July 5, 2015
Elizabeth Ibarra Vivanco runs the farm at Agricole Cooperativa in Pescadero. She was Baja’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year and is known for her strawberries, peas and green beans. Her expert knowledge of sustainable agricultural practices made her the perfect person to manage Town Farm’s organic community garden, and she’s been overseeing the preparation of the land so far. The acre-and-a-half is being transformed from uncultivated land into nutrient-rich soil that will provide organic fruits and vegetables for everyone – not just the residents at Town Farm or Tres Santos.
Sustainable agriculture is unique in that farmers rely on natural, organic practices in order to produce crop. This means no synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are used to grow these organic fruits and vegetables.
Here is an overview of the amazing work Elizabeth and her team have accomplished so far and what is coming next for Town Farm’s organic community garden.
Preparing the Land
A key part in organic farming is getting the soil tested by a laboratory to determine the quantity of nutrients available. The results of these tests help determine the type of fertilizer and liming material needed for the crops. Based on the test results, the soil structure is improved by building soil aggregates – groups of soil particles that bind together to provide space to exchange water and air as well as resist soil disintegration and erosion.
Cover crops are a common way to improve the soil’s structure in sustainable agriculture. A cover crop is a plant used to feed the soil, build aggregates as well as increases the numbers of bacteria and fungi required to make all of these things happen. That green grass growing in the farm right now? That’s sorghum-sudangrass, the cover crop that will nourish the land at our community garden.
Town Farm’s Organic Community Garden
Sorghum-sudangrass is a type of cover crop that is both fast-growing and drought-resistant. In fact, it thrives in the heat of the summer. The grass can grow 5 to 12 feet tall with stalks up to a half-inch thick. It smothers weeds, fights disease, kills nematodes and is excellent at penetrating compacted subsoil, improving the soil structure. For all those reasons, sorghum-sudangrass was a perfect match for the soil and climate in Todos Santos.
Before the crop seeds, the sorghum-sudangrass will be finely chopped and then immediately tilled into the ground while it’s still green. Due to the presence of weed-suppressing compounds in the freshly mowed crop, we will wait several weeks before planting the seeds for our fruits and vegetables.
Drip Irrigation for Vegetable Production
As part of our commitment to water sustainability, we’re incorporating water-saving practices into our community garden as well.
Water collection from our desalination plant will be used to water our plants and crops via drip irrigation. (Gray water collected from waste water treatment will be used for landscaping purposes only.) Drip irrigation is a very efficient method of applying water and nutrients directly to plants’ roots. Compared to conventional irrigation systems, it can save up to 80% more water. Another benefit of drip irrigation is that it can increase crop yields.
The Future of Town Farm’s Community Garden
Elizabeth and her team are working diligently to turn an acre-and-a-half of previously idle land into a sustainable, organic garden that will be available for everyone to use. In the near future, Todos Santos can expect to have fresh, organic produce available in local markets and bring a true farm-to-table experience for both locals and tourists to enjoy.
You can learn more about Elizabeth and her farm in our video, The People of Todos Santos: Elizabeth Ibarra.