Environmental Inequalities in Kern County

Kern County is located in California’s agriculture belt–the Central Valley.  Despite the agriculture industry being a large contributor to the state’s economic wealth, it is also home to environmental disparities. Kern county contains some of CA’s largest oil and gas fields, leading to environmental challenges like air pollution and water contamination for its residents. We are interested in looking at the effects of water and air contaminants from agriculture and oil fields to understand what areas and who are most affected.


With the gross value of its agricultural commodities in the billions, agriculture is one of the region’s main source of economic growth. The following table shows the gross value of Kern County’s crops in the past decade.

The following map shows the extent of land used for farming. The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports Kern County to have a total of 1,938 farms that encompass 2.3 millions acres, which the average size of each farm is about 1,200 acres. The county agriculture ranks 2nd in cotton, grapes and lamps, 1st in almond, pistachio and bees.

So how does this impact the environmental quality of residents?