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Articles by Margiana Petersen-Rockney

Margiana Petersen-Rockney is a former farmer and current PhD student researching dynamics of agricultural change.

Featured Article

It’s October and the land is thirsty. Shasta Big Springs Ranch is nestled below hillsides studded with scrubby stunted juniper trees. Snow-capped Mount Shasta towers above, dominating the skyline from nearly anywhere here in Northern California’s Siskiyou County. An ice-cold creek gurgles up from lava tube springs deep underground and cuts through the pastures of what was once a verdant ranch.

Now, Shasta Big Springs Ranch is dry, except for a ribbon of silvery thistles along the riverbank. Big Springs used to be a source of water for salmon habitat and agricultural irrigation. Today, it’s a source and symbol of the polarizing divide between farmers and conservationists facing an increasingly water-scarce future.

Farmer and long-time neighbor, Dan Chase, remembers playing near Big Springs as a kid. “It was the most beautiful ranch you can imagine anywhere ever,” he said.

Back then, some 30 years ago, the property exemplified the pastoral dreams of most farmers and ranchers here — fine fat cattle, deer, majestic cranes dancing through irrigated meadows, and an old homestead raising the next generation of hard-working farm kids under its eaves. Aft... Read more