Taking Responsible Farming to the Next Level
At Threemile Canyon Farms we manage our natural resources, and control pests and disease using the most sustainable, effective techniques based on experience and scientific research. Nature-based farming practices sometimes prove as effective as the latest advances in high-tech equipment.
For example, we grow mustard on organic fields before planting potatoes, onions, and carrots to reduce weeds and prevent disease. The mustard naturally suppresses disease, like verticillium, while improving soil health and texture.
Our Farm Interns scout our conventional fields daily for pests, to ensure we apply crop protectants only when needed, and at the right amount. Interns take weekly soil and plant tissue samples on all crops to optimize crop nutrient management.
Protecting Our Most Valuable Resources
Water conservation and zero discharge waste management are prime examples of our commitment to the wise use of our natural resources. When we first started farming here, we voluntarily gave back some of our Columbia River water rights. For us, the reason is simple: Protecting and preserving our natural resources is the right thing to do.
Innovation in Irrigation
Since the early 2000’s, Threemile Canyon Farms has used technology to help conserve water. We led the industry as of the first major farms to adopt state-of-the-art irrigation systems as part of our broad farming practices. Those technologies allow us to:
- Deliver the precise amount of water needed – and not a drop more. Our irrigation system is based on extensive use of historical and real-time data. We conduct widespread soil sampling using neutron probes and real time GPS-based electroconductivity moisture sensors, so our irrigation managers can customize water and fertilizer applications by crop circle. We also have access to historical and current weather information. Using this data, our centralized irrigation system allows us to set and precisely control the amount of water right down to individual sprinkler heads.
- Pumping automation – We’ve recently upgraded our irrigation system with sophisticated pumping automation controls. These controls inform our irrigation operators as to the most efficient time to activate the irrigation while identifying the most efficient pump to use. This new feature optimizes energy used to apply water, saving approximately 666,000 kilowatt hours annually, as verified by Energy Trust of Oregon, an independent engineering group.
- Respond quickly to changing conditions. Innovative changes such as moisture sensitivity controls allow us to detect moisture levels in the soil. If it finds there is enough moisture present, it can switch off, saving water and energy. Our irrigation systems are also connected to a 100-mile WIFI so we can constantly monitor and control each of our 352 owned, and 52 leased irrigation circles.
- Maximize water use. Using our low-pressure technology, we minimize water that would otherwise be lost through evaporation Further, we recycle and reuse all our non-potable water as “green water” or “effluent water.” We collect the green water, inject it into our irrigation system, and apply it to the fields on a circle-by-circle basis to fertilize growing crops. Each application of green water equates to one less conventional, fossil-fuel based crop nutrient application.
- Effluent Management – Every pivot circle is now equipped with its own radio frequency identification (RFID) tag to ensure the correct placement and application of effluent to the intended crop. This optimizes effluent application to provide just the right amount of effluent to the right location in each crop circle.
- Monitor our water usage. Our irrigation pipes are equipped with flow meters to register exactly how much water we’re using on a second-to-second basis, allowing us to meet exacting standards on our Columbia River water use. We incorporate this data into our historical records to help us make informed use decisions year over year.
- Partnering with Experts. We use a third party engineering firm along with Energy Trust of Oregon to help design and quantify projects like this.
- Our dairy waste management system is based on zero discharge, meaning nothing from the dairy enters streams or groundwater sources.
New Ways to Manage Waste
Beyond our potato and farming operations, we are constantly innovating our waste management efforts, including:
- We use dairy compost extensively on our fields to enhance the soil’s ability to retain water.