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Farming Where Others Don't Go | Arizona

Small family farmer embraces change to carry on tradition

The HalwoodsTwenty-two acres of land is not very much for a farm. It's got sandy soil, available water is scarce, and the remote location makes it difficult for equipment to get there.

Sound like a great opportunity?

Lemeul Halwood had his vision for the 22-acres. His grandfather grew corn there, and Halwood wanted to as well. Having enough water to grow anything was the first challenge on this land in Canon del Muerto on the Navajo Nation.

His family tradition of farming would have to meet some new technology. The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, gave him what he needed.

Six wells and a drip irrigation system gave Halwood the ability to farm the land. "These are the first wells drilled here, and the first drip system installed in Canyon del Muerto," said Wilson Halwood, Lemuel's father. "We are making history."

Continuing history spurred Lemuel to get the land in working order. EQIP paid for 75-percent of the costs, and his family contributed the other 25-percent through labor, including digging a 300-foot ditch.

Canon del Muerto on the Navajo Nation.His grandfather's Hogan still rests on the land. "I remember being in that Hogan when I was a little kid,"said Lemuel. "If my grandparents saw the land now, they'd be real happy."

Lemuel shared his success with other in his community by hosting a workshop to educate others about the effectiveness of drip irrigation. "I think it's the best way to grow corn here," said Lemuel. "I hope everyone who came to the workshop is growing corn like this."

In addition to corn, Lemuel and his family are growing watermelon, squash, and chilies. "This is not typical production farming. This is subsistence farming to sustain your family," said Gerry Gonzalez, NRCS Assistant State Conservationist.

It's only 22-acres, but the Halwood family sustains itself and continues its proud history through this small piece of land. For Lemuel, that is a great opportunity.

Written by George Couch, July 21, 2007