Jason Peltier is chief deputy manager of the Westlands Water District, which provides agricultural water for over 600,000 acres in the western San Joaquin Valley. Before participating in a panel on the cost of water, he explained in the Zócalo green room that visiting Los Angeles reminds him of why he likes northern California—but he does appreciate the number of people in Southern California for whom he helps grow food.
What’s your favorite crop?
Wow. I like all of them so much. I suppose growing up it was potatoes, because we used to grow white potatoes, and they were fantastic. Especially baby sweet ones.
How do you react when you’re embarrassed?
I blush. I mentally try to hide.
What’s your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
Well, an observation is, every time I come to Los Angeles, I’m reminded of why I like northern California so very, very much. From a food perspective, I like the fact that there’s a lot of people that eat here, and they need food.
What surprises you most about your life right now?
That I’m not more depressed, given how difficult my career has been and how little progress I think I’ve made.
How do you like your steak?
Medium rare. What if I told you I was like a vegan? [That’d be OK.] With soy. Made with tempeh!
What’s the one thing coastal Californians get most wrong about the rest of the state?
It’s something I think about a lot. They don’t get that California is the number-one ag state. We’re the most populous state and the number-one agricultural state, and one of the most urbanized states. We have not reconciled all those things. At all.
What’s the last great party you attended?
The first Friday of this month at the Locke Garden Restaurant [in Walnut Grove, California]. They have a little community gathering of a bunch of friends the first Friday of every month, and it’s a blast.
When is it OK to tell a lie?
To protect someone.
What’s your fondest childhood memory?
Going to the ocean.
What’s the most beautiful place in the Delta?
Probably Georgiana Slough. If you like taking pictures, you should go to the Delta and spend days there. It’s incredible, especially in the fall, when there’s clouds—just beyond belief sunsets and wildlife. Birds, sandhill cranes, ducks, geese, swans.