Everyone knows water and sunlight are essential to gardening, but what’s a farmer in a drought-struck area to do? Amazingly, some farmers have found a way to grow crops without the H2O and the results are remarkably tasty.
As NPR reports, the technique is known as dry farming. Dry farmers intentionally limit the amount of water they provide to their crops. Though some water is needed in the first few weeks to get the plants going, after that, the farmers cut the supply off entirely.
Surprisingly, withholding the water doesn’t kill the produce. Instead, it forces the baby plants to grow vines that go incredibly deep into the soil. These vines are searching for a water source, and soil tends to retain moisture throughout the year.
Consumers in the know have been flocking to dry farmed products and not just because they enjoy the conservation aspect. They find the food grown in this manner to be sweeter and have more flavor than their traditionally watered counterparts.
In California, farmers in rain-free areas dry farm products like tomatoes, potatoes, grapes, apples and melons. The harvest does well not only at local supermarkets, but also in distant places where shoppers have acquired the taste for dry farmed goods but cannot find it grown locally due to rainfall. As a result, dry farmers admit they have trouble producing a supply to meet the current demand.
One downside to dry farming is the crops’ limited harvest. Though the un-watered plants may prove more flavorful, their production is drastically reduced. Farmers estimate that, per acre, they grow anywhere between 3 to 10 times less food than they would if they watered their crops instead.
Moreover, dry farming also requires a lot of upkeep. While farmers may save time by not watering, they generally till the top of the soil throughout the year until it reaches a dusty consistency. In doing so, the farmers prevent the moisture from escaping through the surface.
For these reasons, dry farming is currently more of a labor of love than a road to profits. Nonetheless, it shows that even places with limited water resources can grow crops. Perhaps with more experimentation, dry farmers can find ways to yield more of their sweet-tasting produce, while simultaneously tackling the problem of many across the world going without food and water.