Drip irrigation systems deliver water directly to a plant’s roots, reducing the evaporation that happens with spray watering systems. Timers can be used to schedule watering for the cooler parts of the day, further reducing water loss. Devoto Gardens, Glashoff Farms, and Twin Girls Farm are a few of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market farms that irrigate their crops with drip irrigation lines. Properly installed drip irrigation can save up to 80 percent more water than conventional irrigation, and can even contribute to increased crop yields.
Many farms rely on municipal water or wells (groundwater), while some have built their own ponds to capture and store rainfall for use throughout the year. Properly managed ponds can also create habitat for local wildlife. Marin Roots Farm relies on two ponds for all of their water needs, helping to minimize their impact on the surrounding watershed.
Smart water management is not just about how water is delivered but also when, how often, and how much. To avoid under- or overwatering their crops, farmers carefully monitor the weather forecast, as well as soil and plant moisture, and adapt their irrigation schedule to the current conditions. Tory Farms, which uses flood irrigation in their orchards, waters at night to slow down evaporation, allowing water to seep down into the soil and replenish the water table.
Growing crops that are appropriate to the region’s climate is another way that farmers are getting more crop per drop. Crop species that are native to arid regions are naturally drought-tolerant, while other crop varieties have been selected over time for their low water needs. Olives, Armenian cucumbers, tepary beans, and orach are a few of the more drought-tolerant crops you can find in the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Rotational grazing is a process in which livestock are moved between fields to help promote pasture regrowth. Good grazing management increases the fields’ water absorption and decreases water runoff, making pastures more drought-resistant. Increased soil organic matter and better forage cover are also water-saving benefits of rotational grazing. Bodega & Yerba Santa Goat Cheese and Marin Sun Farms, among others, practice rotational grazing to keep their pastures and animals healthy.
The Dust Bowl of the 1930s was created by a perfect storm of deep plowing and loss of perennial grasses followed by extreme drought and wind erosion. Conservation tillage uses specialized plows or other implements that partially till the soil but leave at least 30 percent of vegetative crop residue on the surface. Like the use of cover crops, such practices help increase water absorption and reduce evaporation, erosion, and compaction. Date grower Flying Disc Ranch makes the most of their water use in the Coachella desert by using a mix of mulch, compost, and cover crop with no tillage.