The pioneering mentality that has infused the farm over its history has resulted in the exploration of alternatives to conventional wisdom. Some ideas have been farfetched and quickly faded away. Others have proven to be indicators of the future. Composting and cover cropping have been a part of our best management practices for over 20 years. We were early users of biological control of nematodes. Today the farm practices extensive cover cropping and the use of catch basins to control sediment. Integrated pest management has been an integral part of the operation for years.
We would prefer the term “stewardship” to sustainability in describing our approach to the land and how we manage it. The sustainability of the farm itself depends on our ability to produce profits and reinvest them in our business. The source for all that we produce is the land, air, water, and sunlight that generates the energy to grow our crops. We must first take care of the land so that we leave it as rich as we found it and it remains healthy to grow bountiful harvests. For many years the farm has utilized cover crops to anchor and protect the soil. Cover crops also build organic matter. We were one of the earliest to use green waste and compost to build soil organic matter. Increasingly there is need to prevent the movement of sediment off the land and into the streams. That is an ongoing effort.
Water in Southern California is scarce. Many years ago we began converting most of our delivery systems to drip irrigation. That effort has produced better yields, used less water, and increased the efficiency of our fertilizer application.
Sustainability for agriculture is not much different than it is for human medicine, both are biological systems. To be healthy it helps to start with good genetics and after that it is important to eat well, exercise, and do everything in moderation. But we live in a world that can surprise us with infections, diseases, and accidents. Those are times when modern medicine and the ingenuity of humans can intervene to save lives. Antibiotics are a wonderful tool if not over used. The same would apply to the tools farmers use to control insects and disease. They can save crops but if overused can cause damage to the environment and build resistance which only exaggerate the problem. There must be constant vigilance and searches for better ways to produce healthy productive crops.