Water stewardship is the use of water in a way that maximizes water use efficiency, while emphasizing sustainable on-farm water management practices from an ecological, social, and economic perspective. Good water stewards understand their own water use and the role it plays in local agriculture, watershed, and community dynamics.

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Dry Farming

Dry Farming

Dry Farming

Location: Blue Moon Organics, Aptos, CA
Featuring: Greg and Patrick

Dry farming involves growing crops without irrigation to supplement rainfall. This results in lower development costs for the farm. No wells need to be dug, no water rights or permits are needed, and there is no need for irrigation lines. The result, a more enhanced flavor, but lower yield — the yield is related to the amount of water and fertilizer used.

Greg and Patrick first plant their early girls in mid-April. The starts are only watered once or twice then left on their own, though weeds and pests must still be managed. I ask Greg if he dry farms to conserve water, save streams, and preserve salmon habitat and he says: “There are all kinds of ecological and environmental reasons to dry farm, but people pay for flavor — and even then it’s hard to get them to pay enough. I’ve seen a ton of farmers irrigate through the daylight hours in 40 mph winds, losing half their water to wind. I’ve also seen Fish and Game shut down farms for salmon protection in streams which could never support a native population.”

Salmon Safe

Salmon Safe

Douglas Gayeton for Lexicon of Sustainability

Salmon Safe

Location: Fyee Wine Cellars, Corvallis, OR,

Featuring: David Buchanan, Fyee Wine Cellars

Salmon Safe (and trout too): Encourages the adoption of ecologically sustainable agricultural practices that protect water quality and spawning grounds of native salmon and trout.

The Buchanan family has managed this farm for five generations since 1885, with a current total of over 80 acres of riparian habitat on the property. (Back in the 1950s, David’s father wouldn’t allow the soil conservation service to straighten the creek and remove the riparian trees). This habitat is also home to over 150 species of birds.

In this stream:
Large trees, root wads, and wood left in the stream provide shelter and shade to fish (and rearing habitat for young fish). The wood slowly breaks down over the years to supply food to aquatic insects (which in turn provides food for crayfish, fish and other aquatic organisms). Wood left in the stream also creates positive water flow changes and meandering in streams.

On these banks:
Established riparian trees provide shade and bank stability to keep the creek cool and keep sediment from silting up the stream. Clean, clear cold water is best for salmon and trout. Allowing wide riparians allows for natural meandering to occur in the stream.

The presence of fish in a stream is a good indicator of water quality and high biodiversity capacity. The salmon-safe farm certification program ensures this by focusing on six primary areas:
1. Riparian area management
2. Water use management
3. Erosion and sediment control
4. Integrated pest management
5. Animal management
6. Biodiversity conservation

How David manages his vineyards:
1. He maintains a cover crop under the vines year-round to sequester, conform, keep the vines in balance and prevent erosion.
2. Dry farms the vineyard, using irrigation only for frost protection in early spring.
3. Protects nearby creeks with native riparian buffers 60 to 400 feet in width that enhance habitat for native fish, birds, and wildlife. (David has planted over four thousand native Oregon oak, Oregon ash, western red, cedar, and Willamette Valley ponderosa pine).
4. Applies only minimal amounts of organically acceptable spray to the grapes when needed.
5. Used non-lethal scare tactics to discourage birds and wildlife from eating the grapes during harvest.

WATER STEWARD

WATER STEWARD

Photo by Douglas Gayeton

WATER STEWARD

Someone who manages their water use in a sustainable way by meeting their agricultural needs while improving the environment as well as the social and economic well-being of their community.

MINNESOTA AGRICULTURAL WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION PROGRAM (MAWQCP)
The state of Minnesota offers farmers and agricultural landowners the voluntary opportunity to take the lead in implementing conservation practices that protect the state's water resources. Those who implement and maintain approved farm management practices are certified and in turn obtain regulatory certainty for a period of ten years.

MARK HELPS STEARNS COUNTY FARMERS GET "MAWQCP CERTIFIED" BY IMPLEMENTING WATER CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT PRACTICES THAT SAFEGUARD WATER QUALITY (AND THEY GET A FREE CASE OF BEER).
Precision tools allow Grant to manage his crops not on a field by field level, but down to one meter resolution. He uses remote telemetry weather stations and soil moisture probes on each crop, as well as mobile apps that allow him to monitor precipitation and more precisely use his irrigators (time efficiency is critical when his irrigators pump over 800 gallons/min). Grant also uses efficient nozzles/sprinkler heads and irrigators that emit water lower into the crop canopy to reduce evaporation.

"As a farmer I’m deeply concerned about the sustainability of our water resources. There’s a misconception that we just want to use water and abuse it, but we care deeply about water. It’s the lifeblood of our farm. "

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