Drought-Friendly Cooking: Stir-Fry Vegetables with Baked Tofu Recipe


I’m excited to announce the launch of my Drought-Friendly Cooking Channel on YouTube with a Drought-Friendly Stir-Fry Vegetables with Baked Tofu Recipe (recipe below).

In the video, I teach you how to make this simple stir-fry recipe, and discuss strategies to save water with your cooking, impacting water systems world -wide.

Why drought-friendly cooking? Water experts predict 2/3 of the world’s population will experience water scarcity by 2025. I believe you and I can change this frightening trajectory by insisting food is cultivated on farms with methods that conserve and preserve freshwater.

Change begins with our individual food choices.

Help me spread the word. Share, comment, and subscribe to the Drought-Friendly Cooking YouTube channel and the Eat Less Water newsletter.

There is power in the collective!

Eat less water at your kitchen table tonight.

Be Well,


Drought-Friendly Stir-Fry Vegetables with Baked Tofu

Serves 5



Vegetable Stir-Fry

A selection of seasonal and organic vegetable ideas:

Broccoli, bell pepper, carrots, green beans, squash/zucchini, snow peas, bok choy, snap peas, yams, onions, mushrooms

I use the following:

1 medium head broccoli cut into small florets

1 red bell pepper sliced

4-5 carrots cut into strips

1-2 zucchini cut into strips

1 handful of green beans, cut in half and ends cut off

2 tablespoons organic olive oil or organic canola oil  for cooking

salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

optional toasted sesame seeds and red pepper flakes


Purchase organic rice from non-flooded paddies. I recommend Lotus Foods Rice found at many grocery stores and Cajun Grain (purchase online).

Find your favorite recipe for rice. I put the rice to cook as soon as I place the tofu in the oven and before I start on the vegetables.

Baked Tofu 

2 packages organic or non-GMO tofu (firm)


1/2 cup organic toasted sesame oil

4 tablespoons honey from a local beekeeper

juice from 1 organic lime


optional: 1 tablespoon crushed fennel seed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Mix the ingredients for the baked tofu together in a small bowl

Drain the water from the tofu packages and cut it into small cubes and place in casserole dish

Pour the sauce over the tofu cubes, gently turning the tofu to coat the tofu on all sides

Bake the tofu at 450 degrees for 30 minutes, an additional 10-15 minutes longer if you like it slightly crispy


Vegetable Stir-Fry

Heat oil in a large pan

Add root vegetables first (carrot and yams)

After 2-3 minutes add the rest of the vegetables

Toss vegetables together and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, (red pepper flakes and toasted sesame seeds (optional))

Do not over cook. Stay nearby. The vegetables should preserve a sharp color and remain al dente, slightly firm.


Serve vegetables over cooked rice, and spoon tofu over the vegetable.







Save Water and Make More Trash? It Is What City Leaders of Fort Bragg,CA Suggest

When did saving water come to mean, make more trash? It seems two weeks ago. That is when the Northern California city of Fort Bragg issued a water rule mandating city eateries to serve food on paper and plastic.

The banning of silverware, glass and ceramic is in response to the historic low flows of the Noyo River, providing 40% of the cities water, reported in today’s LA Times. The lowered supply of water is coupled with the comprised quality of the river from salt water delivered during high tide from the Pacific Ocean. Supply and quality are the two leading causes of water scarcity according to the United Nations. But ushering in the red solo cup is not the answer.


 With sinks and dishwashers empty the trash cans will overflow– with virtual water instead.

The virtual water footprint is the embedded water used during the lifecycle of a good or product. Based on water footprint totals, a ceramic cup takes .8 gallons of water to produce, and the plastic cup slightly less at .6 gallons. But is it a savings? The ceramic cup is re-used hundreds, if not thousands of times where the plastic cup is used once. Let’s instead examine the amount of water required to wash the ceramic cup. I estimate it takes to wash each plate, cup, bowl, about 0.23 gallons, based on the average 11 gallons used in a dishwashing cycle.

For every 100 customers served a beverage in a disposable cup, it takes 60 gallons of virtual water and leaves 4 pounds of plastic. It requires 23 gallons to serve the same amount of customers in ceramic, and no plastic waste left behind.

Here’s the math:


In America, we throw away enough plastic, spoons, cups to wrap around the equator 300 times every year. According to a recent study, 90% of all seabirds have ingested plastic. The last thing we need is to add to the growing pile of trash to save water.

