This feature, which will appear from time to time in Coastal Links, highlights individuals in the Sanctuary community who, through their own actions and initiatives, are making a difference in water quality for everyone.
Mike Oliver, of California Farm Technology, grows strawberries in the Elkhorn Slough region. Oliver's farming techniques benefit the environment, save valuable (and irreplaceable) top soil, and lower costs for pesticides and nutrient replacement.
Oliver, with the help of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has installed berms, with catch basins, around the entire low edge of his ranch. The berms, vegetated with a mix of annual and native grasses, allow water to percolate rather than rush quickly across the ground, taking soiland pesticides and nutrientswith it. This winter Oliver will test a new strawberry bed shape for slope farming, to keep the beds from losing so much soil. "I estimate I'll lose fifty to sixty percent less topsoil in a hard rain," he says.
Oliver has taken five acres out of production to establish a buffer around a pond on the property. Area students have planted it with native grasses and flowers. "The seeding has provided a good habitat for migratory ducks, and also controls erosion," explains Oliver.
"A lot of what Mike Oliver is doing is just protecting the off-farm environment, not so much his own," explains Daniel Mountjoy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service. "By reducing erosion, he's helping his neighbors and even Elkhorn Slough." (Oliver's land drains into the Slough.)
"If we want anything left in twenty years to farm, we need to take care of it now," says Oliver. "Also, you don't want neighbors complaining that your soil is ending up two miles down the road; and you save money."