A multi-disciplinary team of researchers scattered around the country is gearing up to piece together the world’s first high-resolution map of global croplands, in a cross-institutional collaboration. The team’s goal is to answer the question, “Where is all of our food going to come from when global population reaches 9 billion people?” Researchers hope that having a detailed picture of what’s happening with croplands around the world will help to inform the net effect of regional demographic and geological changes. Piecing together that accurate of a map will likely take five years, $3.5 million (funded by NASA), computation of thousands of satellite images, and collaboration with crop experts all over the globe.
The Art and Angst of Water: California Farm Bureau’s Danny Merkley Insures Water Flows in Fair, Balanced MannerAugust 1, 2013 | Trish Popovitch
“With water, it’s soil. Without water, it’s dirt.” -Danny Merkley, California Farm Bureau
A symphony, a balancing act and an art form. These are just a few ways Danny Merkley, Director of Water Resources for the California Farm Bureau Federation, describes managing the flow of water in the Golden State. It’s been his job since 2007, but a love of water blossomed early in this fourth generation California farmer.
“Growing up on the ranch I ran a number of irrigation systems from surface irrigation systems, row systems to sprinklers to, in a small way, some drip systems early in the 1990s. Water to me is an art form; moving water across a field, across large acreages of land, across more than just a 20 foot front yard. I’ve always been fascinated with water, but water policy I accidentally walked into when I got bit by the water bug working at the state water board in 2004,” shares Merkley.
David Little of The Little Organic Farm in Petaluma, Calif. first began farming to help some childhood friends nearly 20 years ago. He had been working as a contractor and hated it so when his buddies inherited a couple ranches he jumped at the chance to head for the country and try something new. He stayed on for about a year before striking out on his own with a few acres of potatoes. Today, Little farms over 60 acres of land in plots scattered around Marin and Petaluma.
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.
According to Green Spirit Farms‘ Research and Development Manager Daniel Kluko, the future of farming is heading in one clear direction: vertical. “If we want to feed hungry people this is how we need to farm,” said Kluko.
Kluko believes that vertical farming offers a very important benefit in today’s world of scarce land and resources— the potential for unparalleled plant density. After all, how else can a farmer grow 27 heads of lettuce in one square foot of growing space?
Green Spirit Farms was started by Daniel’s father Milan Kluko under his engineering company Fountainhead Engineering LTD. The idea for the farm emerged while the company was evaluating indoor, urban farm models in North America for a non-profit client—a process which piqued Milan Kluko’s interest about the viability of a vertical farming operation.
News Release – LOS ANGELES, CA – Worldwide, agriculture possesses the distinction of being the single greatest consumer of fresh water, accounting for nearly 70% of available withdrawals each year for irrigation. In the United States alone, 42% of all irrigated water is lost to evaporation.
With water prices, scarcity and quality all threatening the margins and livelihood of farmers, the SEEDSTOCK Ag Water Conference, scheduled for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, will focus on solutions to the challenges facing sustainable agriculture.
“Scarcity and abundance are not nature given—they are products of water cultures. Cultures that waste water or destroy the fragile web of the water cycle create scarcity even under conditions of abundance. Those that save every drop can create abundance out of scarcity.” - Vandana Shiva, ‘Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit‘[i]
Humans, animals, and plants all depend on water to survive. It quenches our thirst, nourishes our livestock, and sustains our crops. Civilizations have risen and fallen as a direct result of access to clean water and agricultural irrigation. Today, despite increasing technological advances in farming, we are no less dependent on water.
Every day, the U.S. agricultural industry pours 128,000 million gallons of water into irrigation, according a 2005 USGS survey of national water resources.[ii]. Aquaculture and livestock production draw another respective 8,780 and 2,140 million gallons per day, but both are dwarfed by irrigated agriculture, which represents the second largest drain on the nation’s water resources, surpassed only by thermonuclear power.
Seventy-five years ago, Albert and Frances Lundberg moved from the John Steinbeckian Dust Bowl of Nebraska to California to try their hand at farming land that had not yet been destroyed by pretty much the same challenges farmers face today – drought and poor soil management.
Albert had seen the results of shortsighted farm husbandry and passed along his philosophy of sustainable agriculture to his four sons, Eldon, Wendell, Harlan and Homer, who established Lundberg Family Farms, and pioneered organic rice growing in America.
Third-generation farmer, Jessica Lundberg, summed up the enterprise’s ongoing commitment to sustainability as more than an abstract liberal value. It’s a pragmatic imperative.
“When my grandparents left dried-up Nebraska and came to Northern California, they had new-found appreciation for being stewards of the land,” Lundberg said. “Soil is a living organism and must be treated well.”