William Vollmann stakes out California's underground agricultural economy
by William T. Vollmann
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The harvest of grapes begins each May in the fields of Hermosillo, south of the border, where the sweetness arrives early. Over the next month, the ripening moves northward with the sun—across the line of dispute, the line drawn by conquest between the United States and Mexico.
Here on the California side, the grape harvest starts slowly in the desert town of Indio before reaching a frenzied pulse three hundred miles north in the Great Central Valley. By then, it is mid-June and the farmer warily paces his vineyard rows, a Brix meter in hand to measure the sweetness of his field. If the drops of sugar from the crop register at sixteen Brix, it's still too early to pick. If they register at twenty, it's too late. Fortunes are made on those three points in between. As the harvest signal shoots out along the efferent
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