NEWMAN, Calif. — Stewart & Jasper Orchards, a 66-year-old almond grower, handler and processor, was using sustainable farming practices for decades before they were in vogue. But the recent statewide drought and accompanying water cutbacks have prompted the Newman-based operation to make some tough decisions that go against its long-standing philosophy.
A project on the drawing board that would deliver treated wastewater from three Central Valley cities to the Del Puerto Water District in which Stewart & Jasper farms has buoyed company owner and president Jim Jasper’s outlook.
“This is just the best thing that could happen as far as I’m concerned,” said Jasper, who also sits on the water district’s board of directors. “Sustainability is great, but if you don’t have water, forget about everything else.”
click image to zoomVicky Boyd(left to right) Farm manager Ray Henrique, owner and president Jim Jasper and vice-president Jim Jasper listen to a presentation during the almond sustainability tour.Jim Jasper, his son Jason Jasper and several of the company’s managers showed off their sustainable practices May 16 to regulators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Food and Agriculture, California Department of Pesticide Regulation, California Air Resources Board and regional Water Quality Control Board.
The tour, in its 11th year, is hosted by the Modesto-based California Almond Board and is designed to help educate regulators about environmentally friendly practices almond growers use.
The Jaspers farm about 2,000 acres of mostly almonds in the Del Puerto Water District, which is a federal Central Valley Project water contractor. All of their acreage is planted on efficient micro-jet or drip irrigation, depending on the soil type.
Stewart & Jasper also shells, hulls and processes almonds from another 150 nearby growers.
The water district serves about 45,000 acres of mostly permanent crops, said Anthea Hansen, general manager.
This year, the Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the CVP, announced that most water districts would receive no surface deliveries. In the past during a typical year, the Del Puerto district received about 140,000 acre-feet, or about 3.1 acre-feet per acre of cropland, she said.
CVP operators blame the drought and as well as fisheries requirements in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta for the lack of deliveries south of the delta.
And unlike many farmers on the east side of the San Joaquin Valley who have back-up wells, Jasper said pumping isn’t an option for his district’s growers.