Thursday, June 1, 2017

Mortimer Farms Permanent Drip Irrigation

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. 

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

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

My family has been involved in farming and ranching for more generations then I can count. My dad’s side of the family were corn and soy bean farmers in Iowa while my mama’s family were cattle ranchers and cotton farmers out west. I love this about my family’s history. I love that farming and ranching traditions were passed though generation upon generation. I love that the love for the land, environment, and animals that I find in myself is the same love that my great, great, great, great grandparents had for the land they were farming, the resources they were caring for, the animals they were raising, and the water they were using.
Through each season on my family’s farm and ranch – though each day I work – though each responsibility I preform – though each magnificent sight I see I am reminded of this unique but wonderful tie to previous generations.

Spring is one of my favorite times. I love seeing the world wake up. Whether it be by seeing new born calves test out their legs for the very first time, driving past the farm late at night and seeing my dad hard at work in the tractor, hearing birds sing, seeing trees and flowers bloom, or seeing so much new growth and beauty - I love to see the all God's creations – all that we have here - in nature – out on the ranch and on the farm once again become evident.

I think this is why I love my job so much. I get to spend every day surrounded by these things that remind me so much of the love God has for us – I am encircled by brilliance. A brilliance that not only reminds me of Him but reminds me of all the blessing I have now and all those wonderful people that came before me.

When my dad was about 4 years old he began to learn how to drive a tractor. The first tractor he drove was my great-grandpa Leo’s B Tractor. I still have no idea how he could possibly have reached the peddles (I am all grown up and still barely can reach, haha). It was at this point in little Gary’s life that he needed to assist in farm responsibilities. One of his jobs was to drive the B Tractor with my Uncle Greg, Grandma Karen, and lots of hay on the trailer. He would drive the tractor right through the middle of their few head of cattle. While he drove Greg and Grandma would throw out hay. I can just see it now – little Gary barely reaching the peddles while driving though a herd of cattle. He was trusted and given so much responsibility at such a young age. It is what the farm and ranch life is. We all pitch in – we all have our duties – and we all positively impact the farm and ranch.

Spring about 10 years ago was one of the first times I can remember helping my dad plant the fields. The planter we had, at the time, didn’t drop the seeds into the holes that the planter was making for the seeds to go into. For this reason, my sibling and I had to sit on the planter and drop two seed every 3 seconds into our designated row. Right next to my station was a tire. This tire had a white line on the wheel. I soon realized that one spin of the tire equaled 3 seconds. Can you tell this was one of the longest springs of my life? I begged my dad to purchase a planter that actually did the entire job that it was supposed to do. Looking back now I’m sure he didn’t have this not so great planter to teach me anything or to show me anything but it definitely was a side effect. That spring, I learned dedication, hard work, and the importance of drinking lots and lots of water by being immersed in the operation – by being trusted and given responsibility.

Thankfully, since then my dad has upgraded his farming equipment. I no longer have to sit on the planter and drop two seeds every spin of the tire – every 3 seconds. I do have to say that 10 years ago when that spring planting emerged out of the warm and moist soil – that moment was wonderful! That moment I felt so much joy and satisfaction for a job that we accomplished – for a responsibility my family and I had that proved to be a success. That moment made the long, long, long spring of dropping a seed worth every spin of the tire.

Spring is a great time in my life and in my family’s lives. It is the time where I feel as if the work I am doing each and every day has meaning. It is the time of my year that I feel closest to those of my past that cultivated land with shovels and their hands. Those in my family’s history that dedicated their entire beings to something that was so hard. Generations ago, my family planted fields upon fields with just a shovel. What. Dedication. And. Passion! Today, I am beyond thankful for the farming and ranching tools that we have to enable us to do our jobs more efficiently, and better.

Marveling at hundreds of baby calves and fields and fields of green sprouts is my life at the moment! In fact, I drive home from U of A every weekend – 6-8 long hours (usually in lots of traffic) because I just adore this life – my life on the farm and the ranch so much! A life I would never give – a life I love so dearly – a life I hold very close to my heart! 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Did one single animal really change my entire life?

When I was about seven years old there was a cow that was shot on the ranch. She died leaving a brand new baby to fight for his life on his own. He was cold, he was hungry, he was dehydrated, he didn’t intake the adequate amount of colostrum to boost his immunity and give him needed proteins, and he was decreasing rapidly – he was fighting unsuccessfully. In fact, when my dad found him a few hours into his fight it looked as if we had lost him – as if he was dead. Thankfully, there is an inborn quality that comes with being a rancher. It is a quality that I see in my dad every single day. This quality is love - love for the land, love for the job, love for the environment, and love for animals - no matter the situation, no matter the odds, and no matter the possibility of a negative outcome. This love that he possess - this inborn quality that he has is what I contribute to that bull calf being brought home that day. My dad began to warm him up, give him an IV full of nutrients, proteins, and liquid, and he did began to do everything in his power to save that baby's life. A few hours in the bull calf showed a glimpse of light in his future. He showed that the efforts in his behalf might be enough to save his life.

