Monday, March 2, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

EPA praises Winters farmer’s sustainable agriculture efforts

lester walnuts, 8/20/12

Russ Lester, owner of Dixon Ridge Farms, stands in one of his walnut orchards located outside of Winters. Lester produces organic walnuts using sustainable methods. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | September 01, 2012 |

WINTERS — Russ Lester takes the long view with his Dixon Ridge Farms walnut orchards, a view that extends well beyond his lifetime.

He wants to work the land in such a way that fertilizers don’t — over time — diminish the fertile soils. He wants water to still be available for farmers generations from now.

“Sustainable agriculture” is a phrase that has grown in popularity and Lester has his own definition.

“It’s a simple definition, to say we can continue doing what we’re doing for 1,000 years,” Lester said.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency Pacific Southwest Region thinks Lester is on the right track. It recently honored what it called 12 environmental heroes and named Lester its 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Champion.

“The winners, green heroes all, prove there are many ways to protect our air, water and land,” Jared Blumenfeld, the agency’s regional administrator, said in a press release.

Lester finds himself in the company of Zero Waste Advocate winner Adobe Systems of San Jose, Green Business of the Year winner Frito-Lay in Casa Grande, Ariz., and Educational Leadership winner Guam Environmental Education Committee in Guam. The Environmental Protection Agency region covers California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii and the Pacific Territories.

The Lester family has farmed in California since 1863, starting in the Napa area. When Lester was growing up, his father had a farm in the Santa Clara area, back when agriculture and not the computer industry was king there.

Lester went to UC Davis with no idea of becoming a farmer. But after looking at teaching and research, he decided he really wanted to farm after all. His parents had left the burgeoning Silicon Valley for the Winters area near Putah Creek in northern Solano County and in 1979 Lester and his wife Kathy bought the farm.

He started out as being more of a conventional farmer who used synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. But he also had a degree in plant ecology, with emphases in engineering and chemistry, and he decided to weld the disciplines together on the farm.

The transition to embrace sustainable farming practices took place over more than a decade, with the help of other people’s ideas.

Farmers at the time usually sprayed crops on a fixed scheduled. Lester around 1980 went to the integrated pest management approach of spraying only when needed, if at all.

He also began using a centuries-old idea, one that his father had tried to a degree. He planted legumes such as vetch and clovers in the walnut groves, given that they attract beneficial insects and also have a bacteria that puts nitrogen into the soils, acting as a natural fertilizer.

Lester describes his movement to sustainable agriculture practices as a progression. On some occasions, as neighbors sprayed, Lester worried.

“I’d wake up and think, ‘I’m not doing what I should be doing. I’m not spraying. Is it going to work?’ ” Lester said.

It worked, in Lester’s estimation. By the 1990s, Dixon Ridge Farms had gone organic.

Some walnut growers use chemicals extensively to get a higher yield of walnuts, perhaps three or four tons per acre to the two tons per acre at Dixon Ridge Farms, Lester said.

“The difference is, their walnuts are what I call trees on steroids,” Lester said.

He believes trees treated in such a manner will be spent in a few decades and have to be replaced at much cost. Dixon Ridge Farms has some trees more than 100 years old that are still producing quite well, he said.

Lester has approached sustainable farming from other angles, too. In 2007, he installed a biogas generator that creates energy for the walnut processing operation out of walnut shells, all without any visible smoke to pollute the air.

Dixon Ridge Farms has containers piled 24 feet high with some 720,000 pounds of walnut shells, enough to keep the generator going for a year. A company owns the generator and Lester pays a fixed price for power.

He soon expects to add an even bigger biogas generator to help power the walnut processing operation.

Lester has put 3,500 square feet of solar panels on roofs of buildings and expect to add more — by putting them on roofs instead of the ground, he avoids taking farmland out of production.

In addition, Lester put in energy-saving lights and added special insulation to a 12,000-square-foot freezer building.

Dixon Ridge Farms in 2007 set the goal of becoming energy self-sufficient. Lester expects that to happen this year.

Farms such as Lester’s are private enterprise and businesses. Taking steps to help the environment won’t work if the venture goes bankrupt.

“The bottom line is we’re making money,” Lester said. “We wouldn’t be staying in business if we weren’t.”

The question is whether Dixon Ridge Farms ends up being a niche or the future for farming. The Environmental Protection Agency views it as having lessons to teach the larger farming community.

Dixon Ridge Farms is “a model for true farm sustainability and a champion for small, family farms in California,” the agency said in a release.

Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling

Barry Eberling has been a reporter with the Daily Republic since 1987. He covers Solano County government, transportation, growth and the environment. He received his bachelors of art degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Articles

  • Enter your email address to subscribe and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • .

