We consciously work to decrease our energy waste. In our farming operation, we embrace low or no-till and low-mow practices – the fewer passes our tractors make through our orchards, the less fuel used! Our irrigation pumps have been retrofitted with a high efficiency electric motor and a Variable Speed Controller and our unique low pressure, suspended sprinkler irrigation system further saves energy. In our facilities, our freezers have been upgraded with energy efficient Variable Speed Drive condenser units, state of the art Einstein Controllers, R-80 insulation and freezer door airlocks. All of our buildings have efficient lighting activated with motion sensors. We recycle heat in our drying facilities - capturing and reusing heat reduces our propane consumption for walnut drying by 40%.
In 2007, Dixon Ridge Farms proudly became the first on-farm user of the BioMax 50, a 50kW biogas powered generator that converts walnut shell produced by our walnut sheller into energy! In 2012, we upgraded to a BioMax 100. We can use this energy to fuel our drying facility in the fall, generate electricity, and heat our buildings during the winter. This produces about 643,000 kWh annually which is $102,000 worth of electricity a year and $24,000 of gas to off-set propane used in our dryers. We currently have 3,500 square feet of solar panels. We plan to add an additional 100,000 square feet as we expand our facility. Additional BioMax modules; production of synthetic diesel from the BioMax and the use of non-edible walnut oil for energy production are also planned.
We embraced Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques in the late 1970’s. Today, we not only continue to practice IPM, but we actively partner with the University of California to encourage further graduate and post-graduate level research on our property. We were one of the pioneer farm operations to employ perennial insectary habitat adjacent to our orchards in the 1980’s. Organic farmers have many organically allowed pesticides at their disposal, however we feel that a truly sustainable system minimizes or eliminates the use of pesticides – “soft” or otherwise.
Our no-till orchard management practice helps to retain soil moisture level and reduce or eliminate water runoff. This increased water percolation during winter storms helps to rejuvenate valley groundwater tables. We have employed water recycling systems since the early 1980’s. When irrigating, we use precise application and soil moisture meters to determine irrigation scheduling.
The only additional fertilizer our orchards receive is composted manure. A vibrant cover crop of legumes, native grasses, mustards and clovers thrives on our orchard floor, fixing nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil. We chip our tree prunings and spread our walnut hulls in the orchard. These decompose and return valuable nutrients back into the soil. We use walnut shell as mulch around our sprinklers instead of other types of weed control.
We reuse and recycle as much as possible. All of the hulls, shell and tree prunings are composted back into our orchards or used to generate energy. Our operation recycles over 50% of all our solid waste. We recycle 100% of our scrap metals.
We use kraft box board versus bleach board for the construction of all of our boxes. Our kraft board is made from 100% recycled paper. Kraft board uses less water and energy than highly processed bleach board.
Dixon Ridge Farms is a long-time supporter of our community. We volunteer on Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, California Walnut Board Food Safety Committee, the California Organic Products Advisory Committee, California Certified Organic Farmers, Solano Land Trust, Solano County Agricultural Advisory Committee, and the Yolo County Agricultural Future Alliances. Every fall, over 100 first-graders from Winters visit our farm to learn about farming, walnut harvest, processing, and soil health. Additionally, we contribute financially or in-kind to many local organizations and activities.
Past research studies conducted here have revolved around earthworms, cover crop development, water run-off studies, and soil fertility. Research studies currently underway are carbon studies in our orchards for both soil and the trees and studies looking at the potential use of char-ash. Future projects include the use of animals in orchard systems; processing and storage energy efficiency; and the economics of using agricultural by-products for alternative energy sources.
We have always placed a strong emphasis on using our working farm as a teaching tool. To that end we have hosted groups from all levels of government, universities, non-profits and growers. This includes elected officials, civil servants, non-profits, grower groups, USDA, CDFA, NRCS, FSA, US EPA, Cal EPA, UCCE, CEC, CPUC, CARB, CIWMB and others. Education topics have been as diverse as are our management practices. We also believe strongly in listening to what others have to say and learning from them. A core principle is that education is invaluable.
5430 Putah Creek Road | Winters, CA 95694 | 530-795-4619