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Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program
1984 to 2008 TIME SERIES
Modesto area, Stanislaus County

Urbanization in the Modesto area, 1984-2008 

In this Image

Development in the area surrounding Modesto has had an impact on Prime Farmland (darkest green) in almost every direction. There is some urban development on lesser quality soils to the northeast, at the edge of the town of Riverbank. Image covers an area of approximately 11 by 11 miles.  Urban land increased by just under 10,000 acres in this area between 1984 and 2008, with the vast majority affecting Prime Farmland. 

Stanislaus County, and the San Joaquin Valley as a whole, has been among  the top locations for urbanization of irrigated farmland throughout FMMP's history.

A brief history of the Modesto area

Modesto, Spanish for modesty, is located in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley and like many Valley communities it began along with the railroad in 1870. But water became an early issue, and a local resident, C.C. Wright, ran for the state legislature in 1886 on a single issue platform of getting an irrigation district law passed in California.

The law passed in 1887 and the Modesto Irrigation District was one of the first organizations developed under the new law. The city motto 'Water, Wealth, Contentment, Health' is a proud reminder of the role of water and agriculture in the area's history. The motto was selected in a competition in which the winner, Sam Harbaugh, was paid $3 in prizes.

Agriculture grew to become the area's largest industry. Today, the main employers in Modesto and Stanislaus County continue to be agricultural, with DelMonte, E & J Gallo, and Foster Farms being some of the best known names. Principal crops include dairy, almonds, poultry, and grapes. According to the Department of Finance, Modesto's population grew by more than 67% from 1984 to 2008 (from 124,400 to 208,375).