I like the creativity of the Fort Bragg city council BUT why not harness that same “out of the box” thinking to find long-term solutions that doesn’t involve making trash. I have a few ideas.

Instead of focusing on dishwashers, focus on increasing the river flow of te Noyo River. Rivers are fed by rain, snow and underground water tables. We can’t control rainfall. We can implement strategies to increase the soil’s capacity to draw water downward, recharging water tables. An effective strategy to reduce runoff and evaporation is the replacement of roads, parking lots, alleyways with porous pavements. Another strategy is to ban chemical pesticides and fertilizers on public land. And educate business owners and home owners to do the same. Chemicals diminish the soil’s ability to hold water

Partner with eateries to scrape food off plates (saving water) and start a city-wide composting program. Schools can be involved too (anyone in the schools can attest to the gross waste of food). Offer free or reduced cost compost to residents, businesses, schools, and public-owned land. Compost builds the soil’s organic matter, able to hold water up to 10,000 times more water than chemical fertilizers or dirt. So when the rain does return, the soil will be ready to receive and hold it.

The restaurants of Fort Bragg can be part of a regional and global solution, by purchasing more foods raised using water-sustainable methods. Water-sustainablefoods, I define as food that minimally diverts the natural water flow during it cultivations  include dry farmed and rain-fed crops and pasture raised meats to name a few. Organic foods help to keep the soil healthy and water absorbent.

“We all live upstream,” an organic dairy farmer told me. Water issues may be felt local, but hey are connected to a system that extends around the globe.

These are water-saving strategies we can toast to with a re-usable glass.


Eat less water at the kitchen table.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,


(Source for water footprints were based on the Big Blue Book and the following paper.)


How To Decorate With Less Water

I’m taking a quick departure from food to discuss another water guzzler, our furnishings and home decorations. According to “The Green Blue Book,” the non-edible stuff in the average home has a water footprint of 200,000 gallons of water (this is a low estimate for many of us). This total reflects the virtual water embedded in the 10,000 or so things packed away and displayed in our homes.

Here are some water footprint stats to chew on:

Leather Couch= 35,600 gallons of water

5×9 Rug= 9,531 gallons of water

Leather Chair= 11,000 gallons of water

Queen-Size Mattress= 2,878 gallons of water per mattress

Television=3900-65,000 gallons depending on size, make and model

Sheets (400 Thread-Count Queen Set)= 6,663

5×3 Wood Table= 57 gallons of water


When I need furnishings and other home stuff, I look to a marketplace of “used” items. All the furnishing in my living room (excluding the artwork) were found on my local craigslist website (couch, lamps, ottoman, chairs, side tables and throw rug). Not only did I save water by purchasing “old” versus “new,” but I saved a whole lot of money. All the furniture cost me just shy of a $1000.


When it was time to move my youngest daughter, Estrella, into her room, I again looked to Craigslist for the furnishing. With Pinterest as my inspiration for the look and feel I wanted in her room, I pieced together her room for less than $500. Instead of purchasing a new bed at IKEA, I found the same one on Craigslist 15 miles away and for a third of the price. The retro kitchen and play-house table, IKEA desk, baby crib, Pottery Barn dresser were also craigslist finds.


Purchasing furniture made with organic textiles and reclaimed wood/Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified wood is another great option. For me, I’m willing to put in the time involved to find used furniture. And when it’s time to redecorate, I place the items back on Craigslist to re-sell.

Purchasing used furnishings is the reduce, re-use, recycle H2O model to decorating.

Eat (and sit on) less water at the kitchen table!

There is power in the collective.

Be well,



Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Celebrates 44 Years: Why We Should All Celebrate


Alice Waters writes, in her Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook, ”It is a fundamental fact that no cook, however, creative and capable, can produce a dish of quality any higher than that of the raw ingredients.” It is that premise that guides all the dishes served at her world-renowned restaurant, Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, California celebrating 44 years.

The menu of the week at Water’s restaurant for nearly four and a half decades is crafted around the flavors of the season. Tomato recipes are reserved for the summer when they naturally burst with flavor and persimmons in the fall when the juice leaks uninhibited from their skins. To execute a recipe like Charcoal-Grilled Oysters with Chervil Butter, the freshest oysters are caught the same day from the Pacific Ocean; the butter, creamy and golden from pasture-raised cows from coastal hillsides; and bunches of chervil foraged from backyard gardens.

