Fresno sits about two thirds of the way down California’s huge Central Valley, which runs almost the entire length of the state, bounded to the west by the coastal ranges and to the east by the Sierra Nevada mountains. This is the most fertile farmland in the United States. The central and nothern parts get plenty of rain, but the southern part, called the San Joaquin Valley, is dry and subject to droughts, though with a few nice months of green in fall and spring. It could not have looked very promising when Fresno first appeared as a small outpost along the San Joaquin River; the expansion of the California Pacific Railroad to Fresno in the 1870s helped, however. And soon enough it became clear that despite the difficulty of the land, the connection to the farming infrastructure being set up to the north, including the railroad, made settling there worthwhile. Dutch and German farmers built irrigation ditches to make the land farmable. They were soon followed by immigrants from Mexico, Armenia, China, and Japan.
more from Michael Thomsen at n+1 here.