Closed-Loop System

Synergistic Agriculture as a Closed Loop

Threemile Canyon farms has created a closed-loop system, which means the dairy and crop farms continually sustain and improve one other. We find ways to constructively use everything we create, from crop residues to dairy manure.

  • We grow about 300,000 tons of potatoes each year, which are processed at a local off-site manufacturing plant. Any processing waste, or “peels and culls”, is returned to the farm and recycled as feed for our dairy cows.
  • We grow cover crops as recommended for soil health and to prevent wind erosion. Then we harvest the crops as nutritious cattle feed. 
    •   Crops like alfalfa, corn, and other rotation crops help rest the soil for future potato fields, and deliver a balanced, vegetative ration for our dairy.
  • Dairy manure is a tried and true source of organic fertilizer and compost.
  • We apply the compost on our organic and conventional fields to improve soil health. This enhances the soil’s ability to retain water, resulting in more pest-resistant crops, reduced erosion, and less water use.
  • We make green water by injecting the organic liquid fertilizer into our irrigation system to fertilize crops. The result is a substantial reduction in crop protection product use while increasing our certified organic acreage.
  • We capture the methane and eliminate it with our methane digester. The methane creates clean, renewable natural gas (RNG) used to fuel transportation in the U.S.
    •   The digester improves air quality while creating enough energy to generate about 1/3 of our farm’s annual power needs.
    •   The digester sequesters around 136,000 metric tons per year of CO2. This is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 28,875 passenger vehicles, or CO2 emissions from 16,285 homes’ energy consumption, or carbon sequestration by 160,061 acres of forest land.
    •   We recycle the soft fiber digester output as bedding for our dairy cows, helping them stay warm and comfortable. We also apply it as nutrient rich compost for our crops.

We grow a variety of cover crops that provide different agriculture and natural resource protection benefits, including disease and pest suppression, soil health, wind erosion prevention, etc. Some cover crops, like mustard, are tilled back into the soil while others, like triticale, are added into our dairy cows’ nutrition.

Crop rotation

Farmers usually rotate potatoes every third year with other crops to help replenish the soil. We've extended that rotation to grow potatoes in a given field one out of every four years, for better crop quality and fewer problems with disease.

Organic fertilizer

Our dairy provides an abundant supply of nutrient-rich manure, which we separate and dilute. The liquid fertilizer is injected into our precision irrigation system and applied to our crops on a circle by circle basis. Using this natural fertilizer dramatically reduces our use of fossil fuel-based fertilizers on all crops while increasing production of our certified organic crops. Our farm is an acknowledged leader in "green-water" application.

Seed farms and traceability

Healthy plants are less susceptible to plant diseases and pests. And the best way to ensure healthy plants is to start with healthy seeds. That’s why we raise all our own seed for potatoes, cover crops, wheat, and sweet peas on our Seed Farm in La Grande, Oregon.

Since crop traceability is an important part of sustainable farming, we manage a database detailing seed for every field and every crop for an extra measure of accountability.