    Solano News

    Whiteside ready to take Travis school board seat

    By Bill Hicks | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    World War II spy shares tales of work behind enemy lines

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    I love to ‘read’ audiobooks

    By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

     
    PublicStuff, an online app, set for Fairfield

    By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3

     
    Beginning gardening series starts in March

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

    Literacy celebration returns this month

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Council to hear budget scenarios

    By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

     
    Fairfield High School celebrates black history

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Warm winter afternoon at Lagoon Valley Park

    By Steve Reczkowski | From Page: A3, 2 Comments | Gallery

    Free medical series targets senior health issues

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

     
    Pena Adobe hosts natural dye-making presentation

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A3

    IHOP takes part in National Pancake Day

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

     
    Local governments schedule meetings this week

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

    Vacaville 4-alarm house fIre

    By Steve Reczkowski | From Page: A4, 2 Comments | Gallery

     
    Weather for Monday, March 2, 2015

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B10

    Corner Store Gallery schedules open house

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    .

    US / World

    Kerry tries to dampen fuss over Israeli PM’s speech

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Hundreds of bills introduced by California lawmakers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

    Lawmakers tinker with crime measure recently OK’d by voters

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

     
    Storm brings rain, thunder, hail to Southern California

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

    California GOP recognizes gay faction of party

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

     
    Iraqi premier gives ultimatum ahead of hinted Tikrit attack

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Activists say Islamic State releases 19 Syrian Christians

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Sierra Leone’s vice president in quarantine for Ebola

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    30,000 marchers in Moscow mourn slain Putin foe

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Spacewalking astronauts finish extensive, tricky cable job

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Survey: Parents increasingly ask doctors to delay vaccines

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Newspaper: Nurse who survived Ebola says hospital failed her

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    Myanmar captures rare white elephant in western jungles

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Crowd kills girl suspected to be suicide bomber in Nigeria

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

     
    New plane tracking to be tested after Malaysia jet mystery

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    .

    Opinion

     
    A night with a King

    By Delon Jackson | From Page: A8

    Your right to work for less

    By Mike Kirchubel | From Page: A8, 8 Comments

     
    Right fight in DC, but wrong reason

    By Colbert I. King | From Page: A8

    Editorial Cartoon: March 2, 2015

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

     
    .

    Living

    Today in History: March 2, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Community Calendar: March 2, 2015

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

    Why timeouts only prolong the problem

    By The Washington Post | From Page: B5

     
    Horoscopes: March 3, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B5

    Horoscopes: March 2, 2015

    By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A7

     
    It’s never a good idea to point out how big a pregnant woman is

    By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A7

    .

    Entertainment

     
    Will Smith’s ‘Focus’ tops box office with $19.1 million

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

    Lady Gaga, Vince Vaughn take charity polar plunge in Chicago

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

     
    TVGrid March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A10

    TVGrid March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B11

     
    .

    Sports

    Curry scores 37, leads Warriors from 26 down to beat Celtics

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Jimmie Johnson pulls away for another Atlanta Sprint Cup win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Giants reliever Strickland insists he’s tranquil on mound

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Lillard, Aldridge lead Blazers past Kings for 3rd in a row

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1

     
    Major league baseball’s 1st black Latino star Minoso dies

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Seller’s market for NHL teams as trade deadline nears

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Andy Sullivan wins Joburg Open for 2nd title this year

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    South Korea’s Amy Yang wins Honda LPGA Thailand

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Hannah hurls Bulldogs to 2-0 win over Campolindo

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

    Oregon women upset No. 19 Stanford 62-55

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Indians open season with 12-4 win over Falcons

    By Daily Republic staff | From Page: B2

    Oregon beats Stanford 73-70, clinches bye in Pac-12 tourney

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Process gets underway to carve up $60 million Sandusky fine

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Cal’s big run lifts Bears past Oregon State 73-56

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Former Washington basketball star Christian Welp dies at 51

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Sharks trade Sheppard to Rangers for draft pick

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    4,000 attend Jerry Tarkanian tribute in Las Vegas arena

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Garnett buys 1,000 tickets for fans for next T-wolves game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Poulter, Casey share lead at rain-delayed Honda Classic

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

    Blatter concerned by Russian soccer racism before World Cup

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Broadcasters propose FIFA election debate to Blatter, rivals

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    This date in sports history for March 2, 2015

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

    Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez nearing 1st spring game

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7

     
    Fast and furious: Rousey looks to future after 14-second win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

    .

    Business

    Mimi’s adds breakfast items to menu

    By Susan Hiland | From Page: A10

     
    Samsung ditches plastic design, adds mobile pay in new phone

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

    In Apple’s latest update, emojis get diverse

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Jacqueline Mendes

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

     
    Lester Singer

    By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Blondie March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    For Better or Worse March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Wizard of Id March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Pickles March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Peanuts March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    B.C. March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Baby Blues March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Rose is Rose March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Baldo March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Zits March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Garfield March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Sally Forth March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Get Fuzzy March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Frank and Ernest March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Dilbert March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

     
    Beetle Bailey March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B4

    Crossword March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Sudoku March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Cryptoquote March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Word Sleuth March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

    Bridge March 3

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B5

     
    Garfield March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Get Fuzzy March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Frank and Ernest March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Blondie March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Sally Forth March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Wizard of Id March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Baby Blues March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    B.C. March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Beetle Bailey March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Peanuts March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    For Better or Worse March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Dilbert March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Baldo March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Zits March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Rose is Rose March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

    Pickles March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A6

     
    Crossword March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Cryptoquote March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Sudoku March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

    Bridge March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7

     
    Word Sleuth March 2

    By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A7