Flying Disc Ranch
10 acres in Thermal, about 520 miles to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Robert Lower along with his sons Eric and Ian, Christina Kelso, Pedro, Carolina and Maria Medina and World-Wide Workers on Organic Farms.
Robert bought his property--desert land that he cleared, irrigated, and planted with over 1,200 palms--in 1979. Flying Disc Ranch has become a tropical rainforest-type ecosystem, host to a wealth of wildlife. Different varieties of date palm are interplanted with citrus and all the date trees are hand-pollinated. Since the Coachella Valley is part of the great Mojave Desert and dates require a lot of moisture, Robert creates a "green oasis," with lots of water, compost, mulch and a year-round cover crop. Robert farms using a combination of techniques from many farming traditions; he has come to farm the way he does through "observation, adaptation and accident." He describes his ranch as "100% permaculture" and never uses any synthetic or organic pesticides. Despite the ecological methods he employs, Robert says he "will never be certified anything."
Nature is used to manage insects. Habitats for predators such as hawks, owls and snakes are encouraged to control rodent populations. Spiders and predatory insects prey on white flies and fruit beetles. Net bags and paper cones keep insects, birds, and other pests away from fruit, a technique that minimizes waste and provides moisture protection to the developing fruit.
The farms's soil is built with aged compost, cover crops, manure, and decomposed mulch. No tilling or discing techniques are used.
About 25% of the water used on Flying Disc Ranch is deep well water, and 75% is Colorado River water. Irrigation water is aerated so that the plants can absorb it better, and both flood and drip irrigation techniques are used.