Jutta and Cynthia had the privilege of being featured on the California Report last week, talking about dry farming in the face of drought. Check out the article and hear the radio interview in its entirety by clicking here. Or listen to the interview below.
A couple of month ago, shortly after I was a panel speaker at the climate conference in Sacramento, I received a call from Lisa, an independent radio reporter who had heard my bit on dry farming. She was curious, how does one dry farm in a severe drought? And by the way what is dry farming, how does it work, can she come to the farm and interview us. See the ponies working, watch some Walnuts being cracked…. We said yes, and I started by giving the ponies a 4 week spring tune up. Go to our face book page to see a short video of them working the orchard, and yes that is Lisa riding shot-gun.
I explained the history of dry farming to her, just 60-70 years ago crops, tree, grain and grapes all were dry farmed. Several factors are needed: a loamy soil, average winter rain fall of 25 inches plus and of course soil preparation. Disking under the green manure (winter crop of legumes) and then creating a dust mulch is essential to preserve and “seal in” soil moisture. Unfortunately we never got out of the low teens with the rain fall these past years, so the moisture in the soil is not enough to sustain our trees through a 6 month dry season.
Lisa’s questions got me thinking that many of you don’t know what this drought means for our farm, for the trees.
Since year 2 of the drought our Walnut crop is down, now in year 4 by 30%. I lost 25 trees as in “they died”, last year, 20 dead trees this year so far and it is only June. The trees have large areas in their canopy with no green leaves, the branches have died back. My Walnuts are smaller each year, the shells thicker, the Nuts are harder to crack and instead of halves I get lots of pieces, which I have to sell for less. Lisa asked why we keep going? Why are we planting a new tree right next to the stump of the dead tree?
We really love the farm, the surrounding CA Wood land un touched for hundreds of years. Our customers appreciation for the products, the letters, e mails keep us going. We believe farming organically, sustainably is the right thing to do.
Last night we had the pleasure attending a fundraiser for the non profit: Project Hope and Fairness an organization started by Eve and Tom Neuhaus the owners of Mama Ganache Artisan Chocolates which provides MMOrganics with Organic and Fair Trade Chocolates for the Chocolate Covered Walnuts we sell here in Paso Robles on our Farm stand and website. It was very important to us as a family to support Fair Trade in the coco industry, but I realize now that there is some confusion on what Fair Trade means and why it is necessary for all of us to support it when ever possible. You might not know that the coco industry is sliding toward a supply crisis because of the simple truth that it is not profitable to be a coco farmer. They net less than 1 % of the value of the coco beans they grow. The coco trees are aging and the replants are often rubber trees. The farmers are aging too, the young people migrate to cities looking for better wages. 90% of all the coco grown in the world comes from small family orchards. Because of their physical isolation and fragmentation they have no bargaining power when it comes to selling their products. The fair trade program aims to put things right. Farmers get paid a fair price for their products, they get access to healthcare, education for family members is available and clean water projects are implemented. Farmers who join this program have to do their part, many requirements on their end need to be full- filled before they are accepted into the program. For example: No child labor is allowed on Farms that participate. The Project Hope and Fairness goes a step further.Tom travels to Africa and is setting up small chocolate kitchens, bringing over the machines and teaching skills so that farmers are learning to turn the coco bean into chocolate. This value add process creates many jobs and ensures a sustainable income for the farmer. Go to www.projecthopeandfairness.org to read their story and make a donation if you can. We @ mmorganics are doing our part by donating part of the proceeds of the sale for our 4 oz and 8 oz bags of chocolate covered Walnuts to this non profit and we hope to be able to enjoy many more years of Fair Trade Chocolate.