- Author: Hannah Meyer
At a recent beginning farming workshop, that was the exact question that was posed to an earnest group of beginning farmers. Many of you may have similar questions so this post answers a few of them. If you have more questions about beginning farming, come to the next workshop this fall, which will be announced on our Foothill Farming website calendar.
- How do I get into an association for the crops I want to grow or am growing?
There are a number of organizations for a variety of locally grown crops, most would be happy to help a new, teachable farmer learn and understand some of the specifics about their crop and provide networking opportunities. Here is a list of a few local, crop specific organizations that you could join. Also feel free to look under resources on the Foothill Farming website for more information about your potential crop.
- California Wool Growers Association – http://woolgrowers.org/
- Mountain Mandarin Growers Association - http://www.mountainmandarins.com/
- Placer County Vintner's Association - https://placerwine.com/placer-county-vintners-association/
- Placer County Wine & Grape Association - http://pcwga.org/
- Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association - http://swgga.org/
- Tahoe Cattlemen's Association - https://www.facebook.com/TCA-Tahoe-Cattlemens-Association-180625651975901/
Regardless of whether or not you see your crop-specific producers association above, there are also a few other local options to connect you with other farmers and ranchers.
- California Certified Organic Farmers, Sierra Gold Chapter - https://www.ccof.org/ccof/chapters/sierra-gold
The other questions pertain to water, you can guess why. Water is critical to agriculture in the foothills and its availability to your farm is key to deciding how, when, and what you can potentially raise or grow.
- Did local irrigation districts reduce deliveries during the last drought?
Most agriculture in the foothills depends on ditch water from local irrigation districts. It takes approximately 1 miner's inch of water to irrigate 1.5 – 2 acres of pasture or about 1 acre of crops during the hot summer months. During the last drought, irrigation districts asked their customers to voluntarily conserve water, and they did. No reductions were forced. Thankfully we are no longer in a drought and both the Nevada Irrigation District and Placer County Water Association plan for full water deliveries this irrigation season, which runs from April to October.
- If I need irrigation district water past October, do I need to buy the entire 6 months of winter water?
Perennial crops often require winter irrigation water due to intermittent rains in many recent winters. NID offers a fall water supply for Oct. 15 through Dec. 1. It is important to bear in mind that winter water is usually more expensive than normal irrigation water, about 125% of normal rates and is not feasible in most cropping systems. Contact your irrigation district to inquire about the availability of winter water and how much water would be available to you during the normal irrigation season.
- Nevada Irrigation District - https://nidwater.com/
- Placer County Water Agency - https://pcwa.net
- What are the dangers of creek water?
Unless you have a deeded right to use water from creeks or streams on your property, you cannot use that water. Most producers get irrigation water from an irrigation district.
Creek water or other surface water is potentially subject to contamination from wildlife, domestic animals, or other sources and is considered a food safety risk for irrigating agricultural crops. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) Produce Rule has specific rules and guidelines for water used on crops. For more information about the FSMA, check out the Food and Drug Administration website at https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/FSMA/default.htm
- Author: Dan Macon
Mark Twain may not have said, “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting over,” but this quote certainly captures the essence of water policy in the West. Late last week, the State Water Resources Control Board sent a letter to appropriative water rights holders in northern and central California “notifying all holders of post-1914 appropriative water rights within the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds of the need to immediately stop diverting under their post-1914 water rights,….” In other words, if your water right was filed after 1914, you're out of water for now. An appropriative water right allows for storing water or for the use of water on land that is not directly abutting a waterway.
What does this mean for those of us who farm and ranch in Placer and Nevada Counties? Clearly, if we have a post-1914 appropriative water right, we're out of luck for this year. Fortunately, most of us irrigate with water from the Nevada Irrigation District or Placer County Water Agency. In these cases, the agencies are the water rights holders (and in both cases, these agencies hold at least some “senior,” or pre-1914 rights). However, at least several ranchers in our community did receive the letter.
If you did receive a letter, pay special attention to this provision:
“Compliance Certification Required:
Curtailed post-1914 diverters are required to document receipt of this notice by completing an online Curtailment Certification Form (Form) within seven days. The Form confirms cessation of diversion under the specific post-1914 water right, and, if applicable, identifies the alternate water supply to be used in lieu of the curtailed water right. Completion of the Form and identification of alternate rights can avoid unnecessary enforcement proceedings.”
The State of California has only issued such an order one other time – during the 1976-77 drought. And while our current drought may not be quite as severe as 1976-77 (in terms of rainfall and snowpack), we have millions more people – and much greater demand on our water system – than we did 38 years ago. It's shaping up to be a long summer. Let's hope for an early – and wet! – autumn!
Click here to see a media advisory from the State Board: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/press_room/press_releases/2014/pr053014_sjcurtailment.pdf.
For more information, you can call the Curtailment Hotline at (916) 341-5342, contact the State Board by email at: SWRCB-Curtailment-Certification@waterboards.ca.gov, or review their drought year webpage at:
Keep up with the latest drought information at https://www.facebook.com/groups/farmerrancherdroughtforum/. This group is open to commercial farmers and ranchers, and folks who work with us.