Her weekly quest to find finest and freshest ingredients available sparked the local, seasonal food movement that grows like the tendrils of sweet peas. It is what guided her to start a school garden in Berkeley 20 years ago, a model that has been replicated all over the planet.

In 1971 when Chez Panisse entered the food scene, the transformation of our modern food system was well underway. The size of farms grew while the number of farms began its rapid decline. Cows, pigs, and chickens were plucked off the pasture and placed in feedlots or concrete structures. The continuous mist of chemicals on crops became conventional. Even as global food production systems where changing, this small restaurant in the heart of Berkeley held tight to food as it was, not as it had become.

The birth of Chez Panisse as the incubator of the local food movement is something to celebrate. Even if you didn’t drive great distances to Berkeley for the special birthday dinner, you can celebrate in your home kitchen by cultivating the spirit of Chez Panisse.


Start by planning a weekly menu based on local, seasonal foods using the fruits and vegetables growing in our backyards, figuratively and literally. My backyard garden grows lemongrass, thyme, rosemary, and mint at full-capacity. My local farmer’s market is teeming with stone fruit, Ojai Pixies, and deep magenta eggplant.

When we seek raw ingredients at the height of flavor, we support food systems that work in synchronicity with nature. As patrons of Chez Panisse have experienced over the course of 44 years, the result is delicious.

Eat less water at your kitchen table!

There is power in the collective.

Be well,



Write to Change the World

I have two objectives for this blog post. First, I invite you read my first published Op-Ed, Drought Solutions Are Porous Pavement, Fewer Pesticides and Herbicides. Please visit the San Jose Mercury News site and leave a comment.

My second objective is to get you thinking about writing and submitting your own Op-Ed. In the Spring of 2014, I attended a day-long workshop hosted by The Op-Ed Project. The mission of the organization is “to increase the range of voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world,” specifically the voices of women. Women authored Op-Ed’s in the top media markets lag behind men. For example, the split is (22 women/78 men) for Op-Ed published in the New York Times, (24/76) LA Times and (36/64) Huffington Post.

The percentages across the board of bylines authored by people of color (men and women combined) are much lower. For example, the number of Op-Ed’s published in the top media markets written by Latinos, the fastest growing demographic in the United States, is so few that the statistic registers at 0%.

The only way to increase the range and diversity of voices of “thought leaders,” is to increase the number of submissions landing in the inbox of opinion editors around the nation.

You are an expert. We are all experts. Think about what you are an expert in and write your article. The Op-Ed Project website has some simple writing tips and/or sign up for one of their upcoming workshops in a major city near you.

WE can write to change the world.

Eat less water at the kitchen table. There is power in the collective.

Be well,



7 “Better” Ways to Save Water in Your Home Landscapes

Our definition of saving water needs to broaden to include strategies to keep water. This is especially true in our garden landscapes. While paving over grass with cement or replacing with artificial turf or stones saves water by reducing or eliminating the need to water, this strategy fails to KEEP any water, arguably more critical.


This bike powers the movement of captured water in a rain barrel. You get exercise and water the garden at the same time. Win-win.

Currently, 2/3 of rain is lost to runoff and evaporation in urbanized areas. This includes farms treated with chemical fertilizers and pesticides that diminish the soils natural ability to retain water in comparison to soil with organic matter.

I learned the best strategies to keep water from Lenny Lebrizzi, an expert in rain harvesting. We met in his small office nestled in an aging skyscraper across from New York City Hall in Manhattan before he drove me across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to his home garden in Staten Island.


Lenny Lebrizzi, expert in rain harvesting, in front of his home in Staten Island.

Lenny works for GrowNYC, a nonprofit organization engaged in greening the five boroughs of NYC. His job is to capture a portion of the 90 billion gallons of water that fall with every one inch of rain inside the borders of the largest metropolis in the United States.

“A rainwater harvest system needs a surface to collect rainwater,” said Lenny. In the case of a rain garden, bioswale, tree pit or permeable surface, it is the ground collecting the water. The rainwater is stored in the soil where microorganisms break down pollutants and recharge underground water tables that feed surface waters.”