I arrived home from school and absolute feel in love with him! I would have done anything to help that baby live. My dad and I spent all that day keeping him warm, rubbing him to keep his blood flowing, giving him doses of IV fluid, and doing everything in our power to save his life.

Throughout this day and the entire night as we fought for the calf, later known as Spot, I looked at my dad and I saw so much love and dedication - so much hope. I saw a man that would do anything to save this calf. I think this is why I wanted to save him so badly. I wanted to see our efforts and the all that my dad was doing for him work. I wanted to see him live.

Thankfully, after many days of looking past the unknown the grey area of Spot’s life disappeared. He was going to live all thanks to a man that didn’t look at the odds and didn’t look at Spot as a waste of time or as a burden.

That day Spot became my first cow. The first life that I was responsible for. That day began the start for many early mornings at the barn with a bottle, many visits with Spot to see my mom in the kitchen (her favorite visits I’m sure), many naps in the yard with the best pillow ever (Spot), many fun times in the barn with my siblings, and many, many memories I will never forget.

As spot grew older a bottle or two or three was not enough to satisfy his appetite. I began to feed him hay and then slowly I began to feed him grains and mineral (vitamins and nutrients in order to continue to help cattle stay healthy and grow). As time went on I decide he would be the perfect show steer. I entered him into 4-H because he had such long hair, crazy cool markings, and loved me too much to smash little me in the show ring. After more training (on both my ability and Spot’s) then I can even begin to put into numbers, after more feed than I could ever afford, after dedicating myself to Spot and his outcome, and after learning more about hardworking, dedication, perseverance, and love it was time for the show. I definitely think Spot was the best steer there, but I might be a little bias in that statement. Bottom line, no matter how good he was, no matter how big he had grown, no matter the obstacles we jumped over together Spot was my miracle calf. There is no logical reason or explainable for Spot living even just an hour into his life. There is not even a logical reason to why he grew to become a healthy 1500 pound delicious steer.

Calves that do not receive colostrum within 15 minutes of birth are weak, harder to breed, they have difficulty having calves, they gain weight much slower, and they get sick much easier. Spot surpassed all weight gaining goals, and health goals I ever had for him. He was strong and he was perfect.

I owe so much to him for all he taught me, all he gave me, and the great life I have been able to have because of him. He is the reason behind my immense love towards cattle and agriculture.

Spot was my baby. He won me belt buckles, and ribbons in 4-H. He taught me responsibility and dedication. He showed me that no matter what the odds miracles happen, hard work pays off, and one animal can change your life forever.   

I look back on my life – my childhood – and wish with all my being that I could go back. No, not because I want to change it or make it better. Quite the opposite. I want to go back so I can live it all again. Ever since I can remember I have been surrounded by agriculture – surround by tractors, and cattle, wide open spaces, and tons of adventures. Growing up on a cattle ranch was the best way I could ever imagine to grow up. The beautiful hikes down creeks looking for cattle, thousands and thousands of horseback rides, secretly trying to hatch pigeon eggs and bottle feed baby kittens with my cousin (shhhh, don't tell my mama), running through mud, helping my dad, swimming in stalk tanks and ponds, quad rides, all of it – these are the best stories I have to tell – the best memories I have to remember – the best laughs I have to think about. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Food. Is. Personal.

I, one hundred percent, am obsessed with food! In fact, my phone's camera roll is composed mostly of cattle, my puppy Stella Daize, and food. Yes, you heard right - FOOD. Beautifully fabulous food. To me food is more than just a meal and more than just a means of survival. Food represents the great times in my life. Food shows love, time, and compassion in the kitchen. Food represents laughing around the dining room table with my family. Food reminds me of the times my brother, Hayden ate 42 pancakes and it seemed he could have gone on forever. Food reminds me of flour fights with my friends and food fights with my siblings. Food represents farmers and ranchers all over America working endlessly and passionately to provide food for families all over the world.  Food reminds me of my ancestors and all they did to allow me to be where I am. Food represents the end of a long day of work full of struggles and accomplishments. Food is the key of a celebration and the heart of any good party.

Food. Is. Personal.

There aren't many things in this world that we can't live without. Fortunately, and sometimes unfortunately, we must have food to survive. This fact makes what we eat and drink - what holds so many memories and representations all the more important.

Food. Is. Personal.

We live in a world where knowing about the production of our food matters. We live in a world where the production of our food is often under attack. We live in a world where we have to protect our food system and those growing our food more than ever before.

I take great comfort in knowing those growing and producing our world's food are families - people with children - humans with values, respect, compassion, fairness, faith, and character - individuals just like you and me trying their best to make their portion of the world a better place.

