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Barlow Farms Wins Oregon Conservation Award

Water, soil savings cited by officials.

T.J. Burnham 1, Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

June 3, 2008

2 Min Read

When Barlow Farms of Nyssa, Ore., was named a leader in conservation for water and soil savings it achieved over the years, Mike Barlow was surprised.

"This is just something we did," he says. "We didn't expect any awards. The real award was in the soil and water savings we achieved by switching from furrow to sprinkler irrigation."

Frustrated by inefficient furrow irrigation erosion on uneven ground for years, Barlow and his family launched a shift to sprinklers in the late '60s that's paid off with a 30% water savings.

Today, Barlow Farms of Nyssa is a template of success, recognized for its leadership in water conservation efforts this year by the Oregon Department of Agriculture as an innovation leader. The prize salute for adopting practices that have improved water quality and made efficient use of water for irrigation, says ODA Director Katy Coba.

The Barlow principals – Mike and brothers Charlie and Ellis, and brother-in-law Ralph Hadley – received the annual Agricultural Progress Award estimate they've saved 6,000 tons of soil a year by switching away from furrow to 600 acres of sprinklers on the farm producing wheat, corn, alfalfa, potatoes, seed crops and sugar beets.

Those savings have allowed the farm to plant cover crops that have reduced the application of pesticides and fertilizers, according to the ODA, including a cover crop of radish seed that has helped manage nematodes and cutworms.

Now, Barlow can also use chemigation and reduce its application costs, Mike points out. Additionally the farm experiments with strip and reduced tillage, concepts not common in the Treasure Valley production region.

Barlow Farms principals, from left, Ralph Hedley, and Mike and Charlie Barlow are working to bring more

conservation practices to their Nyssa, Ore., operation.

Half of last year's sprinkled crop at Barlow was under minimum tillage or strip tillage. This year, the farmers plan to use these concepts on 75% of its plantings.

The Barlows have looked long and hard for ways to improve their runoff water quality. What they've concluded is that the best way to do so is to not have any runoff in the first place. Under the new system, the producers have achieved nearly zero runoff.

See more on the Barlows on the cover of the June Western Farmer-Stockman.

About the Author(s)

T.J. Burnham 1

Editor, Western Farmer-Stockman

T.J. Burnham has covered western agriculture for 42 years. A University of Michigan journalism program grad, he worked for The Sacramento Bee for 15 years before moving into specialty farm magazine writing. He has been on the Farm Progress staff for 10 years.

"A lot of my uncles back in Michigan were farmers, but my interest was primarily to become a hot shot city desk reporter. Once I was given a job at the Bee on the metro desk, they told me that they’d hired too many new reporters, and half of us had to go. However, they said there was an opening in the newspaper’s ag division, and if I worked there until the probationary period was over, I could be reassigned to general reporting. I took the job, but by the time the probation period was ended, I found I enjoyed covering ag so much that I never asked to go back to the city side.”

T.J. joined Farm Progress as a California Farmer reporter, then became editor of the Western Farmer-Stockman. He has earned a reputation in the West as a strong source of direct seed information, and has affiliated Western Farmer-Stockman as the official magazine of the Pacific Northwest Direct Seed Association.

His wife, Sally, writes for the magazine and helps with bookwork concerning freelance writers from the eight western state arena which the magazine serves.

T.J. likes hiking and fishing, and dabbles in woodworking projects. He also enjoys gardening and photography.

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