Rehydrating Toro Creek with Sustainable Agriculture: Traceland Farm Demonstration Project

Project Overview

FW22-401
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2022: $24,997.00
Projected End Date: 01/01/2024
Grant Recipient: Traceland
Region: Western
State: California
Principal Investigator:
Jesse Trace
Traceland

Commodities

  • Fruits: berries (other)
  • Nuts: walnuts
  • Additional Plants: trees

Practices

  • Crop Production: water management
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal summary:

    Past practices have contributed to economic growth at the expense of soil and water conservation, as indicated by degraded lands and creeks. There is opportunity to reverse land degradation and dehydration via sustainable shifts in agricultural land management. Climate change exacerbates the need for on-ground actions to occur at a time/ scale more rapidly than the current pace in order to optimize sustainable agriculture production.

    This proposal demonstrates how integrated management shifts supports land and water restoration and produce commercially viable crops. Current annual water use is ~5M gal- this regime is not sustainable, and needs to shift from water resource strain to agro-ecosystem production. The water regime needs to be well studied to provide the technical input required to design, and implement specific water management applications. 

    A basic understanding of the current water balance, opportunities for rehydration, and annual runoff (>700k gal) for 3 drainages have been approximated. Applying diverse solutions (conceptualized in the form of berms, swales, and ponds) can help infiltrate up to ~500k gal water per year. These treatments give an opportunity to measure and monitor rehydration efforts (see attachments). 

    This project will be shared across existing platforms and networks (i.e., social media, Earth Regenerators, SLO & Santa Cruz Permaculture, and meetings with landholders in Toro Creek watershed). Traceland will hold several workshops to share and educate growers and producers. CLC intends to leverage this project as a template for use with many similar small ag operations along the small, fragile watersheds of California's Central Coast.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Objective 1: Water management accounting (April 2022 - July 2022)

    • An assessment of the consumptive water use of the Trace Farm to reduce the water footprint and off-set pumping from the agricultural riparian well that is hydrologically connected to stream flows in mainstem Toro Creek. Test the degree of hydraulic connection so that streamflow benefits can be quantified. Develop conceptual level concepts for water conservation, streamflow enhancement, and benefits to riparian floodplain habitat; 

    Objective 2: Expand agricultural operations onto valuable Class 1 alluvial soil agricultural land and simultaneously restore native habitat across approximately 12.5 acres (planning May - August 2022, phase 1 earthworks September- December 2022, phase 1 planting December 2022, workshops and monitoring winter 2022-2023, phase 2 remedial earthworks/restoration, early spring 2023 final planting, workshop May 2023)

    • A conceptual and final level planting plan to establish native-dominant plant communities on terrace/100-year floodplain and adjacent hills to enhance botanical biodiversity and increase wildlife habitat complexity. The plan would integrate productive agricultural ecosystems (e.g. edible landscape) that emphasize the diversity and functions of natural ecosystems and integrate soil health elements such as mulch application, reintroduction of mycorrhizal mycelium, and evaluation of soil minerals
    • Agroforestry workshops

    Objective 3: Reduce soil erosion and stream bank collapse 0.5 miles of Toro Creek (planning May - August 2022, phase 1 earthworks September- December 2022, phase 1 planting December 2022, monitoring winter 2022-2023, phase 2 remedial earthworks/restoration)

    • An assessment of riparian, hydrological, hydraulic, and geomorphic conditions of mainstem Toro Creek to develop conceptual level concepts to slow and reverse existing channel incision and restore channel-floodplain connectivity.

    Objective 4: capture > 500k gal stormwater run-off (similar timeline as Objective 2)

    • Conceptual in line berm, swales, and collection ponds design to shovel-ready plans (i.e., confirm sizing, layout). A conceptual and final level plan and details to restore natural hydrological processes on terrace/100-year flood plain and adjoining hills by slowing, spreading, and sinking stormwater runoff in rain gardens, bioswales, or other landforms designed to optimize agro-ecological health, enhance botanical biodiversity, and reduce land degradation and erosion
    • Stormwater run-off capture and rehydration systems / keyline farming field days will be aimed at describing the dynamics of water infiltration and contour / keyline farming and its multiple benefits in relation to semi-arid mediterranean climates

    Objective 5: capture and bio sequester atmospheric CO2 (planting 143 trees) (see Objective 2 for timeline)

    • Long range carbon accounting and operational carbon footprint neutralization for project activities, framework/ process can be scaled to more throughout property;

    Objective 6: Research and develop acorn food production as a high-value, gluten-free, delicious flour and foodstuff (Phase 1 planting December 2022, final planting early spring 2023, workshop Fall 2023)

    • planting 73 oak trees, measuring acorn yield.
    • Acorn storage and food processing workshops

    All objectives are further described in the Research Plan and Education Plan sections of this application.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.