Farmer-to-Farmer Case Studies

June 1, 2017
By Georgine Yorgey

Map of case study profile locations.

Successful farmers are skilled at coping with risk, from weather to markets, and a variety of other factors. So to answer the question, “what practices might best help our region’s farmers adapt to climate change?” we went straight to the source. Our region is home to many accomplished farmers who are pioneering a range of new farming practices that improve sustainability, enhance resilience, and are likely to be helpful in adapting to climate change. Their farming practices include reducing and eliminating tillage; diversifying crop rotations; integrating livestock and cover cropping into dryland wheat rotations; and working with partners in their communities to address water related issues.

By preparing multi-media case studies of the practices these farmers are using, we hope to provide information useful to other farmers in the region who are considering similar changes. Funding for the case studies project came from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Laird Norton Family Foundation, and Western SARE. Based on the interests of these funders, the bulk of the case studies profile dryland and irrigated crop producers, along with one dairy and one cow-calf producer.

Each case study includes a short (5-7 minute) video, and a more detailed written profile. The written profile includes details from growers explaining their successful adoption of innovative practices, their perspectives on benefits and challenges, and their thoughts on risk and climate change. These case studies are still in development, with thirteen currently planned. Completed videos and written profiles can be found at www.casestudies.reacchpna.org.

While focusing on telling the grower’s story, case studies also bring in relevant scientific information through short sidebars that complement the main case study. Initial reaction to the case studies has been quite positive. The videos have been shared at conferences across the region and the written case studies have had significant online readership.

Dale Gies grows a mustard-arugula cover crop (shown here with his son Mike) that biofumigates his soil when it is tilled in. This allows him to avoid use of chemical fumigants, intensify his potato production, and add organic matter to his soils. Photo courtesy of Dale Gies. Eric Williamson uses a combination of strip tillage, cover cropping, livestock integration, and amendment with manure to reduce soil erosion and improve soil health. Photo courtesy of Darrell Kilgore. A stripper header “strips” grain from the stalk, leaving tall standing stubble in the field. Ron and Andy Juris use this to shade the soil and reduce wind speeds near wheat seedlings, conserving water in their dry conditions. Photo courtesy of Andy Juris. Drew Leitch has been experimenting with cover crops in the wetter part of the dryland area. He grazes spring-seeded cover crops in place, as well as swathing a portion of the cover crops. This has improved his existing cattle grazing operation, without negative impacts on the subsequent wheat crop. Photo courtesy of Darrell Kilgore.

 

Collaborators: Kristy Borrelli, Kate Painter, Andy McGuire, Chad Kruger, Sonia Hall, and others from across University of Idaho, Washington State University, Oregon State University, and USDA- Agricultural Research Service

 

This article is reprinted from the CSANR 2016 Annual Report.

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