Andy Vidak

California | The government has diverted precious water from Central California farms, and farmers are fighting back.

When Adam Icardo, a third-generation Central California farmer, steps outside his farm’s office in Mettler, Calif., he’s hit with an ugly sight: a swatch of baked dirt and weeds where neat rows of leafy canary tomato plants should be growing. “The effect of the drought on this area is devastating; you don’t realize what a problem it is until it hits your front door,” said Icardo as he gazed off over his 1,000-acre farm. “It’s hard to see part of your field with no production. … It’s emotional.”

This year marks the first time Icardo has had to fallow–or leave unplanted–20 percent of his family farm because of a lack of water. For Icardo, it means no tomatoes, as thirsty almond trees get dibs on the scarce water supply. For his farm workers, six-day workweeks are cut to five. Icardo said this time of year pick-up trucks filled with seasonal workers typically bump down gravel roads from farm to farm looking for work. This year, the newly paved road lies empty.

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