To Counter Strain on Groundwater Supply, California Berry Grower Employs Innovative Water Management StrategiesJuly 9, 2013 | Melonie Magruder
Driscoll’s strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are famous throughout the nation as some of the sweetest handful of anti-oxidants you can find. Grown in the Parajo Valley of California’s central coast region, Driscoll’s has been operating as a family business for more than 100 years.
But generations of expanding agriculture have put a severe strain on the groundwater supply that irrigates the region. Water is being pumped at twice the rate that the aquifer can safely provide, and as a result of over-pumping, seawater intrusion continues to diminish and contaminate the basin’s water supply. Driscoll’s – like farmers across the nation – is faced with finding innovative methods to counter the shrinking water supply.
Seedstock spoke with Emily Paddock, Driscoll’s water resource manager, to find out what they are doing about the challenge.
Alex McPhail and Casey McAuliffe founded Moon Dog Farms, in Santa Fe, Texas, in January 2013. Since arriving at the farm, McAuliffe and McPhail have worked quite hard – the farm’s land hadn’t been touched in years.
Although the co-owners were originally from Texas, the two left the state a few years ago to work various jobs at small, organic farms. At first, McAuliffe and McPhail worked on an organic farm in upstate New York. While the farmers were in New York, McPhail’s family approached the duo about buying some land his family owned. “They told us they had a plot of land [that had] essentially been neglected for the past 15 years,” McAuliffe said.
Portland, Oregon’s Zenger Farm is striving to be a national model for urban, sustainable agriculture education while meeting the needs of people in its backyard: the low-income neighborhoods of Lents and Powelhurst-Gilbert.
The urban farm works to provide sustainable food and agriculture education, food access, and support for emerging food businesses in the area.
Though the farm is not currently certified, plans are underway to pursue organic certification within the next year, according to Sara Cogan, Farm Manager for Zenger Farms. Sustainable agriculture methods used on the farm includes drip irrigation, strict avoidance of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and creation of habitat to support diverse populations of beneficial insects.
Paul Magedson, owner of 175-acre Good Earth Organic Farm in Hunt County, near Celeste, Texas, is hopeful that his organic farm will be profitable enough that his now 13-year-old son, Andrew, and 15-year-old son, William, will want to carry on the tradition.
“There’s so much to put into organic farming, and generally speaking, people don’t realize the important difference between eating large-scale commercially grown products and organically-certified products,” Magedson says.
Magedson, 67, who has a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, bought his farm outright 30 years ago after selling several homes in Dallas and profiting from a former contracting and tropical plant maintenance businesses.
The first winter that Adam Valdivia and his three partners spent at Sleeping Frog Farms in southern Arizona was colder than they expected. The weather station was on a ridge, and so the temperatures they were using to guide their farming were about 10 degrees warmer than the air surrounding their plants.
“We had a really big hit,” Valdivia recalled. “We had jumped into an unknown and it came back to bite us in the butt.” Their root crops didn’t die, but were too soft to sell. The fava beans were devastated.
Since then, the four, which include Valdivia and his wife, Debbie Weingarten, C.J. Marks, and Clay Smith, have learned to adjust.