Innovative Farmers Can Adapt to Scarcer Water

(p. D4) The Colorado River, Arizona’s largest water source, is so low that last month, for the first time in history, the federal government proposed cutting water allotments to three states that rely on the river, including Arizona. Climate change is parching soil and depleting aquifers already taxed by corporate agriculture. Large swaths of Arizona farmland are devoted to water-hungry crops like lettuce and hay, grown to feed livestock as far away as Saudi Arabia.

. . .

Drawing on lessons she learned at the Urban Farm, a Phoenix-based business that teaches home gardeners how to grow food in a dry climate, Ms. Norton turned her backyard “from bare-bones, dead-ground scratch” into a lush mix of garden and orchard. She’d be open to raising chickens as well, if not for the presence of predators like coyotes, roadrunners and rattlesnakes.

What appears wild is the result of careful planning. A mulberry tree provides shade for the dragon fruit growing around its trunk. The drip tape that waters apricot, plum and apple trees also irrigates Mexican primrose flowers and sweet potato vines below.

“These grapes are strategically placed to keep the afternoon sun off these young trees,” Ms. Norton said. “I take the leaves and give them to a lady four doors down. She uses them to make dolmas.”

Ms. Norton is an ardent member of the Phoenix area’s sprawling gardening community. She is now general manager of the Urban Farm, and owns a seed business with its founder, Greg Peterson.

. . .

A primary goal of gardeners like Ms. Norton is to naturally rejuvenate soil degraded by synthetic fertilizers and neglect. Zach Brooks started the Arizona Worm Farm to help.

Nearly halfway into a 10-year plan to establish a fully sustainable, off-the-grid farm, Mr. Brooks sees his project as proof of how quickly damaged land can be restored using natural methods. It includes gardens and a food forest, a dense collection of plants that support one another, comprising mostly fruits and vegetables. Together, they provide produce for a small farm store and meals for his 20 employees.

. . .

As challenging as it is to farm and garden around Phoenix, Sterling Johnson said it’s (p. D5) even more so in Ajo, about 100 miles south, which is even hotter and dryer.

“If we can do it out here,” he said, “we think you can do it anywhere.”

For the full story, see:

Brett Anderson and Adam Riding. “Feeding a Region As Water Runs Out.” The New York Times (Wednesday, May 10, 2023): D4-D5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed date, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 8, 2023, and has the title “In Parched Arizona, the Produce Gardens Bloom.”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *