How We Grow

2021 Sept/Oct How We Grow

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and yields. "We know that new technology can seem daunting for some people in farming," Julia said. "But the entry costs are lower than a lot of farm equipment, like, say, a new tractor. And it's not a depreciating asset, it adds value to your ranch and it saves you money." Pollinator-friendly farming that includes hundreds of acres of pollinator habitat, use of cover crops and sustainable waterways that support bees and pollinators. Smart power meters coordinated with PG&E to automatically shut off their pumps if the energy grid gets overtaxed. This enables them to participate in the utility's automated demand response program that pays farmers to turn off their pumps. "We can stop operating our pumps for four hours if that's needed," Julia said. "We hope that's helping our community. Our shutoffs help the organizations that can't go down and they're helping people who need their AC." Next up for Capay Farms, as it is for many growers, is work to eliminate waste. "We want to get to zero waste. We're aligned with what the Almond Board is trying to do with the 2025 goals," said Mackey, who recently went through the California Almond Sustainability Program (CASP). "We believe the goals are very important and that there will be economic gains by following through with the programs." One potential innovation they're investigating is converting woody biomass, hulls and shells into biochar – a range of charcoal-like substances that can be put back into the fields, which adds nutrients to the soils, increases the ground's ability to retain moisture and holds carbon in the soil. "We're looking at this very thoroughly," Julia said. "Besides using it on our farms, we can sell it on the open market. In Europe, it's being used as feed for cattle to reduce methane. Farmers everywhere can use biochar." All of this links back to Capay Farms' fundamental message about sustainable farming – it's good for the land, it's good for the community and it's good for business. That last point, that sustainability makes economic sense, is something the Violich team says to their farming neighbors often. "We're able to share what we're doing and what we've learned with other local farmers," Julia said. "They're so busy with everyday work, they don't have time to look into all the possibilities. We try to let them know what we've found that works well. We can save them time and that can also save them money." Capay Farms utilizes a state-of-the-art radio frequency network to communicate ranch conditions with ranch foreman. Utilizing moisture and weather monitoring technology, Capay Farms now has water monitoring sensors throughout their operation to ensure the most efficient use of water, resulting in higher quality crops, greater yields and lower operating costs. Almond Board of California 10

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