Geographers recognize Guthman book, Wilted, about the strawberry industry

American Association of Geographers bestows 2019 Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work

Photo of cover of the book Wilted

Julie Guthman has been awarded the 2019 American Association of Geographers Meridian Book Award for Outstanding Scholarly Work in Geography for her book, Wilted: Pathogens, Chemicals, and the Fragile Future of the Strawberry Industry.

In Wilted, Guthman paints an uncertain picture of the future of the California strawberry industry, which is built on access to land, cheap labor, pesticides, and agreeable climate conditions—all of which are in jeopardy today, says Guthman, a professor of social sciences at UC Santa Cruz.

In announcing the award, the association likened Guthman's book to "a Silent Spring for our present moment," referring to Rachel Carson's pathbreaking book about pesticides, and called Guthman's analysis "about so much more than strawberries; it is about the sociological consequences of corporate domination of scientific practice and the limits of chemical plantation agriculture."

Guthman's deeply researched book, the citation says, examines the "co-evolution" of strawberry monocultures, soils, chemicals, climate, and labor, and concludes that the result is "ever more hostile growing conditions" that require "ever more extreme measures to perpetuate a deeply destructive agricultural practice on which ever more extensive food markets depend."

The association concludes by saying the book stands as "an empirically grounded clarion call to fundamentally reorganize how we produce food, conduct research, and organize land and labor markets."

The award will be presented on Friday, April 10, during the association's annual meeting in Denver.

Acknowledging the award, Guthman expressed appreciation for support for her scholarship, including a 2017 Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Institute Fellowship, as well as support from the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center and the Mesa Refuge.