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Withering on the Vine

Why it’s hard—and getting harder—for the kids of migrant farm workers to get an education


I leave Los Angeles just before 6 a.m., headed northeast. It rains for most of the drive, but as I come out of the Tehachapi Mountains on Interstate 5, the valley before me is bathed in sun. California’s Central Valley is a flat, quilt-like patchwork of fields that’s known as the food basket of the world. It produces a year-round supply of almonds, asparagus, cotton, kiwis, lettuce, oranges, peaches, pistachios, tangerines, and tomatoes—pretty much every crop you can think of. And, of course, there are the grapes, sold intact or turned into raisins or chardonnay.

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