Jeremy Shepherd has been tending to his growing flock since 2009. He sells mutton to local markets but also works his herds as mobile mowers with local farmers in Yolo County.
Doug Thomas stops his white pickup along the elevated dirt road that carves through the acres of newly planted rice stalks in Wheatland, Calif.
In this scene, replete with a myriad of migratory birds lazily grazing in the green fields, change is soon to come. The landscape, Thomas says, will be transformed into an oasis for waterfowl and shorebirds that will find a man-made wetlands to call home on their annual migration this fall.
In the Sacramento Valley, where 97 percent of the state’s rice crop is grown, family farmers have been forced to fallow cropland they have worked for generations. The economic hit has been hard and true, affecting not just farmers, but seed distributors, equipment dealers and anyone else with a thumb in the rice business. The drought could cost Central Valley farmers and communities $1.7 billion this year and may lead to more than 14,500 layoffs.