January 21, 2014, Oakland, Calif.: Madera County almond grower Tom Rogers is the recipient of the 2014 Farm Water Steward Award jointly presented by the Pacific Institute, Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), and Ag Innovations Network at an award dinner celebration at the T.S. Glide Ranch in Davis, Calif. A third-generation farmer, Rogers has reduced water use by up to 20% by improving irrigation scheduling techniques – combining careful soil moisture monitoring and weather information from on-site stations to precisely determine the timing and amount of irrigation water to apply to his almond trees. By doing so, he also has improved crop yield, producing more crop per drop and improving water-use efficiency.
The Farm Water Steward Award was established to recognize leaders and innovators in water stewardship across the California agricultural community. The 2014 award was presented by Gisela Wendling, director of the Water Program at Ag Innovations Network. Heather Cooley, co-director of the Water Program at the Pacific Institute, delivered welcoming remarks.
Each year a Farm Water Steward Award winner is chosen from the submitted success stories on the Interactive Database of Ag Water Stewardship Case Studies launched by the Pacific Institute and California Roundtable on Water and Food Supply — which includes a video and case study on Tom Rogers’s success with smart irrigation scheduling from the Pacific Institute California Farm Water Success Stories series. The database features innovative and effective efforts of farmers like Rogers who work to improve on-farm and regional water management.
Tom Rogers views accurate water monitoring as central to on-farm water management: “You have to monitor; it’s just absolutely imperative that you know where your water is, and if you’re actually using it or flushing it through the system. Our goal here is to use water according to the trees’ needs, and without knowing what’s going on in the soil and in temperature, you really can’t water accurately.”
“Wise use of irrigation water must be a top priority for California growers, especially with growing water supply and water quality concerns. Tom Rogers has been a leader in employing irrigation technologies and demonstrating how they can help improve on-farm water-use efficiency,” said Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute. “His success is a great example and resource for other farmers, and we are proud to present him with the 2014 Farm Water Steward Award.
An audio interview and slideshow with Farm Water Steward Award winner Tom Rogers is available at http://youtu.be/_a7KC4dprwA.
Rogers said, “We have weather stations that give us temperature and humidity and wind speed and rainfall. We can show that we are beneficially using water and not wasting it. Our yields have gained the past few years. I really think water is the biggest difference in the yield differences, because if you’re not watering correctly no amount of fertilizer or any other care is going to make a difference.”
“For economically viable and environmentally sound growing and distribution of food, we look to farmers like Tom Rogers,” said Gisela Wendling of Ag Innovations Network. “The on-farm practices that keep his farm thriving while being a good steward of the water – and his willingness to share his experience with other growers – helps create a vibrant future for California agriculture.”
“Family farmers like Tom Rogers know in the most on-the-ground way how vital and unpredictable water resources are,” said Dave Runsten, policy director of CAFF. “Tom is deeply committed to finding the best ways to use the resources for the best outcomes and to work together with other farmers for everyone’s benefit. He is a real asset in the agriculture community, and I couldn’t be happier than to present him with this year’s Farm Water Steward Award.”
Presenters at the award dinner included: Sandy Schubert, undersecretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture; Gabriele Ludwig of the California Almond Board; Dave Runsten of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers; Gisela Wendling of the Ag Innovations Network; Anna Bee Szendrenyi and Heather Cooley of the Pacific Institute; and Juliet Christian-Smith of the Union of Concerned Scientists. The agriculture organizations and other partners in the agricultural community were recognized for their work to help sustain a vibrant agricultural community and sector in California in the future.
Growers, water districts, and agricultural organizations are invited to submit case studies to be considered for the next Farm Water Steward Award on the Interactive Database of Ag Water Stewardship Case Studies at: www.agwaterstewards.org/index.php/case-studies.
The Pacific Institute is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally. www.pacinst.org
The Community Alliance with Family Farmers is a non-profit organization that advocates for California’s family farmers and sustainable agriculture, building on shared values around food and agriculture and working together in practical, on-the-ground programs. The strong partnerships between family farmers and communities create locally based economic vitality, improved human and environmental health, and long-term sustainability of family farms. www.caff.org
Ag Innovations Network is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to helping stakeholders solve problems in the food system through effective collaboration. AIN facilitates crucial conversations, convenes meetings that matter, and enables change. www.aginnovations.org
The Interactive Database of Ag Water Stewardship Case Studies is at: www.agwaterstewards.org/index.php/case-studies and the Farm Water Success Stories and more videos from the Pacific Institute are at www.pacinst.org/publication/california-farm-water-success-stories-2/.