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April 11, 2011
By Tiffany Moore
Paul Starrs and Peter Goin, professors at the University of Nevada, Reno, will be awarded the oldest and most prestigious geography award, the John Brinckerhoff Jackson Prize, by the Association of American Geographers for their Field Guide to California Agriculture.
“Earning this award is a major accomplishment for us,” said Starrs, in the University College of Science’s geography department. “It’s the biggest literary book award, and by far the most established.”
“Knowing the importance of J.B. Jackson as an insightful thinker, renown cultural geographer, and as a creative artist in his own right, we are honored to be recognized for our contributions in A Field Guide to California Agriculture,” said Goin, a photographer in the University’s art department.“As universities such as UNR continually focus on interdisciplinary studies, it is particularly enheartening to receive this award, as it recognizes the crossover between the fine arts and the social sciences.”
The Jackson Prize was established by J. B. Jackson and his friends to encourage and reward American geographers who write books about the United States conveying the insights of professional geography in language that is interesting and attractive to a lay audience. The author of the winning book receives $1,000.
Field Guide to California Agriculture is primarily a survey of crops, but the book also contains a historical overview, a section on the state’s agricultural regions and a dramatic gallery of larger-format photographs, The Paradox and Poetics of Agriculture.
“This guide is for those who have driven from point A to point B and looked out the window and said, ‘What is that growing out there?’” Starrs said.
The 506-page book was published by the University of California Press, and more than 12,000 copies have been sold.
“We only make about $2 per sale,” Starrs said, “but this sort of book isn’t for making money. It’s done for public service. Most people don’t know where their food comes from.”
The book was also nominated for a second award from the geographers association, the AAG Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography, the annual prize for a book that conveys most powerfully the nature and importance of geography to the nonacademic world.
“No one would ever expect to win both,” Starrs said, “but in this case, it's apparently a possibility. I'll be more than happy to settle for one, and Peter and I couldn't be more delighted.”