Rain gardens and bioswales are shallow ditches, landscaped with drench and drought tolerant plants. The bioswale is long and narrow while the rain garden takes any shape. Each is like pockets in the ground, designed to pool and slurp rainwater and snowmelt.
Tree pits are carved openings in the curb. Rainwater enters thru the opening in the curb, collecting water around the tree and plants.

In the United States, an area larger than the state of Ohio is paved with roads, driveways and parking lots and increasingly artificial grass. The rain glides across instead of through these surfaces, taking with it surface pollutants.

Runoff between paved and unpaved surfaces are stark. In woodland areas, 95 percent of the water is absorbed by the soil. In urbanized areas where large swaths of exposed land are paved, the totals decrease to 50 percent. Water runs off these impervious surfaces fast, warm and polluted.

We can all do better to keep water in our personal landscapes and advocate for improved designs at the municipal level.

7 “Better” Ways To Save Water In Your Yard

#1  Add Rain barrels. The roof collects 1/2 gallon of water per square foot with every inch of rain. Check to see if your water agency offers rebates. For information regarding the Metropolitan Water District rebate click here.


Lenny standing next to his 160 gallon rain barrel.

#2 Think Bioswale or Rain Garden. It’s time to move away from slopes and hills in both public and private landscapes UNLESS they feed into a bioswale or rain garden.   These pockets or ditches created by bioswales capture rain and draw it downward to replenish groundwater supplies. Check to see if your city or water agency offer financial incentives to install one. You can easily find guides online to help you design and install your own.

bioswale Planting2

9-3-09-135 rainGarden1

#3 Stop applying chemicals on your landscapes like fertilizers and herbicides. Chemicals kill the microbial activity in the soil. In other words, chemicals limit the soils ability to keep water. Our reliance on chemicals for soil fertility and weed removal has transformed our landscapes into quasi-pavement.

#4 Add a Tree Pit. Tree pits are carved openings in the curb. Rainwater enters thru the opening, collecting water around the trees and plants.


The cut out in the curb allows for water to flow into the swale during a rain event.

#5 Grow plants in the ground instead of raised beds. Like potted plants, plants grown in raised beds are thirstier. Soil drains faster, and evaporation occurs on the surface and four sides. Raised beds are a great option if the soil is contaminated, but when possible plant directly into the ground.

#6 Compost. Compost is beneficial to water systems on many fronts. Compost, rich with micro-organisms is a sponge for water. It absorbs 1/2 gallon per square foot of soil at a minimum. Compost lessens water pollution by diminishing or eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides, instead bolstering the plant’s inbred resistance to disease and pests.

#7 Plant Cover Crop. Cover crops is a technique organic farmers use to build nitrogen in the soil and can be used in your home garden too. Lenny scatters seeds of wheat or ryegrass over his vegetable patch after the growing season and turns the soil in his home garden in Staten Island. If he needs nitrogen fixers, he plants beans and clovers. When he’s ready to plant his garden, he turns the crop cover into the soil. The root systems of the cover crop feed the microbes in the soil, nature’s keeper of water.

There is power in the collective!

Be well,



4 Ways to Wear Less Water

“We communicate who we are with our clothing,” begins the trailer for The True Cost, a newly released fashion documentary.

According to the documentary, what we communicate with our fashion apparel is more than we think. Just like our food choices, our fashion choices matter to water systems around the globe. The water footprint for a t-shirt is 560 gallons of water on average. For a pair of jeans, it is 3,000.

The average American throws away 54 pounds of textiles per year, according to The Green Blue Book. We are literally throwing away water and leaving chemicals behind in the environment.

The clothing industry, feeding our insatiable demand for clothing, is built on the backs of low-wage workers, too often working in deplorable conditions.

We have the power to influence change with our dollars. Four simple things we can do NOW:

1. Support fair-trade or union labels. You can find a listing of clothing lines with fair-trade labels at My husband Michael, is a big fan of All American Clothing for his jeans.

2. Buy clothing made from organic cotton. Cotton farms are heavy on pesticides. Ninety-six percent of all cotton grown in the USA is genetically modified. Pesticide applications pollute, water, air and humans. And it kills microorganisms, diminishing the soils natural ability to absorb and retain water.


3. Buy used clothing.  I am a big fan of consignment and thrift shops. All the outfits pictured above were found at a thrift store or consignment shop including the topaz color necklace.

4. Buy less. Only a small percentage of our collective wardrobe is recycled. And not all the clothes are ever worn again, instead many end up in a dumpster somewhere in the world.

