Wednesday, July 24, 2013


My schedule from Monday through Wednesday—agricultural tour of the Salinas Valley, “East of Eden” film, small group discussion of the film and novel, a lecture on the Populuxe by Dr. Scot Guenter, San Jose State University, a lecture on civil religion and the status seekers of the 1950’s (the time when East of Eden was written but not the time when the novel was set)by Scot Guenter, an introduction to the intertidal by William Gilly of Hopkins Marine Center and one of the Steinbeck Institute directors, a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call and exploration of the intertidal region (at low tide, of course), a lecture on the death and life of Monterey Bay by Steve Polumbi of Hopkins Marine Center, and finally a behind-the-scenes tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium!  Whew!  Please forgive my laxity in writing.  I’m tired!  A very good tired, but tired nonetheless.

The agricultural tour of Salinas Valley

Our tour began at The Nunes Company, Inc., a family-owned business since the 1930’s that owns all aspects of the production of lettuce, broccoli, celery, asparagus, and more on their greater than 11,000 acres of produce.  We saw the fields being harvested and I was so impressed with the skills required of the harvesters.  This video illustrates the speed at which the iceberg (head) lettuce is cut, trimmed, wrapped in plastic, popped into a box, and the boxes loaded on palettes all while this machine (for lack of a better word) slowly moves towards the harvesters!  There isn’t even time for a sneeze or you’ll get out of sync!  Appreciate your salads!

We saw trucks delivering the palettes to the Nunes packing facility where the product is weighed and checked for quality assurance and cooled to 34oF.  The refrigerator room was at this same temperature.  The product is distributed from here. 

We learned about the economics of California produce (produce is shipped to all States and 26 countries), the richness of the soil, and, of most interest to me, why this small stretch of land is so fertile.  The Salinas Valley (90 miles long) is boxed-in by mountains and the Salinas River runs west through the valley.  As the sun warms the land, the hotter air from the land rises and moves towards the bay where it is cooled and blown back over the valley and deposited as mist or rain.  I think I have that right.  Any corrections would be appreciated!
Michael and Jamie contemplate lettuce
Celery field

Our agricultural guide was Veryl, a former schoolteacher who was absolutely passionate about agriculture science.  He regaled us with lessons in history, science, geography, economics, and he even picked some celery, lettuce, and strawberries for us to enjoy. 
Hmmm...where did THIS strawberry come from?
Gilly, Amber Jensen, and Rebecca Oberg with
legally obtained strawberries!
                                                The Salinas Valley

That same evening, we watched the 1955 film “East of Eden” with James Dean as Cal.  Though the film only covers the last part of the book and several characters were left out entirely, it was well written and acted and wholly enjoyable (yes, I teared up in the end).  After the film, we discussed, among other things, whether or not the character of Kate was treated the same in the film as Steinbeck described her in the novel.  There seemed to be some liberal interpretation of her character (modeled after Steinbeck’s second wife, Gwyn Conger).

I’ll write more of our discussion on East of Eden later.  The Populuxe and intertidal will also have to wait for another day.            

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sharon,
    We honestly cannot get over how much you have experienced and how much has been packed into your days! Talk about living life to the fullest! So, I guess you didn't get to go to the Reds game out there, huh? :-) And you probably won't make it to the ice cream store that I suggested??? I really wanted a "souvenir" from there packed in dry ice!!! Instead, I get lettuce, right? Hope you get some rest. Come home soon ~ the weather has turned so beautiful here. Probably like CA. Miss you! MB and Larry