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Sustainable farming project hopes to bring opportunities to Allensworth

TAC Teaching and Innovation Farm is meant to be a place for regenerative farming techniques to be tested and taught.
Posted: 6:36 PM, Jun 21, 2023
Updated: 2023-06-21 21:46:05-04
harjinder gil's almond orchard

ALLENSWORTH, Calif. (KERO) — According to the United States Geological Survey, more than 250 different types of crops worth around $17 billion dollars a year are produced in the San Joaquin Valley. However, as groundwater continues to be pumped faster than it is recharged, many wonder if the agricultural industry is sustainable.

Creating fertile soil is key to the plans of the TAC Teaching and Innovation Farm located in Allensworth, California. Soil that has been overfarmed breaks down into dust, devoid of nutrients and unable to retain water.

According to Tekoah Kadara with TAC Farm, one of the goals is to create a model that mimics Mother Nature in order to keep the soil fertile naturally.

"We want to teach how to grow soil versus how to grow plants. Mother Nature knows how to grow plants and she doesn't require fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides," said Kadara.

The TAC Farm is in the early stages of development at the moment, but last year it received money from the state government, as well as a grant from the California Department of Agriculture.

Kadara says the plan is to create a farm using sustainable and regenerative practices that will also serve as an educational facility.

"Our students can go to school here, and then when they complete the program there is an incubator," explained Kadara. "They can lease a parcel of land here on the farm. They can practice, because that's been an issue for so many. They go to school, they learn agriculture, but there's nowhere for them to farm."

Regenerative farming uses methods like increasing plant diversity, covering the soil with vegetation, and integrating animals into the farm to graze.

TAC Farm has partnered with GrizzlyCorps, a program started at UC Berkeley to send recent college graduates into rural communities across California in order to promote the use of regenerative agrifood systems.

"We need to try and mimic nature," said Kadara. "We're trying to grow somewhat like a forest in this place. It sounds kind of farfetched, but it's possible."

Farmer Harjinder Gil has farmed in the Central Valley since 1978 and he doesn't believe the current model for agriculture in the Central Valley is sustainable.

"Well, we use so many chemicals," said Gil. "This has really hurt our environments, our water, our atmosphere."

Gil, a certified organic farmer, owns 240 acres in Delano and says climate change is increasing uncertainty for growers. This year, he says his almond crop is 20 to 30 percent less than it was in 2022.

"All the energy and the water and the labor. I am a farmer. I am seeing all these things. I know it, but it is not sustainable," said Gil. "We need to change our thinking. We need to change our socioeconomic structure to survive and face these challenges, otherwise we are doomed."

Director of Ag Services at Wells Fargo Danny Koolhaas agrees it's time for a change when it comes to how the Central valley manages its natural resources.

"We do our best with what we have, but it's antiquated, and I spend a lot of time looking into water infrastructure in California, and unfortunately, the weather patterns are becoming more and more severe, and our water infrastructure in the state has not grown with that weather pattern," said Koolhaas.

Both Koolhaas and Gil agree that part of the solution is education, both for farmers and for the general public.

One step TAC Farm is taking to provide clean water is groundwater filtration. The groundwater near Allensworth is salty and contains arsenic. The UC Berkeley team is currently doing an arsenic remediation plan.

Kadara says he hopes the TAC Farm will give Allensworth residents more opportunities and bring more economic growth into the area.

"We're building our cooperatives right now, as we speak, so food as we produce it, it moves, and the money stays in the community," said Kadara. "They want to grow with their community, and this gives us an opportunity to grow together."


According to a report by California State University Chico, regenerative agriculture is meant to keep the natural cycles, like the hydrologic cycle and the carbon cycle, in balance so that land can keep growing food in a sustainable way.

The report also says that most of the planet's topsoil has been lost due to poor soil management, drought, and climate change. Regenerative agriculture practices are intended to help rebuild that lost topsoil.

According to the report, a few of the ways regenerative farming helps retain and create topsoil is by limiting tilling of the land to minimize physical, biological, and chemical disturbances to the soil, as well as keeping soil covered and mulching with diverse vegetation and natural materials.