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Young Farmer is Conserving Water for the Long-Term

story by Quenna Terry

Crop rotations and minimum tillage methods are used to improve soil health.Greg Chavez moved to the U.S. from Mexico when he was just two years old. His father wanted to relocate the family to find a more prosperous life.

Growing up on a farm near Hereford, Texas, the 38-year-old producer said he always knew he wanted to be a farmer and do his best to grow high-quality crops while taking care of the land.

Today, he and his father are in a partnership where they own and operate approximately 3,500 acres of farmland that includes the land he was raised on in Deaf Smith County. Water is of major concern in their operation as they manage cattle with a diversified cropping system of corn, cotton, wheat, and hay.

Chavez and his father do their best to apply the most effective conservation measures on their land, because they depend on the land to make a living. They agree farming isn’t without challenges as they have had to manage through severe drought in recent years. The lack of rainfall and dry weather has forced the Chavez’s to reevaluate their operation and management strategies.

“Drought conditions are going to change the way we run our farms,” says Chavez. “I am working on making my operation more efficient, saving time and resources.”

NRCS Team Leader Mike White and producer Greg Chavez check a sprinkler installed through OAI.In order to be as successful as possible, Chavez has asked for assistance through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). For the past 10 years, he has utilized technical assistance in conservation planning and program assistance to improve his irrigation practices and soil health, and most recently through a program specifically for Historically Underserved or Socially Disadvantaged Farmers.

“Greg has participated through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP), and the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative (OAI) to implement conservation practices and improve his irrigation efficiencies,” says Mike White, NRCS district conservationist.

Greg Chavez utilizes highly efficient irrigation drop nozzles to water his crops.In 2012, Chavez was approved for an OAI contract to further improve his water conservation efforts. Participating in the program allowed him to install flow meters and replace three center pivot irrigation systems. While he appreciates the opportunity for financial assistance from USDA-NRCS, the venture is a combined conservation investment from Farm Bill program funding and the producer. Chavez had to provide a large part of the cost himself to implement these practices.

Chavez credits NRCS for helping him boost his water use efficiencies, up to 96 percent on his center pivots using of Low Energy Precision Application (LEPA). He has also incorporated more mulch tillage and no tillage methods to help conserve water and increase soil health.

“The practices Greg has implemented have multiple conservation benefits, beginning with water quality and water quantity,” says White. “Greg is a progressive farmer and he is always looking for new and improved ways to manage his resources better than before.”

Greg Chavez examines the soil on his farms to evaluate the moisture content.To further conservation methods and management strategies for water conservation, Chavez has applied for micro subsurface drip irrigation on approximately 50 acres of irregular shaped areas of his farms where center pivot sprinkler irrigation is not practical.

The determination and quality of work Chavez has put into farming earned him the opportunity to participate in NRCS’ Conservation Stewardship Program (CStP) program. Chavez was a recent recipient of CSP awarded to him in 2013. Most of working lands in his operation are cropland with few rangeland acres. His higher level of conservation farming and management practices, such as plant tissue sampling and irrigation monitoring based evapotranspiration rates, determined his eligibility.

Chavez’ success continues to grow, and it’s obvious his hard work and dedication to the land is a testament to his want and desire of becoming a young conservation farmer with a bright future.