Tagged: Dry farming

Farming without irrigation

Central Coast Organic Farm Tour

Dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes at Dirty Girl Farm on California’s Central Coast. Photo by CUESA via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

About a year ago, I posted about a farming technique known as dry farming. I thought the topic was interesting and unusual enough that it merited a re-post while I was away last week. My timing turned out to be spot-on, since yesterday NPR ran its own piece on the subject.

As Alastair Bland describes,

At Happy Boy Farms, near Santa Cruz, sales director Jen Lynne believes dry farming could be an important agricultural practice in the future, when water will likely be a less abundant resource.

But the taste of her dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes is the main reason chefs, wholesalers and individuals around the country are increasingly calling to place orders…. The idea behind dry farming is that by restricting a plant’s water intake, its fruits wind up with less water content and a greater density of sugar and other flavor compounds.

The main problem?

farming without irrigation has a major drawback: dramatically reduced yields.

Stan Devoto, a farmer in Northern California, says his dry-farmed trees produce 12 to 15 tons of apples per acre per year. Irrigated trees, on the other hand, may bear 40 or 50 tons. And McEnnis says he harvests about 4 tons of tomatoes off his acre of vines each summer and fall, whereas conventional growers may reap 40 tons per acre.

Head here for the full piece, and use one of these links to check out my earlier post.

Dry farming on the California coast

David Little of Little Organic Farm. Photo by Gary Yost Photograph, retrieved from CUESA via Flickr and used under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thanks to Civil Eats, I discovered this article by Brie Mazurek for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which operates the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She profiles farmers on the California coast who raise fruits and vegetables without any irrigation, a process known as dry farming. As she writes,

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit….

Deprived of any surface irrigation besides the coastal fog, dry-farmed plants develop deep, robust roots to seek out and soak up soil moisture. Because they absorb less water than their conventionally irrigated counterparts, dry-farmed crops are characteristically smaller but more nutrient-dense and flavorful.

It’s a fascinating read, and includes some great links and photos, so check out the full piece here.

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The Conscientious Omnivore is away. This is an encore presentation of a post that originally appeared in slightly edited form on August 16, 2012.

Dry farming on the California coast

David Little of Little Organic Farm. Photo by Gary Yost Photograph, retrieved from CUESA via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Thanks to Civil Eats, I discovered this recent article by Brie Mazurek for the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which operates the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She profiles farmers on the California coast who raise fruits and vegetables without any irrigation, a process known as dry farming. As she writes,

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit….

Deprived of any surface irrigation besides the coastal fog, dry-farmed plants develop deep, robust roots to seek out and soak up soil moisture. Because they absorb less water than their conventionally irrigated counterparts, dry-farmed crops are characteristically smaller but more nutrient-dense and flavorful.

It’s a fascinating read, and includes some great links and photos, so check out the full piece.