Grains of Change
In California's Central Valley, where a quarter of the food varieties we eat are farmed, a new generation of growers is teaming up with conservationists to make sure that rice and long-billed curlews will always mix.
A harrier sweeps by and the birds fly up, their cinnamon underwings flashing. They circle the field, lazily it seems, then settle again. More birds appear: song sparrows, tree swallows, white-crowned sparrows, meadowlarks, a dozen great egrets, and a big flock of blackbirds. We watch for a half-hour as the curlews roam the wet pasture. Then the clouds close like a curtain and the rain begins again. Suddenly I realize the rainfall I've been cursing all week is adding water to the rice fields--those "surrogate wetlands"--artificial and less picturesque perhaps than the originals but just as important to the future of the long-billed curlew and many other species that depend on them.