The LOR Foundation has selected 61 projects for its Field Work initiative, investing $538,802 into water-related agriculture projects led by farmers and ranchers.
Earlier this year, the foundation launched Field Work, a research initiative to source innovative approaches to using water in agriculture in the West. Through Field Work, farmers and ranchers in rural parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming were eligible for up to $10,000 to implement innovative water projects on their land (think: improved water efficiency, water reliability, water quality, crop yield or crop diversification, and labor efficiency). The goal: Get money quickly into the hands of the people in the field and on the ranch who have the potential solutions.
LOR received more than 250 proposals from producers across all five states. Their innovative projects revealed some important trends among Western farmers and ranchers: the need for more and better pipes, nozzles, and gates to move water efficiently; investment in technology-enabled methods of supplying—and monitoring—remote or hard-to-access areas with water; a growing interest in how soil amendments like wool, fungi, and biochar can improve water retention and soil health; a return to holistic and Indigenous methods of catching, retaining, and spreading water (e.g., earthworks, water planting, underground greenhouses), and more.
"We believe that those closest to the problem often have the best solutions," says Alex Dunlop, LOR's chief business development officer. "Farmers and ranchers in places like Monte Vista, Colorado, and Questa, New Mexico, have creative solutions to water challenges. Field Work is a chance to help them put those ideas into practice and learn from them."
Ultimately, LOR selected 61 projects, which will get underway this spring and summer. "These projects are led by the experimenters, tinkerers, innovators, and iterators who—while Western states agonize over how to resolve antiquated water compacts—have been finding ways to eke out a living from the land. They're people who have a vested interest in finding ways to use water more effectively, for their own operations and for the good of the West."
Among the projects are these:
Rosalia Ciddio | Dixon, New Mexico
Integrate hydro-thermal systems into a walipini (an underground greenhouse that harvests rain and uses the water heated by sunlight to heat the space and grow year-round) to increase the walipini's heat-holding capacity. This will support multiple uses of the water collected during rainstorms, including extending the efficient use of water and improving crop production.
Scott Sutton | Cerro, New Mexico
Develop a movable greenhouse structure integrated with thermal mass adobe walls and a rainwater catchment system that allows for more efficient use of water and an extended growing season.