Innovative Solution To Counter Pollution
TURLOCK, Calif., Jul. 16, 2007 (KGO) -- A San Francisco-based environmental group received a $125,000 award from the Irvine Foundation, which honors innovative solutions to California challenges. This one has to do with solving a pollution problem in the last place you look.
On Monte Vista Avenue near Turlock, names can be deceiving. Monte Vista, for instance, in Spanish means mountain view. It's been a long time though, since dairy farmer Michael Crowell could count on seeing the coastal range to the west, or the sierra to the east.
Wayne Freedman, ABC7: "There's no Monte Vista, anymore?"
Michael Crowell, Dairy Farmer: "Not many days. Not many days."
Most days, California's Central Valley produces some of the worse air quality in the nation.
"In fact, one of six children in Fresno has asthma because of the air pollution there," according to Ashley Boren of San Francisco environmental group Sustainable Conservation.
Sustainable Conservation looked at the San Joaquin's pollution problem, inversion layer, large number of cars, and the amount of agricultural dust floating from the fields.
Ashley Boren, Sustainable Conservation: "What we really look for are these solutions where it makes economic sense for the farmer, and it's good for the environment."
They found part of that solution on Michael Crowell's dairy farm.
Michael Crowell: "I was open to the extent of listening to what she had to say."
It's a small operation by dairy standards, but five generations old. The family needed a way to cut costs. The environmental movement wanted to find a way to cut dust. Their answer was found in corn. The Crowells grow it themselves, but instead of plowing the field back to bare dirt at the end of a season, they leave the corn residue on the ground.
It's not a new method of farming, but it's new in California. It offers distinct advantages. By leaving last year's crop in the ground, they use less fuel, create less pollution, less dust, while leaving more nutrients.
Adam Crowell, Dairy Farmer: "And once we had the data, it was clear cut what we needed to do..."
Wayne Freedman, ABC7: "What have you saved in terms of money?"
Michael Crowell: "More than fifty percent."
More significant, this success has triggered action by other California dairy farmers. 80,000 acres of land have been exposed to the technique so far.
Boren: "What give me hope is that there are solutions to these problems - that we can have a healthy economy and a healthy environment."
Sustainability occurs in two tiers. One preserves the environment; the other maintains a family way of life.
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