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Success Stories

Albert and Rick in field

Watch this video on how Rick Lattin of Lattin Farms in Fallon, Nevada, has succeeded in extending his growing season and improving water efficiency through his family's long relationship with NRCS:

Have You Made Your New Year's Solutions?

Did you know that New Year’s resolutions have ancient roots? According to the History Channel, the first people were the Babylonians, more than 4,000 years ago.

They were also the first to hold recorded celebrations in honor of the new year—though for them the year began in mid-March when the crops were planted, which may make more sense to today’s farmers.

As we start the new year, many of us make an assessment: we look to the past to learn from our mistakes or to see how far we’ve come, and then we assess our current situation to determine our goals and look to the future to accomplish them.

So, how about making New Year’s solutions this year, instead of resolutions? At NRCS, we can offer a great place to start: new year, new conservation plan.

If your goals include: starting a new farm, improving the one you have, building relationships in your community and maybe having more family time, NRCS may be able to help you reach your goals. Through the Farm Bill, NRCS offers free advice to help with developing a conservation plan as well as financial assistance programs to help cover the cost of adopting conservation practices.

A Family Tradition

For example, meet Rick Lattin and his family, who have been farming in the Lahontan Valley of Nevada since 1909. Rick discovered, when sorting through his father’s things, that his grandfather cultivated a relationship with NRCS in the early 40s (then the Soil Conservation Service), as evidenced by a 1942 conservation plan he uncovered. Like a time capsule, the conservation plan is a great reference book for Rick to look into the history of his family’s farm.

Thumbing through the delicate pages, it indicates what types of soil they have with hand-colored charts, what and how many animals they had, what types of crops they were growing, and what suggestions NRCS, in cooperation with Cooperative Extension, gave to conserve and improve the farm.

Rick's 1942 Conservation Plan

“It’s interesting looking through here to see what things have changed, and what has not changed. There’s just an incredible amount of information in this book. It lists some of the practices we still do today,” said Rick.

Enhancing the Farm

Rick has continued the family’s relationship with NRCS, enabling him to find solutions to combatting drought, extending growing seasons with high tunnels, and getting available water to plants more effectively and efficiently. These efforts provide for more profitability over an extended growing season, and the water efficiency provides more time for other things.

Rick with conservation plan

“One of the things that struck me when I discovered this conservation plan is that our family has been working with the agency for almost 100 years to make this work. And I can attest to being the fourth generation on the land,” said Rick. “We still use the NRCS to help us make our farm more productive, and even more importantly to us farmers, more capable of providing a living for folks—because if we can’t make a living and make this a sustainable business, we have no business being here.”

Water is very important in the Lahontan Valley—and sometimes scarce. The Lattins worked with NRCS over the years to install concrete-lined ditches.

“There's no way we could have done that without the assistance of NRCS,” said Rick. “NRCS also helped us put in an underground tile system that allows us to catch the excess water that goes into the ground when we irrigate. We've figured out how to pick that up and reuse it to run our drip systems, which allows us to save water and use less water.”

Now, they’re only using about two-acre feet per year of water, where their allotment is three and a half. The underground system allows them to pick that excess water up and pump it through their drip lines to about 200 acres on the farm.

Many of Rick’s high tunnels, or hoop houses, were acquired through NRCS’ Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Agricultural Management Assistance program.

“We found that the hoop houses extended our season, increased our yields, and let us sell crops that don't do well outside due to our weather conditions. We have a rotational program that includes cover cropping with rye in some of the winters and then we do double cropping when we can: early season greens and root crops, and then main season we do tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and a little bit of squash and cucumbers for our roadside stand,” said Rick. “The hoop houses have become very versatile for us with the kind of products we can grow, the number of products we can grow and the season in which we can grow them.”

Rick showing off tomatoes

“We have an ongoing relationship with NRCS. It goes back decades—they’ve been very important to the success of our farms,” said Rick. “NRCS helps us forward think and look at what we need to stay competitively positioned to provide food and fiber.”

Make a New Year Solution

Stop by your local USDA service center to find out what solutions might be a good fit for your farm this year. Find your local service center.

Albert and Rick looking at berries