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Photographer Lisa Hamilton collaborated with Roots of Change to develop “Real Rural,” a public campaign telling stories of rural California to urban audiences through a Website (; photo-based placards placed on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains in early 2012; and an ad-art campaign on billboards in Los Angeles and Sacramento in late 2012. Hamilton traveled nearly 10,000 miles through California’s rural communities, in order to photograph and write about rural Californians—the obstacles they face, what makes their communities thrive, and how they relate to the state’s urban majority. Through photography, writing, and oral histories, the project illustrates the depth and diversity of these rural communities in order to foster a more productive dialogue and increased cooperation in designing a better food system.

For more than a decade, Lisa Hamilton’s work has focused on issues pertaining to sustainable agriculture and rural communities.  She presents her photography and writing in books, lectures, magazines, galleries, public venues, and online. Roots of Change is a collaborative of diverse leaders and institutions unified in the pursuit of a sustainable food system in California. Its Changemakers Network’s goal is to instill more sustainable values and practices into how farmers and ranchers produce food; processors, distributors and retailers manufacture and deliver food; policymakers create laws and regulations; residents purchase, prepare and consume food; and the media educates and informs residents about food system issues. Hamilton also worked with academic leaders at the Bill Lane Center for the American West, at Stanford University, which supports research, teaching, and reporting about western land and life.

Hamilton writes that the project has led to “a whole new approach to my work, in medium and in perspective. Rather than driving through and seeing a place only with my own, passing eyes, I have been understanding rural California through the people who live there.”