Sustainable agriculture is defined by the 1990 "Farm Bill" as an integrated system of plant and animal production practices in a site-specific system that:
- Satisfies human food and fiber need
- Enhances environmental quality and the natural resource base upon which the agricultural economy depends
- Makes the most efficient use of non-renewable resources and on-farm resources and integrates, where appropriate, natural biological cycles and controls
- Sustains the economic viability of farm operations
- Enhances the quality of life for farmers and society as a whole
Obtaining USDA Organic Certification represents the commitment BKW Farms has made to using organic methods to grow food and protect the environment. The process of obtaining this certification is complicated, expensive, and time consuming. It includes:
- Passing initial, annual, and unannounced inspections by USDA Organic Agents
- Documenting that the land proposed for organic use has not had any prohibited pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers applied to it for the past three years
- Using Certified Organic seed or documenting its unavailability; no genetically modified seed is allowed
- Planting legumes (e.g. peas, beans) after a grain crop to naturally replenish nitrogen in the soil
BKW currently has 50 acres of Certified Organic fields which are currently being used to grow heritage and modern varieties of wheat. As the demand for these grains grows, BKW can add more acreage to our Certified Organic program.
Know Your Farmer
The locally grown food movement uses the slogan, "Know Your Farmer" to focus attention on the importance of knowing who grows and produces the food we eat. There are many advantages to purchasing food produced locally including:
- Local food supports local families
- Local farmers aren't anonymous and they take their responsibility to the consumer seriously
- Local food is an investment in the future
By supporting local farmers today, you are helping to ensure that there will be farms and food security in your community tomorrow.
Sustainable farming practices are important to the Wong Family. In 1980, the State of Arizona adopted the Groundwater Management Act which put limits and restrictions on the use of groundwater. For farms, this meant no new irrigated agriculture and strict water conservation requirements.
Prior to the passage of these new regulations, BKW began aggressively seeking ways to conserve water. Since 1995 BKW has used only CAP water for irrigation. Our fields are laser-leveled to ensure that water flows are consistent throughout the fields and run-off is eliminated. We measure the volume of water that flows through our 50 miles of concrete-lined irrigation ditches to ensure that no more than necessary is used to produce a crop. Every year we report and pay fees to the State of Arizona on all of the water used for irrigation.
Since 1995, BKW has used only Central Arizona Project (Colorado River) water for irrigation.
BKW has concrete-lined 50 miles of irrigation ditches and reduced water use per acre by nearly 50% since the Wong family began farming in 1939.
Zanjeros (irrigators) set hoses in the ditches when water is needed for the crops.
Fields are laser-leveled to ensure the even distribution of water from the top to the bottom of the field.
The grains of wheat are called berries. They are the seeds from which wheat is grown.
The berries are poured into a seed drill which is used to plant the wheat.
The seed drill is programed to plant seed at a depth of 2-3 inches.
After the seed is planted, the field is irrigated.
The seed germinates in 5-7 days.
Farmers rely on Mother Nature to provide the perfect conditions for a bountiful harvest.
If all goes well, the wheat will be ready to harvest in 130-150 days.
The combine is the machine used to harvest grain. With a single machine, the three operations which comprise harvesting — reaping, threshing, and winnowing — are combined into a single process.
The grain is placed in totes weighing 1,500 – 2,000 lbs and transported to BKW’s climate-controlled processing and storage facility.
The waste straw and plant parts left by the combine are turned back into the ground to help prepare the soil for the next crop.
In the Certified Organic fields, cow peas are planted following a grain crop to replace the soil’s nitrogen.
Planning for the Future
The changing climate has influenced BKW’s farming practices. We are always on the lookout for crops that can thrive with less water and can produce in higher temperatures. Sometimes this means planting heritage varieties, like White Sonora wheat. Sometimes this may require planting new varieties that have been developed in the laboratory through hydridization techniques or genetic modification.