all his belongings in his home for $100 and said he plans to move to Oxnard to try and find work. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Maria Avila de Romero, 56, said she boiled milk that would have spoiled because she has run out of food and can't afford to waste anything.The legal immigrant's $61 weekly unemployment has run out. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Nancy Daniel, Executive Director of Youth Center, talks about how little she has in her food bank and the need for more food to feed the more than 750 people that show up for food every month. "People are worried because of the lack of water available to water the crops...," Daniel said. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Every month Nancy Daniel of Youth Center opens up the center to feed the hungry. Here volunteers give away 750 boxes of food. They turned away more than 50 people when they ran out of food. The boxes consist of a frozen turkey, cereal, canned food and one bag of rice. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Eva Ortiz holds the hand of her granddaughter Eva Romero, 2, as she signs in to get food at the Youth Center in Mendota. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

People line up to receive food at the monthly food give away at the Youth Center in Mendota. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

A women carries one bag of groceries from the monthly food give away at the Youth Center. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Kristian Reyes, 3, left, and his brother Kelvin Reyes, 5, hold onto their mother, Ana Reyes, 27, after they are turned away from a food give away. After waiting two hours in line the Reyes reached the front of the line only to learn all the food was gone. Nancy Daniel the Executive Director said three years ago they might have given away 200 boxes of food, but recently, the food giveaway has grown partly due to the impact of water shortage in Mendota. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

A line of more than 50 people are turned away when food runs out at the Youth Center in Mendota on Feb. 19. The volunteers at the Youth Center gave out 750 boxes of food in two hours. They were supposed to reopen at 9 am the next day but had no more food left to give away. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

Maria Avila, 56, often cries at home trying to think of a way to feed her family. She volunteered at the Youth Center food giveaway, lifting heavy boxes so she could take one home afterwards. Renee C. Byer / rbyer@sacbee.com

About Comments

Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the "report abuse" button below it. We will delete comments containing inappropriate links, obscenities, hate speech, and personal attacks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. See more about comments here.

What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com

Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)

Here are some rules of the road:

• Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "report abuse" button to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.

• Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.

• Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.

• Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand. If you want to discuss an issue with a specific user, click on his profile name and send him a direct message.

• Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.

• Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.

• Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.

• Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.

You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "report abuse" button to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at feedback@sacbee.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.

If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them, but you may ask our staff to retract one of your comments by sending an email to feedback@sacbee.com. Again, make sure you note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us your profile name.

hide comments

On October 14, The Sacramento Bee will temporarily remove commenting from sacbee.com. While we design the upgrade, we encourage you to tell us what you like and don't like about commenting on sacbee.com and other websites. We've heard from hundreds of you already and we're listening. Please continue to add your thoughts and questions here. We also encourage you to write Letters to the Editor on this and other topics.