Minor Morgan has promoted organic farming for decades. And since the early 1990s, Morgan, executive director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Community Farm, has been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a farming process that is economically and environmentally sustainable. Through its innovative use of well and surface water to support a certified organic drip irrigation system year-round, the Rio Grande Community Farm stands alone in the state as a model for sustainable farming.
The 16-acre farm operates as a certified organic drip irrigation vegetable operation—one of only five such operations nationally. The farm has been enrolled in the NRCS Environmental Quality Incentives Program for more than 10 years.
Rio Grande Community Farm uses resource conservation practices such as no-tillage; planting crops year-round to reduce soil runoff; rotating crops annually to help replenish nutrients and micro-organisms that build stronger soil systems; and irrigation water management, a technique that optimizes plant water use.
According to Morgan, much of the food produced in America today contains lower levels of nutritional value that products grown on the Rio Grande Community Farm. The difference is what Morgan calls “nutritional density.” Healthier soil leads to crops that have higher vitamin and nutrient content.
Much of the food produced at the Rio Grande Community Farm is sold to the local school system. In addition, through a partnership with the local branch of the non-profit Meals-on-Wheels, fresh organic produce is delivered daily to local senior citizens and other groups in need.
In partnership with NRCS and New Mexico State University’s Cooperative Extension Service, the farm has also developed some unique cover crop blends designed specifically for the arid Southwest climate and soils.
Rio Grande Community Farm provides a demonstration of conservation practices for both the seasoned farmer and the curious visitor. NRCS New Mexico, along with New Mexico State Extension Service and New Mexico Soil and Water Conservation Districts, provide the technical expertise to create models such as the Rio Grande Community Farm.
Read more about the EQIP organic initiative.
Check out more conservation stories on the USDA blog.
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This is wonderful. Now, the challenge is to replicate this on other farms. Is there any chance that the USDA is looking at ways to encourage other farmers to develop systems like this? I wonder if there could be some way to encourage at least some change, even if a farmer doesn't want to go completely organic. Right now, there aren't any incentives for farmers to improve their methods little by little, and changing from a typical system to one like Morgan's might be more than the average farmer wants to try all at once.
I can't help but feel we're putting too much emphasis on organic, which is only a tiny portion of all farm acres rather than trying to improve the rest of farming little by little. tried to think of something that would encourage food companies to buy crops grown with environmentally friendly methods and came up with a labeling plan, which I discuss here: <a href="http://www.biofortified.org/2010/08/toward-a-better-agriculture/" rel="nofollow">Toward a better agriculture… for everyone</a>.
Side note: I don't believe this statement has been shown to be true in the scientific literature: "Healthier soil leads to crops that have higher vitamin and nutrient content." There are all sorts of benefits that can be gained from healthy soils, but it's important to stay within what has been shown to be true rather than what we feel may be true. It looks like maybe this is something Morgan said, not something NRCS/USDA is saying, but nonetheless a citation or counter-statement or something would be nice so readers of this blog don't get the wrong idea.