Robert Lower with his sons Eric and Ian, Pedro and Carolina Medina, Adolfo Ramirez and his son Jr., and Christina Kelso.
11 acres in Thermal, about 525 miles to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
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, aloe vera, pomegranates, and figs. Since the Coachella Valley is part of the great Mojave Desert, and dates require moisture, Robert and company create a “green oasis,” with water, compost, mulch and a year-round cover crop of Bermuda grass. Permaculture employs techniques from many farming traditions. Robert calls it “observation, adaptation, and accident.” He describes his ranch as “100% Permaculture.”
The farm’s soil is built with aged compost, cover crops, 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.
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.
Robert Lower has a standing offer of $1,000 to anyone who can find a farm more ecological than his.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of farmers markets and educational programs. Learn More »