Village Farms making most of water, land in west Texas

07/13/2010 01:08:47 PM
David Mitchell

Village Farms International’s greenhouses in west Texas are in an ideal location when it comes to sunlight and heat.

Courtesy Village Farms

Village Farms International uses recycled water to irrigate 116 acres of ranch land adjacent to its Fort Davis, Texas, greenhouse and 246 acres near its Marfa, Texas, facility.

The facilities in Marfa and Fort Davis, which house a total of 120 acres of tomatoes, aren’t quite as ideally located when it comes to a water source, which is several hundred feet below ground.

Both locations are nearly a mile above sea level in the arid Chihuahuan Desert.

“In this area we are fortunate to have more clear days than any other part of the country, making it perfect for growing under glass, but this is also an area where there is more evaporation than precipitation so water management practices such as recycling and reusing our water five times become crucial,” said Helen Aquino, marketing manager for Delta, British Columbia-based Village Farms.

Reusing the nutrient-rich water that plants are grown in isn’t new to hydroponic greenhouses, but Village Farms has taken water recycling a step further.

Once water is no longer optimal for growing tomatoes, it goes to lined holding ponds outside the greenhouses. Rather than simply letting the waste water evaporate, it is sent to center pivot sprinklers to irrigate 116 acres of ranch land adjacent to the Fort Davis greenhouse and 246 acres adjacent to the Marfa facility.

Village Farms owns the land in both locations and allows local ranchers to use it at no cost, Aquino said, despite the fact that installing the irrigation system late last year was a significant investment. Ranching is one of the larger businesses in the small communities.

“The land preservation program is just one small way we are able to give back to the environment, and makes us a good neighbor through the goodwill of providing water for native grasses to flourish and then allowing local ranchers to graze their cattle,” Aquino said.

Village Farms also collects condensation in the greenhouses. Aquino said the company’s greenhouses use 86% less water than field-grown tomatoes on a pound-for-pound basis.

Though going to such lengths to conserve land and water comes at a cost, Aquino said buyers are taking note.

“Sustainability is more than a buzz word in fresh produce,” she said. “We are seeing more and more of our retail customers inquiring about our growing methods because they are concerned with natural resource usage and are looking to partner with growers who are maximizing efficiencies across the board.”



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