Farmer D: Harvesting efforts now include sunshine and water

A nationally known farmer, Daron Joffe serves as the development director of the Leichtag Foundation’s 67-acre property on Saxony Road.

Clean water and sunshine have been the most vital ingredients for growth and energy since the beginning of time. Basic as this sounds, it’s easy to take these two precious resources for granted. Between the seemingly endless drought and looming El Niño year, we are continuously reminded that supplies of both are not always available to us whenever we need them. We must be creative and mindful at all times to reap the full benefits.

Thanks to the efforts of Eric Larson and the San Diego County Farm Bureau, whose board I just joined, urban agriculture narrowly escaped a regulation that would have forced a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in

water use. This could have put many of our local farms out of business. Luckily, we had enough water — coupled with our abundantly sunny summer — to harvest more than 5,000 pounds of fresh veggies in one month from our above-ground Shmita farm, which were distributed to local food pantries here in North County .

Even though we were very fortunate to avoid the cutbacks, we are still dedicated to reducing our water use through a series of conservation efforts, including harvesting rainwater and dew, recycling and filtering irrigation runoff, installing bioswales, and exploring options for greywater and blackwater.

Bioswales are used to catch and slow surface runoff water on a site and biologically remove silt and pollution using specific plants, rocks and soil media. Greywater systems redirect the water from showers, bathroom sinks and washing machines to be used for irrigating landscapes. The Encinitas City Council recently voted to unanimously adopt a greywater ordinance in hopes of conserving more water and reducing water bills for Encinitas residents.

Maximizing our solar resources is also equally essential to this equation. Besides growing vegetables here on the farm, we are now harvesting the sun for energy to fuel our homes, offices and barns. Our first solar installation is up and running, meaning instead of burning fossil fuels to support our daily needs, we are converting free sunshine into hot water, lights, air conditioning and energy for our cars so we can live, travel and work lighter on the land.

The system was installed by Stellar Solar, which also generously donated half the cost of a mobile solar unit that will allow us to energize events around the property, such as the sound for bands at our second Thursdays Farm and Hangouts and the electric fence that protects our flock of pastured laying hens.

At Leichtag, these efforts to be more ecologically and economically sound are fundamental to how we demonstrate best practices for sustainable community development. They are informed by ancient Jewish traditions such as Ba’al Taschit (not wasting), Shmita (the sabbatical year for the land) and an overall deep commitment to leaving the land better than when we found it.

Israel is an amazing example as the world leader in water conservation, treating 86 percent of its domestic wastewater and recycling it for agricultural use. Spain comes in a distant second, recyling 17 percent of its effluent, and the U.S. far behind at 1 percent, according to Water Authority data.

Gov. Brown and Prime Minister Netanyahu recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the state of California and Israel, with a large emphasis on sharing Israeli innovation in water conservation here in California.

In Carlsbad, for example, the new Poseidon desalination plant uses Israeli technology developed by IDE. Here on the farm, we are fortunate to have the support of NetaFim, the Israeli inventors of Drip Irrigation, to help us grow organic food and native landscapes using much less water than conventional irrigation.

We are planning a water presentation here on the farm in November with Seth Yossi Siegel, the author of a new book called “Let There Be Water — Israel’s Solution to a Water Starved World.” In addition to having Seth and other water experts share their knowledge with our community, we will be organizing a trip to Israel in February with local leaders to learn and bring back techniques that will help us to be better stewards here at home.

We have also engaged a leading sustainable water management engineering firm called Sherwood Design Engineers to assist with developing both a short- and long-term strategy for improving the way we source, treat and recycle water. We are very excited to be learning from our peers in Israel to improve our water and carbon footprint, and are committed to doing our part to model best practices as much as we can while sharing our findings with others.

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