Robert Lower along with his sons Eric and Ian, and Christina Kelso, Pedro and Carolina Medina, and World Wide Workers on Organic Farms.
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 and all the date trees are hand-pollinated. Since the Coachella Valley is part of the great Mojave Desert, and dates require moisture, Robert creates a “green oasis,” with lots of water, compost, and mulch and a year-round cover crop. Robert farms using techniques from many farming traditions; he farms 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.”
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.
The farm prides itself on regularly introducing new crops to the marketplace. Cherry tomatoes, sweet pea flowers, Ambrosia melons, and heirloom tomatoes are a few of the crops that Capay first introduced.
CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Learn More »