Watering the Whole Farm

Watering the Whole Farm

I grew up in a beach town, and maybe that’s the origin of my love of the water. I’ve been swimming for as long as I can remember, first with a patient instructor, then as a part of my local children’s swim team, and later as a sure-fire way to relax and let my cares float away from me whenever I can get the chance. When I’m in the water, I feel truly in my element.

It’s no surprise, then, that I find myself deeply involved with the wet and wonderful world of water in my farming career. I had already taken a particular interest in irrigation theory and practice before I came to work at Red Dog Farm in 2019, and from my earliest days here I have been steadily learning more and more about watering crops both via overhead sprinklers and using drip-tape systems. Last year in particular I felt my confidence in the irrigation sphere grow as I fixed problems and broken components, coordinated our thrice-daily overhead pipe moves, and learned to use the new high-capacity drip system we’re using to water long-term crops like winter squash and potatoes.

This season presents me with a new challenge in the form of learning to plan out each week’s irrigation schedule. So many factors inform these plans that it’s almost enough to make my head spin. Where is water needed, where needs to stay dry, and what to do when the two zones are right next door to one another? When do the tractor drivers need to cultivate a particular bed, and for how long should it stay dry afterwards to make sure the weeds stay dead? What kinds of organic supplements should be added to the water for which crops, and when? How often does each bed need to get watered? How does unexpected rain affect our plans?

I’m still far from mastering all these nuances of irrigation planning, but in the few weeks I’ve been doing it, I can already see how I’ve gotten better at it and learned so much more about aspects of the farm with which I usually have little to do, like flame-weeding and tractor cultivation. Just as water permeates our soils, our crops, and our human bodies, the act of watering is an important factor in every other area of the farm, from weeding to harvest to seeding to tilling. I am grateful to have this opportunity to expand my holistic understanding of Red Dog Farm through my uniquely watery lens.