Farmers and ranchers have a responsibility to care for the land, the animals, the crops, and our world's natural resources. A 6th generation farmer and rancher said this, "I think we understand more than anybody that if we abuse the natural resources, if we deplete them, if we take advantage of them, if we don't take care of them they will be gone. And once they are gone we have nothing left. We don't have a job anymore. We've actually put ourselves out of a job if we don't manage our resources." This responsibility is one that goes far beyond ourselves - it is a responsibility that will affect our children, and our grandchildren, and generation upon generation to come. So much in agriculture - so much that we do now greatly affects this generation and so many more. A few weeks ago I saw a quote on Pintrest (yes, farmers love social media too - in fact we depend on technology to do our jobs). It said something like "We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children." This explains the industry to a t.Listen to farmer's and rancher's stories here
Farmers and ranchers do everything to feed this generation healthy, affordable, and nutritious food and to leave our lands to our children better than we received them. My family, along with every Agricultural family in America, takes this responsibility very seriously. Because of this we change, and advance, and continuously better our farms and ranches.
Water is a natural resource that farmers and ranchers use daily. In fact, I would say that water is one of our biggest needed natural resources in farming. In the past the way to water was flood irrigation. In short, each field has hundreds of little hills side by side that expand the entire length of the field. On the top of the hill is where the plants are planted. In between each hill is a valley. This valley is where water will be pushed from one side to another. Along the way water is left behind for each plant. At the end of the row, or the field, left over water will be collected and used on the next field. This process continues until each field is watered. When the slope of the field is correct, and the furrows are straight this watering technique works great! However, it is very labor intensive, and many times waters plants, weeds, and even soil - resulting in the use of more water.
My family's farm, Mortimer Farms, has always been cautious of natural resources. Many times it is very expensive to implement the newest and best farming tools and technology. However, we find ourselves collecting our pocket change because we cant think of a better way to spend our money than to protect and preserve our land and our natural resources.
For a few years now, we have been slowly converting our farm to permanent drip irrigation. This watering practice enables the exact amount of water to be delivered directly to the crop's root system. This maximizes the use of available water. Drip irrigation does not provide water to weeds or unwanted plants. It also increases fertilizer efficiency, improves infiltration, improves seed germination, decreases tillage, erosion, and fertilizer runoff, and lowers watering labor costs. All in all, creating and fostering stronger plants. Along with stronger plants comes strong immunity to pests and bad insects, faster growing, and even higher yields.
LIST OF ADVANTAGES -
1. Maximum use of available water - water is given directly to each plant's root system
2. No water being available to weeds - water is given directly to each plant's root system
3. Maximum crop yield - healthier and stronger plants
4. High efficiency in the use of fertilizers - fertilizer is given in the plants water directly to their root system
5. Less weed growth and restricts population of potential hosts - water is not readily available to weeds
6. Reduces irrigation requirements
7. Less soil erosion - no moving water to carry soil
8. Improved infiltration in soil of low intake - soil is now able to slowly soak in the water
9. Easy to run.
10. No runoff of fertilizers into ground water - plants use all water that they are directly given
11. Less evaporation losses of water as compared to surface irrigation - the system is underground
12. Improves seed germination - heathy and stronger plants
13. Decreased tillage - only till a few inches on the top when necessary due to the irrigation pipes in the ground
So cool right?!
Here's how it works -
We use this specific tractor and drip irrigation injector/ implement due to its accuracy and efficiency. The tractor maps out each specific field in order to place the irrigation lines in exactly the correct spot, at the correct depth, and correct spacing between lines. These lines are then mapped and memorized on a computer in the tractor in order to plant the seeds in the correct spot when it comes time to plant. This technology is amazing!
The pictures above are the actual irrigation lines.
Picture #1 - each field is split up into 3 watering sections. This means that we DO NOT have to water the entire field just blocks or sections of the field that are planted. This will come in really handy during #sweetcorn season. To have sweet corn for as long as we do we have to plant in blocks. By doing this not every stalk's cob is ready at the same time. Each block will be ready and harvested at different times.
Picture #2 - under these pipes there is a main line that feeds water to each block or section. This picture is the turn on valves for one sections. Notice there are two lines and two turn on valves. This is why - at Mortimer Farms we MAINLY grow corn and pumpkins (we also grow hay, wheat, melons, berries, vegetables, and many others depending on the year). Corn and a few other crops we grow have to be planted 38 inches apart while pumpkins need to be planted 76 inches apart. Each year we plant a different crop in each field - crops have to be rotated each season (this is why we grow so many different things - each crop does something different to benefit the soil)!! Because of this each white pipe has drip irrigation pipes coming off of it at 76 inches apart. Each 76 inches is rotated on each pipe. This means that combined the pipes have a line 38 inches apart. When pumpkins are planted in this field we will only turn on one value watering 76 inches apart. When we grow corn in this field we will turn on both valves and water every 38 inches.
Picture #3 - This is a picture of the black pipes that will water the plants. To the right of the picture is the field. These pipes will be buried under ground going all the way down the field.
Picture #4 - This is what the pipes look like when they are all installed. We cover everything except the blue valves and a green air vent (allows air to escape out of the pipes).
Picture #1 - In this picture you can see the holes beginning to be dug for the start of the irrigation pipes in the field.
Picture #2 - Directly behind the tractor is the main line and the white pipes. At the edge of the field irrigation pipes on the tractor are connected to the black pipes in the above pictures. The pipes on the tractor are then buried in the direction the tractor is going. These pipes will extend from one side to the other for the entire space of the field.
Picture #3 - This is the implement that stretches and buries the pipe down the length of the field. The circles towards the top are what holds the pipe. These circles are forced to turn and release pipe as the tractor moves forward. At the very bottom, laying on the ground, are metal pieces. These are the shanks. The tractor will move the entire implement down in order to push these in the ground. These shanks are then the tractors guide as to where the pipe will be permanently placed. They dig the trench while a tube comes in behind that actually lays the irrigation pipe.
All these moving pieces allow for the huge list of advantages, from above, to take place. Not only will we be able to grow more, pump less water, reduce evaporation, lessen visible irrigation line (look at those cute baby corn stalks above with no visible irrigation above the ground), and transition our labor hours to harvesting instead of watering but we will be able to protect and preserve our water for the future. We are in this business for not only our life times but for our prosperity's life times. We do everything to make farming and ranching possible in their lives.
Andy Smallhouse (a real good friend of ours - a cattle rancher and cactus farmer in Southern Arizona) said, "Agriculturalists are the true environmentalists and care more about what they do and are probably more passionate about what they do than any other group of people that I know." I couldn't agree more. I see my family and so many other families dedicating their entire lives, literally, to farming and ranching. It is a livelihood, a business, and a career that I am so blessed to be able to witness and be apart of.Listen to Andy and many others (including the Mortimers) here