Farming practices, conservation, and sustainability aren't one size fits all - just how raising children, cleaning our home, or even getting ready in the morning isn't the same for any of us. How each farmer and rancher do their jobs depends greatly on what they are growing, the resources available, where they are located, what predators are present, how mineral rich the soil is, what the weather is like, and much, much more. There are so many variables that can impact the way food is grown and produced. However, it is great to know that farmers and ranchers - no matter where they are located or what challenges they face - are cautiously and effectively farming and ranching in the best possible way to produce the best quality ingredients for all our family's dinners.

When I open my fridge, freezer, and pantry it is personal.

I picture farmers and ranchers - families working long hours, caring for the land, caring for animals, and implementing growing practices that correspond to their wonderful character and values. I see great memories to be had with my family - laughing, dancing, singing, teasing, celebrating, and enjoying life. I see beautiful food and even better I see reminders of what that food stands for.

Food is personal to us all!

I am hear to tell you that food is personal to the grower and producer just as much as it is to me and you and all those eating it. Support American Agriculture because It. Is. Personal.


"No-till farming is the practice of not plowing soil before and after harvests that keeps leftover stalks and leaves in the field. No-till helps farmers improve soil to retain water, prevent erosion, and benefit soil health." - MonsantoCo


"Today, more than 22,000 public land ranchers maintain 250 million acres of U.S. public land. These ranchers are widely recognized for their work to protect the environment in which they live and operate, safeguarding open spaces, maintaining water sources and sustaining plant and wildlife populations." - American Sheep Industry Association

Monday, November 7, 2016

Here's to the calloused hands, the dirty boots, the cowboy hats...

My definition of a farmer - educated women and men who analyze data, test soil, monitor crop growth, adhere to regulations, calibrate farm equipment, write government policies, protect the environment, grow food and fiber in the most responsible and effective way, and continuously implement new and better practices in order to protect our natural resources and the environment. This definition of a farmer is drastically different from the definition a few decades ago. The famous "Pitchfork Farming Painting" is no longer an effective or accurate representation of farmers and farming. We have changed drastically and continue to change daily. Fact is, agriculturalists continue to improve, evolve, and advance. Our job title no longer just consists of just growing crops and cultivating land. Our job is so much more than a pitchfork or even a piece of straw in our mouths.

A farmer is a steward of the land, an caregiver, an learner, an educator, an inventor, an advocate, and an environmentalist.


Picture an apple - in this case the apple represents the earth. If we cut the apple into fourths three of the pieces represent ocean water - 96.5 percent of the earth's water. The remaining fourth represents land. Half of this land is deserts, swamps, and mountain ranges. Now we take the remaining eighth and cut it into four more pieces. Of these four pieces three of them are too rocky, wet, steep, or cold to grow crops. We are now down to only 1/32 of the apple. Of this 1/32 we are going to remove the skin. This skin represents earth's top soil - the land available for farming. Of the remaining 3.5 percent of water only 1 percent is available for drinking water, mining, recreational activities, human use, and agriculture. This tiny percent of land and water is all we have to grow and produce food - for this generation and for thousands of years to come. These resources are what agriculturalists live to protect. Farmers actively plan and manage the most effective and smart way to farm the land. Whether it be through planning the correct sequence of crops to plant in a specific field or analyzing what certain nutrients the crop will add and take out of the soil farmers are aware of the needs of the land and the resources.

Modern agriculture has spent years improving techniques and technology to protect and enhance soils. In Arizona logging is used to thin forests - controlling the undergrowth and reducing fire risk. Cattlemen and women work closely with the the land to ensure overgrazing does not occur. In turn - cattle, when rotated correctly, control overgrowth, weeds and reseed native grasses. Modern farming practices include minimal tillage, crop rotation, zone fertilization, buffer strips and watering techniques that have been very successful in reducing erosion and negative impacts on the environment. Precision agriculture methods allow crops to be grown with less water, on less land, and using less of our world's natural resources than ever before. These advances continue to build and continue to evolve. All in all, allowing my opinion of agriculture to stand strong - agriculture is fantastic and agriculturalists are great people caring and protecting the land while growing and producing healthy and affordable food!

Whether it be a cotton farm, a cactus farm, a vineyard, a corn farm, a pumpkin farm, a alfalfa farm, or my personal favorite a cattle ranch we all are passionate, caring, and aware. Farmers farm in such a way that the land, the resources, and the water will be available and usable for generation upon generation to come. Agriculturalists are aware and coherent when it comes to the land, environment, and resource issues that we are facing in the world. I trust these people. I trust them to accurately and effectively manage, analyze, and protect.

Here's to the calloused hands, the dirty boots, the cowboy hats, the note books, the families, the individuals involved in agriculture. I thank them all for caring for the land, the animals, the natural resources, the water, and providing food for us all!!