California Almond Farm Finds a Way to Save Water

By: Melissa Pasanen  |  September/October 2014
California's drought requires farmers to be smart with water. The Rogers brothers' conservation methods keep their almond harvest bountiful.
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From late summer through fall under sunny central California skies, half a million acres of almond trees stand heavy with nuts ready to be harvested, their green hulls cracked open to reveal speckled brown shells. Tom Rogers, a third-generation farmer, and his brother, Dan, are among the California farmers who grow more than 80 percent of the world’s almonds.
But a three-year drought worries farmers like the Rogers brothers, who run the century-old family farm where their father first planted almonds about 30 years ago. While many farms have their own wells, this is the first year they may not be able to count on supplemental water from local districts. “Water has always been something we’ve focused on,” Tom says, “because it’s being a good steward and also because that’s what makes the crop.” The farm’s state-of-the-art irrigation system provides 24/7 soil moisture readings. Building soil quality, with compost from a local dairy farm, is a top priority: “Good soil holds moisture better,” he explains.
Their efforts earned them the 2014 Farm Water Steward Award for reducing water use by up to 20 percent. Tom says it’s about watering the right amount at the right time to produce the optimal harvest from the orchard’s 17,000 trees.
Such conservation efforts mean that even with drier conditions, there will still be almonds—which is good since they’re so popular, eaten whole and as milk, oil, flour and almond butter. For tips on how you can conserve water at home, visit wateruseitwisely.com.