If you’re traveling through the Salinas Valley, especially ahead of planting season, you might see a machine that can do what three machines did previously. It’s a wild looking piece of equipment. With metal parts twisted like corkscrews, rotating blades, claws that dig into the ground and extensive hydraulics, its a farm tool for the new millennium.
Kent Hibino: In the front you have these disk blades that chop things up, in the back this roller thing that mulches up the dirt, so we’re accomplishing two or three different things with this one piece of equipment, it costs a lot of money but we’re making fewer passes through the field.
By investing in machinery like this Kent Hibino, a vegetable grower in the Salinas Valley, can reduce the number of times his machines pass through the fields. His motivation? Saving on fuel. Gas prices have risen sharply for farmers, like they have for all of us. But with thousands of acres to work, and machines that use 12 to 15 gallons per hour, farmers look to cut their fuel consumption by all means possible.
Hibino: We have purchased new equipment, wider equipment, we make less passes through the field.
Some of Kent’s tractors also have GPS on board. The drivers know where they’ve passed through the field to an accuracy of seven inches. They can make sure they don’t miss sections of a field, or pass over the same area twice, saving on time, money and energy.
He’s also switched from diesel-powered water pumps to electrically-powered ones, with help from a program through his electrical utility.
Hibino: They give us discounted rate for a couple years, we’re saving a lot more money when we’re going to these new systems, we’re saving money on electricity, water and inputs.
Norm Groot: Everyone is becoming much more conscious of the effect, how it’s grown in the footprint, trying to conserve as much as they possibly can.
That’s Norm Groot, Executive Director of the Monterey County Farm Bureau. The Salinas Valley, he says, is at the forefront of using new technology and techniques for growing. Norm says farmers trying to save money, and reduce their impact on the earth in lots of ways. Their use of chemicals, their affect on water and their carbon footprint.
Groot: There is a lot more consciousness. There are a lot of farmers that are actively embracing these new concepts to who are trying to conserve as much as possible.
Hibino: Land is expensive right? Some of the most expensive dirt in the world: we have to make sure we get every efficiency down, to make sure we have a good yield.
Minimizing his footprint by conserving energy, water and chemical inputs, says Kent, is good for business, and good for the planet. For KUSP, I’m Danielle Venton.