Riverhill Farm is committed to environmental stewardship as part of its ongoing agricultural operations.
Fundamentally, we believe that a farm should enhance, not diminish the environment, and that for each set of actions which are part of the day to day running of a farm, questions must be asked: How is this action going to affect the environment of which this farm is a part? How can we best build soil and not diminish its productivity? Can this action enhance, not diminish, biodiversity? Will this action contribute to the sustainability of this farm?
We strive in our farming practices to balance production that will make Riverhill Farm an economically viable farm with maintaining and enhancing the natural environment in which the farm exists. Our production system includes growing and marketing over 30 different crops; annual crop rotation; using fall-planted cover crops that fix nitrogen and provide organic matter for the soil; a fertilization and soil building regime that seeks to provide the best possible basis for healthy plants, healthy food and a healthy environment; drip irrigation for water conservation; and planting and maintaining habitat areas for beneficial insects and wildlife and for sediment retention.
We attempt to treat Riverhill Farm as a functioning natural landscape and as a watershed in itself.
In our climate we receive an average of 50 inches of rain during the rainy season and as much as 100 inches in an especially wet year. During storm events, there is often significant runoff. The force of the rain and the runoff that occurs has the potential to damage soil left without cover and to impact downstream waterways through erosion. Through observation, we have been able to determine which pathways within the cultivated areas of the farm are critical for storm runoff and need to be preserved without cultivation. These uncultivated areas assist during storm events in slowing down runoff and filtering out sediment which might otherwise leave the farm and impact downstream natural waterways.
Organic practices have made major advances toward defining sustainable agriculture.
What organic agriculture continues to share with conventional agriculture, however, are practices which include the annual disturbance of large areas of soil and the application of nutrients to that soil. Both of these practices have the potential for negative impacts to the soil itself and to downstream waterways. Among the many goals we seek at Riverhill Farm is to explore and achieve the condition of being a zero discharge farm. By preserving the farm as a natural filter during storm events we may even be able to contribute to substantial improvements to the local ecology which would otherwise be impacted by development.
Grants allow us to further our stewardship of the land.
Through a grant received from the Western Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education program, we have sampled and analyzed surface water during storm events for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to determine the scope of the problem. Results of this sampling suggest that water quality leaving the farm is actually improved compared to water quality entering the farm.
Riverhill Farm has also been the recipient of a cost-sharing grant from the USDA which supports the farm’s efforts to remove non-native vegetation, create hedgerows and field borders throughout the farm, improve our water and energy conservation practices, and revegetate riparian areas around the farm pond and the pond’s drainage. Many of these practices dovetail with observations which have been part of the water quality monitoring project, and through careful locating of newly vegetated areas, will assist directly in pursuing our goal of being a zero discharge farm.