August is a thirsty month at Terra Firma. And it’s not just our employees, who we keep constantly supplied with jugs of iced water so they can stay hydrated and safe in the heat. It’s the crops — summer vegetables, fruit and nut orchards and increasingly as the month progresses, fall and winter vegetables.
Because TFF grows so many different crops, the entire farm is almost never planted and being irrigated at the same time. But late August is different. Most of our summer crops are still actively growing right now: tomatoes, melons, peppers, and lots of winter squash. By mid-September, many of those crops will be wrapping up and won’t need water any more. And with the days rapidly shortening, the plants won’t need as much water by then.
Meanwhile, for the next two weeks we will be busily planting fall and winter crops: beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, green beans, kale, leeks, lettuce, spinach and others. Those are all cool-season vegetables that really don’t like hot weather. We have to give them extra water to keep them happy.
With all of these crops needing water, the last two weeks of August is a busy busy time for our irrigation crew, and the pumps are running 24/7. About 3/4 of the water we use this time of year comes from our local reservoir, Lake Berryessa, which is still quite full from the rains the last two winters. But we do also pump some groundwater, and this is historically the month when levels drop the lowest. During the drought our wells experienced issues in August, but so far this summer they seem ok.
How much water does it take to irrigate our 200 acres of crops in August? It’s right around a million gallons a day. And that’s using all appropriate water conservation measures.
That number might seem shocking, but to be honest, right about now, if there was a way to get more it would be nice to have it.