Garfield County, vegetable farm

Goals/Strategic Objectives

  1. Well Water Suitability
    1. Well water lab testing during different periods of the year (fall and winter) to determine if the well would be suitable for irrigation at any point.
    2. Integration of a small-scale Reverse Osmosis (RO) system to allow the nursery to have a suitable water supply during spring operation.
    3. Establishing a water testing schedule for on-site water testing to determine if the water is suitable for irrigation on crops in the nursery.
  2. Ditch Water Reliability
    1. Add materials and installation to the existing water pump and filtration system, which would allow for water access via trucked water or on-site water tank. This would allow for emergency water access in the event of ditch maintenance during the growing season, when other nearby water sources are inaccessible due to drought conditions.
    2. Establish annual checklist to prepare for water accessibility, including contacts for water delivery, pricing, and assessment/estimates of drought conditions.
    3. Test soil in the field to understand if amendments or cover cropping could increase drought resiliency and/or water holding capacity.

Inventory

  • Land: 3 acres of diversified vegetable and cover crops; leased municipal open space
  • Water sources/challenges:
    • Well water; primary source of irrigation for nursery (before the ditch is running). The well water has been tested and is recommended for treatment due to alkalinity and high salt content. It is assumed that drought conditions in the area have made wells less suitable for irrigation, due to elevated salt levels. Observations from 2023 included burning on certain crops (brassicas), which is estimated to be partially or fully due to excess salt build up in the substrate.
    • Ditch; field irrigation source; 120GPM. The ditch is the only source of water available to irrigate the vegetable fields during the growing season. During 2023, the ditch had an emergency repair that caused 10 days without access to water for the farm in August. During years/months with adequate runoff, water can be pumped from a nearby ditch on the property. However, this is not possible in drought years/months.
  • Ditch start date: Mid-April
  • Ditch end date: End of October
  • Irrigation system:
    • Well: pump and spigot
    • Ditch: pump directly pulling from ditch, with sand filtration and solenoid valves to control irrigation zones
  • Irrigation delivery:
    • Well: hose and hand watering
    • Ditch: sprinkler/wobblers and drip tape

Potential future conditions

Strategies for increasing drought preparedness

Timeline

  • Winter/Spring (2024)
    • Installation of ditch irrigation bypass, to allow trucked or on-site water storage use in the event of ditch maintenance during drought
  • Winter/Spring (annual)
    • Complete pre-season checklist for preparing for ditch maintenance events
    • Nursery irrigation monitoring
    • Farm soil testing
  • Irrigation season
    • Record crop water demands, upcoming forecasts, and observed stresses

Critical decision-making dates

  • January 1st: Prepare annual farm checklist to assess drought risk, mitigating steps/procedure, and crop plan.
  • March 1st: Update daily water demand (during peak season), water supplier contact, trucked tank capacity, and pricing to prepare for water access in the event of ditch maintenance during drought.
  • September 1st:
    • Farm meeting to discuss water and drought notes from season and any adjustments/improvements needed for upcoming season.
    • Review soil tests to make amendment/cover crop plan.
    • Contact local agencies to assess grant opportunities for upcoming improvements/needs.

Strategies for managing during drought

  1. Water treatment system to treat increased salinity in well water during periods of drought and routine monitoring of water quality.
  2. Irrigation system improvement to allow connection from emergency water tank to irrigation system and annually updated list of suppliers.
  3. Weekly check-ins to assess crop water demands and observed stress.
  4. Routine soil testing to make informed decisions regarding cropping plan and soil moisture retention.
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