Join us: Water Bootcamp in Albuquerque September 18

IMG_7663Join NYFC and local partners in Albuquerque, New Mexico on September 18 from 1 – 4:30 p.m. to learn about agricultural water usage in the Middle Rio Grande. The workshop will include an overview of the history and cultural context of irrigation in New Mexico, a presentation from the Middle Rio Grande Conservation District on the ins and outs of irrigating in the MRGCD, and a presentation by Sharon Wirth of Audubon New Mexico about groundwater management and statewide water issues including adjudication and prior appropriation.

This workshop will be useful for those who are new to farming or new to central New Mexico, but it will also be helpful for those who have been farming in the region for a while. Coffee and snacks will be offered.

Not yet a member of NYFC? Join here for the discounted rate. If the entry cost is a barrier, please contact kate@youngfarmers.org for scholarship information.

 

Event Location

South Valley Economic Development Center
318 Isleta Blvd SW
Albuquerque, NM 87105

From droughts to contamination, our water supply is precarious

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One of my partners, Dory, flood irrigating a field at Red Tractor Farm. We have an underground pipe from the turn out that takes the flood water directly from the ditch to our fields.

By Casey Holland, Red Tractor Farm

Where does our water come from? Too few of us in the United States ask this question as we turn on our faucets and partake in a seemingly limitless supply of clean drinking water. Some communities, such as Flint, Michigan, have recently had to directly address this question as they find their water sources poisoned and toxic.

Here in Albuquerque, our water supply is quite precarious. Despite the beautiful Rio Grande flowing directly through our city’s heart, our situation is not one of plenty. We have been in a mega-drought, and March of 2016 was proclaimed to be the driest March on record. The last few months definitely have not shown an increase in precipitation.  

Here in the desert Southwest, lack of water is not the only threat we face within the Rio Grande-Albuquerque watershed. Contamination is as serious a concern as it is for the residents of Flint. Just a few years ago it was revealed that the Kirtland Airforce Base has been aware of a massive leak of jet fuel since as early as 1999. Albuquerque sits directly atop of an aquifer, leaving it particularly vulnerable to contamination.

In addition to the jet fuel, developers have come through seeking to build large housing compounds on the edges of our cities. Projects such as the proposed Santolina development would stretch our already scarce water supply even thinner. We must protect our water resources for future generations, not squander them away in a bid to make the desert bloom more than it already does. (more…)

Meet Casey: “I’ve finally found the farm I hope to spend the rest of my life on”

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Welcome to the arid West! For the next six months, four young farmers/ranchers from Colorado and New Mexico will be blogging about their experiences with water access and explaining everything from what it feels like to clean a 400-year-old acequia to how they’ve learned to make the most of the water they have through conservation and crop selection. To help you understand the terminology around water access, we’ve put together a short glossary at the bottom of this blog post.

 

By Casey Holland, Red Tractor Farm

It’s been raining the last few days. Not the deep, penetrating rain that all farmers hope for, but instead the fickle on-and-off showers that leave you wishing for more.

I grew up with the sort of weather that leaves you scratching your head and wondering what happened while enjoying the sweet scent of earth coming to life with moisture—the kind of weather New Mexico is known for. I grew up in the small southern New Mexico town of Deming. In my youth, afternoon showers were common, and in the summertime we all eagerly anticipated relief from the daily heat.

Summertime not only meant evenings playing in puddles, but for my family it also meant gleaning seconds from the large onion, pumpkin, and corn fields surrounding our small town. We were hungry, as were dozens of other families in similar situations, and the food left in the fields was one of many ways we were creative so that we would have something to eat.

NYFC_social_2.inddNew Mexico has one of the worst rates of both child and adult hunger, with one out of every five people receiving SNAP Food Stamp benefits. My mother grew up on a large farm in Belen, New Mexico but thanks to the convenience culture of the 1950s and ‘60s, she lost touch with the land, so gleaning was really my first introduction to formal agriculture. (more…)

Meet Nery: “I never thought I was going to be a farmer”

 

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Welcome to the arid West! For the next six months, four young farmers/ranchers from Colorado and New Mexico will be blogging about their experiences with water access and explaining everything from what it feels like to clean a 400-year-old acequia to how they’ve learned to make the most of the water they have through conservation and crop selection. To help you understand the terminology around water access, we’ve put together a short glossary at the bottom of this blog post.

 

By Nery Martínez, Santa Cruz Farm & Greenhouses

I’m Nery Martínez, a Guatemalan guy. When I came to the United States I was 18 years old, now I’m 27. I lived in California three-and-half years. During that time I worked in a restaurant and janitorial service. I never did any agriculture work, not even in my country. Honestly, when I was in Guatemala I didn’t help my grandpa clean his small corn and bean fields. I never thought that I was going to be farmer.

