In a response to the regulatory phase-out of methyl bromide, a major soil fumigant used in regional strawberry production, WSARE project GW13-011 investigated the use of compost for suppression of common soilborne diseases. Researchers found that compost amendments were associated with reductions in disease pressure for two common soilborne diseases, both of which affect strawberries as well as many of the other crops grown in our region. Our project couples these important advancements in sustainable agriculture research with an ethical commitment to equity in agriculture, principally by extending compost-induced suppression of soilborne disease to small-scale Latinx farmers in California’s Central Coast.
It is well-known that Latinx farmers in the U.S. face a variety of cultural, financial, and language barriers – as well as explicit instances of discrimination – in their efforts to establish and maintain successful farming operations. Despite these barriers, Latinx farmers have become leaders in the sustainable agriculture movement nationwide. These trends are particularly palpable in California’s Central Coast. Amidst large-scale industrial farming operations and sky-high land prices, Latinx farmers are struggling to establish small-scale, diversified fruit and vegetable farms. One major factor contributing to these farmers’ struggles regionally is the prevalence of soilborne disease, as well as the limited assistance available to help these farmers mitigate the impact of soilborne disease on their crop yield. In addition to utilizing learnings from GW13-011, we draw on pedagogical findings from WSARE projects OW13-062 and ONE20-376 which indicate the importance of one-on-one assistance for small-scale Latinx farmers to help them overcome multiple barriers to implementation. Our project extends compost-induced disease suppression to these farmers via individualized education and implementation assistance, as well as through workshops at regional educational hubs.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Provide education on compost-induced disease suppressive soils to a total of 60+ small-scale Latinx farmers. We will provide farmers with educational resources on compost-induced disease suppression via workshops designed for broad regional accessibility and via one-on-one consultations, in which we provide resources that are relevant to the farmer’s specific cropping system.
- Provide implementation assistance to a cohort of 15-20 small-scale Latinx farmers annually during the project period. De Corato (2020) notes that is recommended to apply 20-30 tons/hectare (approximately 8-12 tons per acre) to achieve disease suppressive functions without potentially producing an environmental hazard; accordingly, we will support farmers with accessing, applying, and paying for compost at a rate of up to 10 tons/acre.
- Connect small-scale Latinx farmers with resources for accessing compost beyond the project period. Incentives programs like the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils Program offer financial support for farmers implementing sustainable agriculture practices; additionally, grants from non-governmental organization such as the Zero FoodPrint (ZFP) Restore California program offer compost funding for farmers. Given that small-scale Latinx farmers are rarely able to access information about these programs, we will provide participating farmers with information about these and similar opportunities.
- Enhance productivity of soil through application of 300+ tons of compost on a total of 30+ acres of farmland annually. This will involve helping the cohort of 15-20 farmer participants to access and apply compost to their fields at a rate of up to 10 tons/acre for a maximum of 2 acres/farmer.
- Provide additional data on barriers to implementation of compost-induced disease suppression among small-scale Latinx farmers. Through use of surveys throughout educational activities and individual memos of each participating producer’s experience with the practice, we will compile and synthesize information on barriers to implementation.