Wear less water! There is power in the collective.

Be well,


A #Water Footprint Riddle

During a farm visit, I was asked the following, “Well-meaning people will order a soy burger instead of a hamburger thinking it’s more environmentally-friendly as well as a healthier choice. Sometimes it’s true, but sometimes it’s not. What if the soy used in the veggie-burger comes from irrigated fields, but the beef is from rain-fed pasture-raised cows?”


Water footprint totals have been tossed around in this time of low reservoir levels and little rain (don’t we all know that it takes a gallon of water to grow an almond?). But to answer this riddle, first I must introduce the concept, “color of water.” Water footprint researchers assigned colors to water to help differentiate the types of water sources: blue, green and gray. Blue water is sourced from aquifers, reservoirs and rivers that scribble across the landscape. Rain water and moisture is green. Gray is water tainted with nitrogen, the run-off from fertilizer and manure.

If we consider water footprint totals alone, then the soy burger with a water footprint of 224 gallons per pound is a superior choice. But if the soy burger originates in a field irrigated by ground or surface water, it has a water footprint of 224 gallons of blue water, water from above and below ground reservoirs. And the gray water totals are higher too if grown on fields treated with chemicals fertilizers. If the pound of hamburger is from a pasture-raised cow on a diet of rain-fed grass, it’s 1,851 gallons of green water, rain. Even with an overall higher water footprint total the rain-fed beef hamburger is a better choice.

It isin’t simply knowing the water footprint of food that matters, but rather the source of water. When we know the color of water and begin to support farmers who utilize more “green” water and cultivate the soil to “keep” more water when it rains, we can positively impact water systems around the world.

Eat less water at the kitchen table!

There is power in the collective.

Be well,



This Earth Day Hug a Sustainable Farmer

Skip the tree hugging this year, instead reach for your nearest sustainable farmer. They are the ones who toil daily to protect our water, soil and air while providing us with nutritious foods.

They are a small lot of folks around the country. Farms keep getting larger and more specialized, but it is the last thing our Earth needs. We need more small to medium scale farmers who incorporate methods that enrich the soil, increase the nutrition of our food and use less water.  Sustainable farmers can only grow in numbers with our support.  This Earth Day, seek them out, buy their goods, tell them you care about the work they do.

Here are five sustainable farmers I send a virtual hug to this Earth Day.

John DeRosier, Biodynamic Grain Dry Farmer, With the Grain Farm, Paso Robles, California  

John DeRosier, owner of With the Grain Farms

John DeRosier, owner of With the Grain Farms

I start with John because he was one of my first teachers on my quest to eat less water. While his farm neighbors excavate water at 1,000 feet deep to sustain almond and wine grapes, John farms his land using no irrigation. He is what is called a dry farmer. His crops of grains survive on rain and moisture alone. This year’s harvest will be available to With the Grain CSA members.

Dr. Aldolfo Murillo, Organic Farmer, Tequila Maker, Tequila Alquimia, Oxnard, California, and Arandas, Mexico


Dr. Adolfo Murillo, owner of Tequila Alquimia

Dr. Murillo says his organic tequila doesn’t give you a hangover. The agave he raises on his farm in the state of Jalisco, thrives on sun, rain and healthy soil alone. Adolfo’s farming methods are in contrast to the conventional way of growing agave that includes applying generous doses of chemical fertilizers and pesticides over the course of 6-8 years, the average length of time required to grow agave. The chemicals absorbed by the plant is further intensified during the fermentation and distillation process. This is what causes the tequila hangover Dr. Murillo suggests.

I’ve yet to test his theory because this award winning tequila tastes too good to drink in one shot, it is made to sip. You can taste the Mexican sun in each swallow. Tequila Alquimia is available at a growing number of bars and stores in California. It can be shipped anywhere (as long as you live in a state that allows for the shipment of liquor).

Maureen and John Knapp, Organic Valley Member Farmers, Cobblestone Valley Farms, Preble, New York


Paul and Maureen Knapp, Cobblestone Farms

Paul and Maureen Knapp converted their dairy to organic when they learned the river was at the headwaters of the Chesapeake watershed. Home to the first discovered dead zone in the U.S., the hypoxic zone spreads over 40 percent of the Chesapeake. At least 50 percent of the pollution stems from agriculture upstream.

