Javier’s Organic Farm

Last week I had the opportunity to attend an ‘Organic Training for Agriculture Professionals’ workshop. This training was funded by Oregon Tilth, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting and advocating organic food and farming. The workshop’s objective was to help its 20 participants gain a better understanding of how to implement practice standards in organic systems and an increased ability to assist organic producers with the development of a conservation plan.

The first day we were in a classroom setting and learned about various different topics in relation to organic systems:

  • Cover crops
  • Nutrient management
  • Pest management
  • Crop rotation
  • Conservation buffers
  • Soil analysis

While I don’t mind a classroom setting, I learn more efficiently when I’m out on the field. The second day of the training we got to practice what we learned in the classroom on an actual farm. Javier’s farm was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve ever been to.


Organic farm in the Salinas   Valley

Javier, an extremely cool organic farmer based in Salinas, primarily grows organic strawberries.


Organic strawberry

He also grows raspberries, cilantro, parsley, chard, and he has about 100 organic-egg-laying chickens! They like to hang out in a redwood tree which is just great/ hilarious and they get to live a happy, free-range life.


Happy chickens

We applied everything that we learned in the classroom the day prior and tested the soil quality on Javier’s farm. By doing this we were able to recommend the amount of nutrients (P, K, N) that he should be adding to his soil (whether he needed to increase or decrease quantities).

It’s challenging enough to be a farmer. After this training, I realized that it’s even more challenging to be an organic farmer. Not everyone is like Javier, who has all of his documents neatly organized “so it’s easier when the inspector comes.” There’s SO much more that goes along with the planting of a seed.

I’m learning to appreciate farmers on a whole new level – organic or not. After all, they grow all of the food that you and I eat every single day, and it’s NOT an easy job.

The Magnificent Pajaro Valley Water Tour

Last Friday’s ‘Magnificent Pajaro Valley Water Tour was close to perfect, living up to its name (that’s really what we called the tour). Everyone who joined, including the regional board members, were genuinely interested in the information that was presented, asked questions, participated, and gave great feedback. The first stop of the tour was the Harkins Slough Recharge Basin.

Harkins Slough Recharge Basin

Harkins Slough Recharge Basin

The Harkins Slough Recharge Basin seasonally stores wet weather flows from Harkins Slough. Stored water is then pumped from a series of wells and delivered to coastal farms.

The take-home message was that Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) is part of the solution for water supply and has the potential to benefit water quality through denitrification. We need to ensure that these projects continue to be implemented and studied in order to better understand their benefits.

The next sites we visited were two farms. At Taylor Farms, we made the point that vegetable growers are using the available technology and California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) data to improve water and fertilizer use efficiency as much as possible.

Michael Cahn describes the Soil Nitrate Quick Test

Farm Advisor Michael Cahn describes the Nitrate Quick Test

At Reiter Berry Farms, strawberry and raspberry growers explained how nutrient management and irrigation efficiency go hand in hand (ie. nutrient leaching is a result of overwatering; less water = less leaching). Growers described their various management strategies which result in water and nutrient conservation.

Grower explains how he irrigates  his crops efficiently

It was definitely a successful tour. We gained a lot of knowledge along with a lot of berries (free berries = awesome). Most importantly, we left the tour with an optimistic view about the fact that something IS being done about the water resource issue here in the Pajaro Valley.

The Vineyard

During the last few weeks my supervisor and I have been busy preparing for tomorrow’s regional board field tour.

The objectives of this “water” tour are to (1) raise awareness of water resource issues in the Pajaro Valley, (2) highlight water conservation as a strategy for protecting water supply and reducing nitrate leaching, and (3) emphasize industry led conservation efforts. We will go to various different sites in Watsonville, each of which somehow demonstrates one or more of these objectives. I’m looking forward to it, and I’ll blog some photos of the tour next week!

In the midst of all the meetings, research, writing, and emailing, I often go to meetings or workshops that employees of the RCD Santa Cruz County are invited to. Yesterday we got to spend almost all work day on an organic vineyard doing various tests for soil quality.


Organic Vineyard in Santa Cruz   County

It was all hands on (hands in the dirt), extremely fun, and I learned a lot about different soil types. Next week I get to spend two days at a workshop that will teach different practices related to pest management on organic farms.



There’s no better way of learning anything than going out there and doing it yourself!