Over five years ago I came to New Mexico to spend time with my aunt and her husband, Don Bustos. Don owns Santa Cruz Farm & Greenhouses in Española, New Mexico, which is a six-acre vegetable farm that has been Certified Organic for more than 20 years and has been farmed by the same family for over 400 years. Shortly after coming to New Mexico I started working for him. I didn’t have plans to stay in New Mexico. I wanted to find a job to make some money to go back to my country. Then I started working in agriculture, and I changed my plans. The more I worked, the more I felt connected to the land, to my work, and to myself. I felt a passion for agriculture, so I kept doing it.

I remember my first day of work at the farm, not because it was hard work, but because I was walking on the baby lettuce in the greenhouses. Everything looked like weeds to me, and I didn’t have any experience farming. Little by little, like plants growing, I learned how to farm. (more…)

Meet Tyler: “We want to spend our lives devoted to a piece of land”

Hoyt_portrait_croppedWelcome to the arid West! For the next six months, four young farmers/ranchers from Colorado and New Mexico will be blogging about their experiences with water access and explaining everything from what it feels like to clean a 400-year-old acequia to how they’ve learned to make the most of the water they have through conservation and crop selection. To help you understand the terminology around water access, we’ve put together a short glossary at the bottom of this blog post.

By Tyler Hoyt, Green Table Farm

When we found our farm, my fiancé Kendra and I knew it was the right fit for us. It had plenty of run-down pasture for grazing animals, lots of semi-flat terrain for crops, a barn and corral that were in shambles, a defunct farmhouse that was livable, and—most importantly—lots of water. When we realized how much water was tied to the property and that much of the irrigation infrastructure was already installed (although lacking much needed attention over the years), we got excited. When we found that the water comes from Mt. Hesperus (the Northern Holy Peak for local tribes), we knew that this was the spot to build our future in a dry region. It was perfect.

We had been dreaming about owning a farm for as long as we had known each other. After many years of growing food on and improving other people’s land, we finally decided to buy our own piece of heaven. We wanted long-term returns on our investments into the land, and ownership was the only way to partially guarantee this far-sighted approach.

Land ownership and actively managing and working the land is a direct way to have a positive impact on our local ecosystem by improving soil and water quality, promoting diversity, and healing a damaged landscape. Farming allows us to improve our environment while producing high quality, nutrient-dense food for ourselves and our community, which is a socio-environmental win-win. All of this also comes with a rewarding job, as well as a thoroughly enjoyable lifestyle. (more…)

Our 2016 bloggers: Farming in the arid West

Topp_Irrigation pipe_croppedYoung farmers and ranchers in the arid West contend with all of the challenges faced by farmers in other regions—high land prices, access to capital, and often student loan debt—but they also face an additional barrier: water access. In many parts of the country, all farmers have to do to “access” water is turn to the sky, but in the arid West, farmers and ranchers often depend on irrigation water from rivers, ditches and other bodies of water for at least part of the growing season. Accessing water, therefore, means accessing land with water rights, and those water rights are subject to a myriad of different laws and traditions as well as competition from residential communities, other industries, and wildlife.

Does it sound complicated? It is. For the next six months, four young farmers/ranchers in the arid West will be blogging about their experiences with water access and explaining everything from what it feels like to clean a 400-year-old acequia to how they’ve learned to make the most of the water they have through conservation and crop selection. To help you understand the terminology around water access, we’ve also put together a short glossary at the end of this post.

So without further ado, we’re excited to introduce our 2016 bloggers:

  • Harrison Topp of Topp Fruit in Paonia, Colorado and Fields Livestock in Montrose, Colorado
  • Tyler Hoyt of Green Table Farm in Mancos, Colorado
  • Nery Martínez of Santa Cruz Farm & Greenhouses in Española, New Mexico
  • Casey Holland of Red Tractor Farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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New report on Western Water: Conservation Generation

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Across most of the arid West, drought has been the norm for the last 15 years. The majority of young farmers and ranchers in this region have never farmed in non-drought conditions, which means they are uniquely focused on creative solutions to water conservation. NYFC’s new report, Conservation Generation: How Young Farmers And Ranchers Are Essential to Tackling Water Scarcity in the Arid West, paints a picture of these young farmers, their approach to water, and the challenges they face.

To gather data for the report, NYFC surveyed 379 young farmers in the arid West and hosted eight focus groups (thank you to everyone who participated!). Survey respondents were asked questions about their chief agricultural concerns as well as their approach to water conservation and their engagement with and knowledge of water policy and government programs related to conservation.

ConservationGeneration_cover_Page_01Here are a few of the key findings:

  • Water, drought, and climate change are the top agricultural concerns of young farmers in the West. Eighty-two percent of survey respondents listed water availability/access as one of their concerns;
  • Young farmers prioritize water conservation, and the vast majority (94%) are already conserving water;
  • Building healthy soil is the most common on-farm water conservation strategy;
  • Federal cost-share programs are not reaching young farmers in the West;
  • Perceptions of “use it or lose it” discourage on-farm conservation.                       

Download the report here. 