Paul and Maureen’s concern for water quality led them to implement Holistic Management. This farming method corrals animals into smaller areas of pasture or paddocks. The animals are frequently moved to eliminate overgrazing. As a result, their dairy cows graze on rain-fed pastures during the spring through the fall. When the snow brings the cows indoors, they are shoveled rain-fed hay grown on the farm.

Mike Benziger, Biodynamic Grape Grower, Winemaker, Benziger Family Vineyard, Glen Ellen, California

Every drop of water is reused on Mike’s family vineyard. Water used during the bottling process, restrooms, restaurant sink is collected in a man-made pond located on the vineyard. Gravity carries the water into this constructed wetlands. The impurities of the water is removed by the sway of tall, thick papyrus and graceful calla lilies and the microbes living on the root systems. By the time the water moves through the wetlands it is almost drinking water quality. The recycled water is used for irrigation.

Irrigation is used sparingly on the vineyard. Irrigation is not scheduled but rather based on soil moisture. And with the implementation of biodynamic farming methods, the root systems of the grape vines are encouraged to grow deeper into the ground, increasing the plants access to more moisture. It also allows the plant to absorb more minerals, elevating the flavor of the wine to the extraordinary.  You can find Benziger in every state and now in some first class cabins at 40,000 feet. I was thrilled to discover Benziger wine sold at my local Von’s and BevMo.

Nelida Martinez, Organic Vegetable and Berry Farmer, Pura Nelida Farms, Mt. Vernon, Washington


Nelida Martinez, Pura Nelida Farms

As a former farmworker, Nelida Martinez knows firsthand how chemicals cause physical reactions. It is why she chose to become an organic farmer. “I got rashes on my hands from touching the soil, vegetables or fruit with my bare skin,” she shared with me during my visit to her farm located an hour north of Seattle. “The common practice was, and still is, to apply pesticides on a portion of the farm while farmworkers worked on another. Even when they applied chemicals two or three fields away, we were exposed. The wind brought them to us.” Her son, who worked beside her in the strawberry fields in my hometown of Oxnard, contracted Leukemia. While she doesn’t know for sure if the fumigants sprayed on the sweet berries led to her son’s cancer, she does believe it contributed to the illness that left him with a compromised pancreas.

She dedicates herself to growing healthy, non-chemical food for her family and community. Her vegetables and berries, along with her fresh tortillas and swiss chard and cheese stuffed tamales, are sold at the Viva Farms produce stand during the late spring, summer and fall months.

Sending additional hugs to…

Kurt Unkle, owner of Cajun Grain Farm in Kinder Louisiana

Carney and Alfred Ferris, owners of Windy Acres Farms in Orlinda, Tennessee

Shane Watkins, Watkins Cattle Co.,  Ventura, California

Ben Godfrey, Sandy Creek Farm, Cameron, Texas

Rob Cunningham, Coyote Creek Farm, Elgin, Texas

To these sustainable farmers and others not listed here, thank you for the work you do in the world!

Eat less water at your kitchen table. There is power in the collective!

Be well,



Lessons From a California Dry Farmer


John DeRoseir at his farm in Paso Robles, California

John DeRosier’s With the Grain farm grows a diversity of grains without irrigation during the winter and summer months, even when the temperature consistently tops 110 degrees Fahrenheit in Paso Robles, California. He is a dry farmer.

The concept was implausible at first. I asked him several times to explain, “How is it you can farm without irrigation while all the neighboring farms are drilling 1,000 feet beneath the surface?” I pointed to the surrounding sea of grapevines which clung to the soft hillsides.

“It starts with the cover crop,” he told me.

Only 3 percent of U.S. farms reported growing cover crops in the latest Census of Agriculture, and the practice drops with farms larger than 200 acres. Cover crop is important, as I learned from John because the decaying plant material from the cover crop feeds the microorganisms in the soil.


This process builds the soil organic matter (SOM). SOM can retain up to 10,000 times more water than soil without, according to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services. While his neighbors drill deeper wells to excavate water to irrigate wine grapes and almond trees, John’s crops grow with the moisture held between the granules of soil.

Last year, John wasn’t able to deliver grains to his CSA customers. “The margin of error for dry farmers is narrow,” he recently told me. “The winters are drier now. I have to plant  earlier than before.” In the fourth year of the drought, he will harvest 150 acres of grain.