Episode 2: Below and Beyond (Transcript)

Raw Material
Season 3: Landfall


MADDIE GOBBO: For this season of Raw Material, we’re driving across California looking at art and the landscape.

JESSICA PLACZEK: My name is Jessica Placzek and I’m a reporter.

GOBBO: My name is Maddie Gobbo and I’m a fiction writer.

PLACZEK: Together we’re looking at what art can teach us about life in the West — its past, present,

GOBBO: and possible future.

PLACZEK: This is season 3: Landfall.

GOBBO: A production of SFMOMA.

PLACZEK: Today we’re gonna be talking about a style of building called “vernacular architecture.” It’s often designed by locals for their own needs and traditions. In central California, those needs and traditions often center on farming. The Central Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world… but at what cost?


GOBBO: Hey Jessica, do you want to travel through time today?

PLACZEK: [laughs] Okay, where are we going?

GOBBO: Don’t you mean when?

PLACZEK: Point taken. Okay. Fine. Where are — when, when are we going?


GOBBO: It’s the year 1868. We’re crossing California’s coastal range on horseback.


GOBBO: Our travel guide is John Muir, a celebrated naturalist and the father of the U.S. conservation movement. We’re coming down from the mountains and entering the San Joaquin Valley for the first time.


GOBBO: Shh. John Muir’s about to tell us something.

JOHN MUIR (ACTOR): “The valley of the San Joaquin is the floweriest piece of world I ever walked on, one vast, level, even flower-bed, a sheet of flowers…”

GOBBO AND PLACZEK: (Oohs and aahs)

GOBBO: [whispering] Oh my gosh, so beautiful.

PLACZEK: [whispering] Inspiring.

PLACZEK: Today, those flowers are gone. In their place, the fields are covered in dry yellow grasses and... crops! To see what that valley is growing, Maddie and I went to a local farmers’ market.


GOBBO: My step-grandpa Enrico grew tomatoes. And he believed that you needed to abuse tomatoes to get them to taste really good. Like tomatoes are masochists is what he said. And so he hired people to go out into the fields and beat the tomato bushes, like, every couple weeks. To just keep ‘em in line. And he grew the best tomatoes.

PLACZEK: I don’t know how I feel about that


GOBBO: It’s pretty funky!


VERONICA: In season right now, summertime, you have all the good stuff, you have the strawberries, the raspberries, gold berries, blackberries.

PLACZEK: It seems like it would be difficult in extreme heat for them to like, stay plump.

VERONICA: They are very, very fragile. We have to be very careful with them. So that’s why when we drive over here we have the AC on. So it’s kinda good that it's… [fades out]


PLACZEK: What’s the hardest thing you guys grow, like what’s the most labor intensive?

ALVA CUEVAS: Que la más difícil?



PLACZEK: Really? What goes into growing corn that makes it difficult?

CAESAR: Lots of water. Lot of time into it.

PLACZEK: And also like I'm sure picking is not the easiest.

Raw Material Season 3: Landfall

Craving a West Coast road trip? Season 3 of Raw Material follows hosts Jessica Placzek and Madeline Gobbo as they explore hidden gems of California, including land-based art, immersive art environments, and even the little-known art history of Disneyland.