Our growing partner in Northern California, Ed Cohen, practices dry farming. Before meeting Ed, we admittedly weren't that familiar with this agricultural practice and knew we wanted to learn more.
While it might seem unfathomable to farm without water, dry farming is actually a method of farming that has deep historical and cultural roots, particularly with desert farming and within indigenous communities. And, environmentally speaking, it is one of the least impactful ways to farm. This methodology typically produces less yield (output) than irrigated farming, but uses less inputs (water, manure, labor), helps preserve soil, and is a real testament to sustainable agricultural practices.
So, how does it work?
For farmland to be suitable for dry farming, certain conditions in the environment need to be present. For instance, the soil quality needs to have good water holding properties. And ideally the land is situated near a river or creek, or somewhere the water is stored. Once these conditions are met, then different planting practices can be put into effect. With dry farming, seeds are generally planted deeper than a traditionally irrigated crop and the soil is packed after planted to trap in moisture. These practices and conditions allow the seeds to rely solely on moisture stored in the soil from the rainy season to support plant growth during dryer months.
While visiting Ed, we couldn't help but notice the striking difference in soil appearance on his farm versus the soils we witnessed (and smelled) during other farm visits. The gray earth looked chalky. But dig underneath and there's damp, beautiful soil feeding lush crops of beans.
And, the best part, is how amazing dry farmed crops taste. This methodology is touted for bringing out flavor in crops and if Ed's beans are any indication, we firmly support this claim. The texture and flavor profile is a stand-out. It's hard to pick a favorite - you'll have to decide for yourself.
Our Peruano, Rio Zape, White Runner Beans, and Zuni Gold's are all dry farmed. Get cooking. We'd love to hear what you think.