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October 16, 2017

Government representatives, community leaders, agriculturists and environmentalists joined RCDMC last Wednesday October 11th for the Farm Sustainability Practices Tour, which visited three farms across Monterey County. More than 30 guests attended the tour, which highlighted the work being done by the RCD and project partners, including Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Central Coast Wetlands Group, strawberry and vegetable farmers, and the Monterey County Water Resources Agency (MCWRA). Tour guests hopped on the charter bus at the RCD’s Salinas Office at 8:30 in the morning, to ride alongside RCDMC Executive Director Paul Robins, with guests including Assemblymember Anna Caballero, Monterey County District 4 Supervisor Jane Parker, and aides from Representative Jimmy Panetta and three County Supervisors’ offices.

The tour made stops at three sites in the county near Elkhorn Slough, Castroville Slough, and the Salinas River at Gonzales, providing a cross-section of work on small to large acreages related to erosion control, water quality, wildlife habitat enhancement, and flood protection in Monterey County. The first stop was a hillside strawberry production field at the Elkhorn Slough Foundation’s (ESF) Blohm Ranch to show erosion control practices implemented by north county hillside strawberry farmers, who face winter erosion challenges due to the steep hillside topography with sandy soils where many of Monterey County’s strawberries are grown. Mark Silberstein, ESF Executive Director, and farmer Gilbert Yerena explained conservation practices that counter erosion, such as aligning strawberry beds to slow runoff, and planting roads and furrows with grass cover crops in winter to stabilize and protect soil. Conservancies and Land Trusts like Elkhorn Slough Foundation have been investing in properties like these to help conserve the lands’ natural resources. They help offset the tenant farmers’ costs of implementing the conservation practices through grants and cooperation with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the RCD.

The next tour destination was a water quality treatment wetlands site on PGE land receiving runoff from cooperating vegetable farms in the Moro Cojo Slough watershed. Ross Clark, Manager for the Central Coast Wetlands Group, described how the site uses a woodchip bioreactor and treatment wetlands site to treat runoff for nearby farms that need supplemental water quality treatment systems in addition to in-field management practices to meet water quality standards. SeaMist Farms manager Francisco Castaneda described the methods they use for managing and re-using nutrients applied to their vegetable crops in order to save money and protect water quality.

The third stop took tour participants to the Salinas River riparian area near the Gonzales Bridge were arundo has invaded much of the adjacent floodplain. RCD Ecologist Emily Zefferman described how arundo increases flood risk to surrounding agricultural lands while providing little to no wildlife habitat. Landowner Joanne Nissen described her experience living along the river and how her family has endeavored to manage it for flood protection and wildlife habitat. Associate Water Resources Engineer for MCWRA, Shaunna Murray described how they assist and direct landowners and farmers in conducting river work under the Salinas River Stream Maintenance Program.

The day ended with a stop at Puma Road Winery in Gonzales for a barbeque hosted by RCDMC Board President, Benny Jefferson. The RCDMC Farm Sustainability Practices tour was made possible by the CA Dept. of Conservation.

 For more information, view the bus tour brochure.