· Demonstrate to farmers and ranchers in the region that alternative agroforestry specialty crops can be farmed in remote areas
· Demonstrate that there is a future in small rural family farms without access to electricity.
· Make available a source of native plants for wildlife enhancement, erosion control and stream-bank stabilization.
During the past 100 years, the nation’s wetlands and river systems have been drastically altered. The results, compounded by introduction of exotic species, have depleted critical riparian habitat at what Canyon Farms says is an alarming rate.
Canyon Farms is a full-time family farm that incorporates sustainable agriculture practices. It wants to propagate cottonwood and willow trees and to establish an ultra-high-density native plants nursery, the stock from which can be used to restore wetlands, endangered species, and establish habitat on federal, state and private land through the Southwest.
“We are striving to create a showcase for small farms and incorporate only sustainable agricultural practices to create the successful, profitable, economically viable ‘Small Rural Farm of the Future,'” says the farm. It is interested in exploring new avenues in agriculture, including agro-tourism.
Canyon Farms planted 2,500 cottonwood and 2,500 willow trees in 1-gallon containers. About 85% survived despite a shortage of the farm’s well water. Project coordinator John Squire contacted state and federal agencies and local tribes to try to sell the native plants. He also created a brochure mailed to government agencies, tribes and private restoration operatives.
Squire says the market for native plants is not strong, but it is growing.
“Since this project started, I have become aware of a growing interest in native plants among homeowners,” he says. “It’s a slow process.”
This project could enhance the quality of life for all farmers, ranchers and consumers by restoring the environment with critical native vegetation.
It also helps promote sustainable agriculture concepts and demonstrates the use of indigenous plants as a specialty crop. The project will help slow erosion, improve water quality and enhance ecosystems as well as demonstrate and promote agroforestry principles.
FARMER OR RANCHER ADOPTION
The Bureau of Reclamation has purchased 100 willows and contracted Canyon Farms to plant them on an eroded bank of the Dolores River. In addition, Squires has received feedback from several farmers at local field days and at farmers markets.
DISSEMINATIONS OF FINDINGS
The main work has been to inform government agencies, tribes and private entities about the project, its mission of sustainable agriculture and the availability of native plants they can incorporate in upcoming projects. Several farmers have visited the site, and field days are planned when the trees are more mature.
REACTIONS FROM FARMERS AND RANCHERS
Reactions have been positive. A local Native American tribe is especially interested in collaborating with Canyon Farms on a Tribal Comprehensive Land Use and Master Plan.