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.