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“Big Hugh” adopted theatrical antics of legend before congress while dramatizing America’s soil erosion crisis throughout Roosevelt’s era. Soil Conservation Service founder Dr. Hugh Hammond Bennett spread a thick bath towel across one committee table over which he dumped a half-pitcher of water in demonstrating how well-covered, well-managed land could absorb heavy, washing rains. The chief then sloshed the remainder over a smooth tabletop, representing bare eroded land, [Read more…]
Back in November, we laid another mentor from my early farming career to rest. Neophyte farmers often rivet sole attention on growing crops, only worrying about where and to whom they’ll sell produce when a harvest mountain overwhelms them. Distinguishing ourselves as marketers much sooner than we did as producers, Denesse and I cut our direct sales teeth at Arnett-Smith’s twice-weekly open air market behind Fresno’s old Chamber of Commerce building, over which Florence Smith reigned supreme. Her Arkansas Arnett clan had lit out for California at century’s turn, [Read more…]
Although I hardly know one end of a cow from another, Western Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (WODPA) invited me to deliver the keynote at their recent 10th Annual Conference and Trade Show in Corvallis, Oregon. Amongst a parade of tradesmen visiting the podium to hawk wares “indispensable” to any successful dairy farmer, came one waving a large square of what appeared to be AstroTurf. I sat dumbstruck as FodderWorks’ vendor rep claimed smart California dairy operators circumvent our mega-drought by growing pasture grass indoors. My first thought — “What sort of rubes does this guy take dairy farmers for?” — was followed by a recollection that Mario Daccarett, who milks sheep in Chowchilla, had invited me out to see some wacky pasture growing machine he was experimenting with over a year ago. Sure enough, visiting the FodderWorks booth, I learned Mario’s Golden Valley Farm is one of their star adopters. Familiarity with sprouted wheat grass found in every neighborhood health food store [Read more…]
Sibella Kraus’ sights are set on protecting the last seven-thousand-acre remnant of the ‘Valley of Heart’s Delight’ for open space and urban-edge agriculture. Known as the Santa Clara or Silicone Valley today, its 450 square miles of mild climate, well-drained fertile soils and artesian water once hosted the world’s largest tree fruit production region, delighting hearts with apricots and cherries. Some 98% of the Valley’s expanse now lies beneath San Jose’s pavement or sprouts Apples, the computer kind, on sprawling high-technology electronics research and manufacturing campuses. Lest you think Kraus’ notion of restoring its last few thousand unpaved acres to agrarian glory completely fanciful, first consider this remarkable woman’s track record of accomplishment in her San Francisco Bay Area’s local, organic and specialty crop food movements over three decades plus. Sibella and I [Read more…]
It was welcome news to read in today’s (10-29-15) Fresno Bee that momentum builds to employ winter-fallowed farmlands, including dormant orchards and vineyards for Valley aquifer recharge should anticipated El Nino flood flows materialize. My well and pump man Hollis Priest was on the farm last week tuning us up when I asked him what sort of water table declines he was observing over this irrigation season. Hollis reports the Clovis area remains stable, while other communities, like Raisin City, have experienced drops of greater than 50 feet. In our case, we’ll commission an official Pump Test soon, but our well’s yield decline, from 800 gallons per minute down to 650 GPM, over this summer indicates Madera’s water table has suffered significantly. Warmer than average high temperatures this fall have [Read more…]