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Memories with Ariz. water miser Howard Wuertz

Howard Wuertz with sons Greg and David
Howard Wuertz is flanked by his sons Greg (left) and David in their alfalfa field watered by subsurface drip irrigation (2009 Western Farm Press photo).
Howard Wuertz's resume includes the words ‘inventor’ and ‘innovator’ as he helped bring drip irrigation to arid Arizona agriculture.

As we slowly passed the module builder compacting plucked cotton bolls on a dry Arizona farm road in October on the family’s farm near Coolidge, the co-pilot of my F-150 truck - retired farmer Howard Wuertz - boasted about water conservation on his family's farm.

The farm tour followed a lunch kicked off with Howard’s favorite green chile appetizer at a local spicy hot spot followed by a tasty beef enchilada, made even finer by homemade taco sauce squirted from an old-style catsup bottle.

The job of a farm journalist is chocked full of deadlines plus long hours at week’s end. Yet its days like this one spent with Wuertz, an Arizona farming water conservation legend, which makes it worthwhile.

I had just interviewed the 92-years-young farmer who was on my Farm Press “bucket list.” It was an honor to hear him describe his farming experience with an occasional life story shared for free. He relived fighting for his country during World War II from inside of a B-24 aircraft as bullets from enemy planes penetrated his war bird – miraculously missing him with every shot. Prayers work!

Wuertz beamed from ear to ear, noting that he and his sweetheart Jewell had been married 68 years and raised four children. His farmer resume includes the words ‘inventor’ and ‘innovator’ as he helped bring drip irrigation to arid Arizona agriculture. You can read “Dr. Drip’s” feature story online and in the Nov. 18 issue of Western Farm Press magazine.

Today, farmers and others in agriculture travel around the globe finding new ways to bring innovation and success to their farms and ranches. This is where farming folks like Howard Wuertz are one in a million. In his day, he traveled globally to give back to agriculture by sharing his drip irrigation craft with producers hungry to farm better and wiser.

We owe a lot to Wuertz and others who have paved the way so we can explore greater opportunities in agriculture. In my case, I’m truly thankful to Mr. Wuertz for making this special day come true for this farm journalist armed with a listening ear and a fast-writing hand to capture and share one of the great stories of those who have blazed agriculture’s path.

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