Western agriculture and water scarcity are regional issues of national importance; the Colorado River, a focus area of this report, flows through the Rockies toward the Gulf of California while irrigating 15% of the nation’s crops and 85% of its winter produce. As much as 80% of water used by humans in the Colorado River Basin is devoted to agriculture, so on-farm water conservation efforts are important in any conversation about water scarcity. (more…)

New report: Innovation & stewardship in the arid West

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Here’s a story you probably haven’t heard in the news: Family farmers are leading water conservation efforts in the West. Here are two examples.

  • By building up the level of organic matter in the soil of their California farm, Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser (pictured above with their crew) have drastically cut their irrigation use while increasing their production seven fold compared to similar California farms.
  • In Wyoming, ranchers Pat and Sharon O’Toole have always managed their land with conservation in mind. Along the way, they’ve built strong partnerships with Trout Unlimited, Audubon Wyoming, and The Nature Conservancy—organizations some ranchers once viewed as adversaries.

NYFC_WesternCaseStudiesFINAL_Lower_Page_01Our new report, Innovations in Agricultural Stewardship: Stories of Conservation & Drought Resilience in the Arid West, offers five case studies profiling producers across the Colorado River Basin (an area that spans seven Western states) and beyond who—with curiosity, creativity, and seasons of trial and error—are adapting and even thriving in the drought. This report was created in partnership with the Family Farm Alliance to highlight farmers who are building drought resilience, saving water, & growing good food for all of us.

Read our new report here. 

The West is mobilizing in search of answers to a growing water gap between water supply and demand. Earlier this week the Bureau of Reclamation, the federal agency that manages much of the water infrastructure in the West, released a report that NYFC also collaborated on titled Moving Forward Phase I Report that identifies ways to reduce water stress in the Colorado River Basin.

Now with our latest publication, Innovations in Agricultural Stewardship, we hope to add to the list of solutions. In order to develop smart policy, it is critical to understand the creative ways farmers and ranchers—young and seasoned alike—manage their land. We call on our policymakers to engage farmers as allies in finding innovative solutions that support the health of our land, water, and Western communities.

Sustaining Farming in the Arid West: Stories of young farmers, water and resilience

FARMERS ADAPT TO DROUGHT AND INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

New Report Highlights Innovative Drought Mitigation & Water Savings by Six Farmers in Four Colorado River Basin States

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August 14th, 2014

Download report (PDF)

DURANGO, CO – The National Young Farmers Coalition released a report today highlighting innovative farmers who are adapting to record drought in the arid Southwest. “Sustaining Farming in the Arid West: Stories of young farmers, water and resilience,” demonstrates how Western farmers are saving water, stewarding the land and enhancing productivity in increasingly dry times. (more…)

Mayors, farmers across the west stand together for Colorado River Day

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Brad Webb, farmer and owner of Mesa Park Vineyards, Palisade, CO

“Essentially if we didn’t have this river and this water, we wouldn’t have agriculture in this state [of Colorado],” says Brad Webb, a local farmer and business owner of Mesa Park Vineyards in western Colorado. Brad spoke on behalf of beginning farmers for Colorado River Day in Grand Junction, one of five events held yesterday across the west.

July 25th marked the 2nd annual Colorado River Day, the day 92 years ago the Colorado River was renamed from the “Grand”. National Young Farmers Coalition teamed up with Nuestro Rio and Save the Colorado to host events in Denver, Grand Junction, Santa Fe, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. Urban and rural elected officials joined local farmers in support of urban and agricultural conservation as the first and best option to reducing the growing gap between water supply and demand in the west.

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Farmers, elected officials, and reporters listen to remarks for Colorado River Day

Catch NYFC on KKCO here

In addition, we launched a month-long campaign to recruit elected officials west-wide to sign a support letter encouraging state and federal leaders to develop and implement actionable proposals through conservation to help reduce dwindling water supply. The pledge comes on the heels of the Bureau of Reclamation Colorado River Basin study which shows that we can generate 3 million acre feet of water through urban and agricultural conservation and reuse alone. That’s enough to supply 3 million households for a year.

Signing onto this support letter so far are  Denver Mayor Michael Hancock, Paonia Mayor Neal Schwieterman, Santa Fe Mayor David Cross, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, and San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria, among others.

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Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia, CO gives remarks on the vital importance of the Colorado River

“If we work together we can solve a lot of these problems,” said Mayor Neal Schwieterman of Paonia at the Grand Junction event. Mayor Schwieterman represents one of the most diverse and thriving agricultural valleys in Colorado and knows the importance of agriculture to the state’s economy and way of life. The Mayor also represents recreational interests on the Gunnison Basin Roundtable, a group of leaders who meet regularly to tackle regional water issues.

In addition Councilmembers Boeschenstien and Doody of Grand Junction spoke on the importance of riparian health and water quality to the overall health of the river.

“Conservation is the lowest hanging fruit,” said Mayor Schwieterman. As young and beginning farmers, we are working to ensure we do everything possible with conservation first. If we do nothing, we will surely see our farms and our rivers continue to run dry.

For more coverage of the event in other states see Public News Service Santa Fe, the New Mexican, Public News Service CA, among more to come.