Industry leaders and government officials offered tips for protecting water quality and maximizing farm recycling efforts at the Sustainable Agriculture Expo on Monday.
The Central Coast Vineyard Team hosted the two-day expo, which ends Tuesday, at the Monterey Convention Center.
The focus of the session on protecting water quality was an update on the latest Central Coast Regional Water Board Agriculture Order given by Angela Schroeter, a program manager for the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board.
The order, first implemented in 2004, is the means by which the federal Clean Water Act is implemented for Central Coast agriculture operations. It sets ground and surface water monitoring requirements for more than 4,000 Central Coast farms operating more than 400,000 acres.
Per the 2012 order, there are now three tiers of monitoring requirement based on a farm's risk to water quality. Risk is indicated by the kinds of chemicals used, crop type, proximity to surface water and farm size.
The water quality control board assesses water quality monitoring reports and recommends adjustments that will bring farms into compliance with their best management practices plans. The board also provides workshops on filing the required annual paperwork. In some cases it also provides free groundwater sampling.
Sarah Lopez, a program manager at the Central Coast Water Quality Preservation Inc., told expo attendees about her firm's cooperative monitoring program.
The cooperative monitoring program assesses factors such as water temperature, conductivity, turbidity, stream flow rate, as well as levels of nutrients such as nitrates and dissolved oxygen. Per new requirements specified in the 2012 agriculture order, the program now monitors total nitrogen and phosphorous levels.
Marc Los Huertos, an associate professor at CSU Monterey Bay, and John Hunt, a research toxicologist at UC Davis, discussed innovations in removing nitrates and pesticides from ground and surface water.
Huertos and Hunt also stressed the importance of best management practices plans.
"The more you can do to document the things you're doing on the farm to protect water quality, you'll be better off and you'll end up with a more robust farm plan," said Huertos.
The day's other session focused on recycling initiatives aimed at farmers.
Jennifer Arbuckle, recycling coordinator for Northern Recycling & Waste Services in Butte County, stressed that even though most recycling programs are residential based, there are a variety of items that farmers can recycle.
"All your drip line, PVC pipe, scrap metal, engine parts, that can all go in recycling and I think that gets missed on farmers," said Arbuckle, emphasizing the money that farmers can receive for recycling.
However, exactly what you can recycle depends on your service provider, said Arbuckle. "Larger corporations with headquarters in Texas, that are publicly traded, it's not in their best interest to make sure your recycling program is at 100 percent," she said.
One way to find out what you can and cannot recycle is to get a "waste audit" from your county. Monterey County offers free audits, as well as free education materials to train farm employees about recycling.
Tim Flanagan, assistant general manager at Monterey Regional Waste Management District, and Keith Day, owner of the Keith Day Company, detailed the recycling services their companies provide.
MRWMD recycles everything from drywall gypsum and pesticide containers to asphalt and concrete. The company partners with Day's company to compost food waste from local hotels, CSUMB, Whole Foods Inc. and several area restaurants.
More than 60 booths representing farmers, vineyards, agricultural product and service companies and government agencies provided information and product demonstrations to expo attendees.
Tuesday's sessions will focus on the science and policy behind climate change and how to protect human and environmental health on the farm.
Chris Palmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org