Sustainable Farming Practices

We base our farm management decisions on principles that respect the long and short term economic and environmental health of our valuable natural resources. Our management strategies are based on protecting the quality of the water, soil, air, and wildlife habitat and strive to improve the economic and environmental vitality of our farm.

In addition to farming organically, our water management strategies include using high efficiency micro sprinklers and drip lines for irrigation, mulching extensively, and establishing wind breaks. We manage our nitrogen inputs by collecting and using our alpaca manure. We have partnered with our local conservation district to construct a sediment control and holding pond on our property and have planted erosion-control trees and shrubs on any excavated hillsides as well as maintaining extensive cover cropping. We also worked with USDA through the federal farm bill’s EQUIP program to improve our irrigation efficiency.

We work at improving our soil quality and reducing erosion. We monitor the soil quality through the use of soil and leaf analysis, and plant and crop observations and records and add animal manure and micronutrients as needed. We also have our alpaca manure analyzed and apply only what can be incorporated by the soil and not leeched into the water table. We use extensive cover cropping in the orchard and have planted erosion control trees, shrubs and grasses on the perimeter, hillsides, and any excavated areas. We have left the natural shrub-steppe and monitor and remove any noxious weeds. These strategies, along with planting a roadside berm of aspen, pea shrubs and roses to capture traffic dust, are integral to maintaining or improving the air quality on the farm.

Our pest management strategies are based on minimizing the use of pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. Our first defense is involvement. We monitor extensively so we can use the least harmful approach possible. We use cultural practices first for pest control – plant health, sanitation, hand removal, natural resource and cover crop management for beneficial insect habitat, use of degree day models and monitoring traps and horticultural oils as well as releasing beneficial predators such as lady beetles and green lacewings. Weeds are controlled by mowing, hoeing, hand pulling and mulching. Our Equip contract also includes a pest management component to reduce the adverse effects of weeds, insects and disease on plant growth, crop production and material resources.

We have integrated habitat enhancement and biodiversity goals by developing several areas with wildlife habitat plantings and areas for beneficial insect populations. We maintain the shrub steppe environment by ardent noxious weed control and leaving natural and uncultivated areas surrounding our cultivated sites. We will be planting more pollinator habitat this year through the EQUIP program. In addition to habitat plantings and maintaining uncultivated areas, we had erected a bat house, use little broad spectrum materials, and capture run-off into a holding pond planted with beneficial trees and shrubs.

Our efforts to conserve energy and utilize renewable energy systems have lead to our investing in an electric vehicle for farm work, irrigation, hauling fruit, etc. The water for our processing kitchen/office is from a solar well pump and gravity flow cistern system and the farm bathroom has a composting toilet which results in significant water use reduction and compost for non-food plantings.