- Author: Jeffrey P. Mitchell
September 3, 2021
Michiel Bakker, the Vice President for Global Workplace Programs for GOOGLE, along with Douglas Gayeton, the creative leader for The Lexicon of Sustainability (https://www.thelexicon.org/ ), spent a full day on September 3, 2021 first visiting the NRI Project field in Five Points, CA and then the farms of John Diener right up the road, and of Phil Foster in Hollister, CA. The purpose of their visit was to learn about and see efforts that are being made to realize conservation (or more recently, “regenerative”) agriculture systems here in California. CASI's Jeff Mitchell coordinated the day's tour that also included retired Madera, CA organic farmer, Tom Willey.
While at the NRI study site, the group looked at several reduced disturbance pieces of equipment and also witnessed the increased aggregation of long-term no-till and cover cropped soils in the NRI field compared to that of standard tillage.
At Red Rock Ranch, the Five Points farm of Diener, the group along with John's son, Justin, talked about water issues that California is facing as well as efforts the Dieners are making to address water shortages. They also learned what goes into the large organic tomato fields that they visited and learned about the minimum pass tillage practices that they use.
At Pinnacle Organically-Grown Produce, the Hollister, CA farm of Foster, the visitors saw a variety of Phil's innovations including his on-farm compost production techniques, his use of strip-tillage, and his development of the use of single-line cover crops that economize greatly on seed and water.
August 16, 2020
Announcing the webinar, Healthy Soils for Healthy Profits - How do we get to $2.50/lb cotton in the SJV? slated for September 17, 2020 from 9:00 AM to Noon. Registration is now open at: https://ucanr.edu/sjvcottonwebinar
A short introductory video including interviews with presentingSJV farmers is available at
Sign up now!
Fifteen years of stunning conservation agriculture success at Rollin Valley Farms in Burrel, CA!
June 22, 2020
Andy Rollin, along with his brother, Donny, are dairy farmers near the small western San Joaquin Valley town of Burrel, CA. Their farm, Rollin Valley Farms, milks over 2,000 cows and has about 700 acres of silage crops including alfalfa, corn, oats, wheat, and sudangrass. About 15 years ago, they began some of the earliest efforts to develop reduced disturbance production techniques for their silage crops (see video below). They pioneered the successful development of strip-till corn way back in 2003 and 2004 and then a few years later, began working with Monte Bottens and Cary Crum of California Ag Solutions (CAS) in Madera, CA, to further improve their production systems. Monte and Cary helped them with state-of-the-art planter improvements, an Orthman 1-tRipR strip-till implement and also the use of CAS's Landoll no-till grain drill. (See Picture 1). In addition, the Rollins have in recent years added a late-summer multi-species silage “cover crop” which has now augmented their annual forage production over their prior double-cropping practices. Strip-till corn yields at their farm are up about 2 to 3 tons/acre over prior production rates and there have also been 10 to 15% improvements in their feed quality that have resulted from the coupled, innovative efforts that they have made.
The Rollins were also involved with a research study back in 2004 and 2005 with CASI's Nick Madden, Randy Southard, and Jeff Mitchell to determine the impacts of their reduced disturbance practices on air quality. (See Picture 2.)This work showed that over 85% of dust emissions were reduced by strip-till compared to their previous standard till system (see the attached article by Madden et al. 2008). (See Picture 3).
The Rollins are now firmly behind their transition to strip-till and no-till cover crops and small grain seeding schemes and attribute an early spring savings of about 10 days to their reduced disturbance corn planting systems. They now have switched to watering up their strip-till corn following the very minimal soil work they do following winter small grain chopping and harvesting. In recognition of their innovative and steadfast progress, they were Finalists in the 2018 Leopold Conservation Award Program. The following short video shows one of their strip-till corn fields this spring. (See Picture 4.)
Here is a link to a You Tube video of this project: https://youtu.be/mq8itVs3Iak
Tom Willey's "Down on the Farm" 88.1 FM KFCF Radio Interview with CalCAN's Renata Brillinger and CASI's Jeff Mitchell on California's GHG emissions offset programs and the California farm demonstration network
An audio archive of the KFCF 88.1 FM radio program of Tom Willey's "Down on the Farm" segment for July 1, 2016 that included interviews with CalCAN's Renata Brillinger and our own CASI's Jeff Mitchell is now posted at the CASI website. This hour-long interview included discussion of the State's GHG emissions offset programs by Brillinger and information on our farm demonstration network from Mitchell.
The radio program can be heard by clicking on this link: http://casi.ucanr.edu/video_updates/radio_updates/
We would like to let you know about the formation of the California Farm Demonstration Evaluation Network, - a grassroots, locally-based effort that has been developed by farmers throughout the State, the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation (CASI) Center, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and a variety of private sector partners to address the simultaneous goals of better farm management, greater farm profits, and increased farm productivity and sustainability.
The California network is modeled after a number of other farm networks that have been created in several states around the country as a means for providing opportunities for progress, the development of improved systems, and greater efficiency in face of the many challenges that agriculture faces today. Key elements of the California farm demonstration network are 1) participatory learning and adaptive, improved management based on sound science- and experience-based principles, 2) the public, voluntary showcasing of innovative systems developed by experienced farmer leaders, 3) a program of farm demonstration evaluations that employ monitoring, data collection, and analysis of findings, and 4) the use of proven, creative methods for sharing, discussion and communicating results and findings so as to scale up broader adoption of improved systems.
The network has a broad array of goals that it is pursuing that include the development of water-, climate-, and nutrient-smart systems for the State's diverse crop production environments. An initial series of network-sponsored farm visits that showcase innovative soil health practices of five Central Valley farmers is being conducted in June of 2016.
Information for these visits and for ongoing activities and opportunities of the network is available at the CASI website http://casi.ucanr.edu/ or by emailing or calling, Jeff Mitchell, CASI Workgroup Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (559) 303-9689.