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Farming Clean Air

With Sustainable Conservation's help, California farmers are cutting on-farm air pollution by 70%, improving public health and saving money by doing less.

two men inspect a wheat field

Fourth-generation dairy farmer Dino Giacomazzi and Sustainable Conservation Senior Project Manager Ladi Asgill inspect a field cultivated using clean-air practices.

During a recent visit to his farm in California's fertile San Joaquin Valley, fourth-generation dairyman Dino Giacomazzi explains, "My family has lived here for 120 years, and we have a personal interest in protecting our environment."

"The Valley's geography and increased urbanization— along with agricultural activities— have led to some pretty dirty air. I've operated for years in ways that promote clean air because farmers must lead in fixing the problem."

Less Is More

For nearly a decade, Sustainable Conservation has shown Dino and farmers like him how they can get more— like clean air and cash in their pockets— by doing less.

The "less" is called conservation tillage, a suite of low-impact cultivation practices that involves leaving crop residue in fields (imagine chopped-up corn stalks) and planting new crops on top.

convential vs conservation tillage

Standard cultivation (bottom) produces significant dust and diesel pollution. Low-impact conservation tillage cuts pollution dramatically while lowering farmers' costs.

This reduces the number of tractor passes needed to prepare fields for planting, resulting in less dust and diesel pollution. In fact, conservation tillage can cut dust pollution alone by an average of 70%.

That's a breath of fresh air for Dino and his neighbors in and around Hanford, which was ranked the second most polluted city for particulate matter by the American Lung Association in 2012.

A Growing Trend

Since Sustainable Conservation began spreading the word about conservation tillage, farmers have adopted it on more than 800,000 acres throughout the Central Valley. That's over 1,200 square miles. Nearly half of all row crops in the San Joaquin Valley are now farmed using conservation tillage.

"The 'more' of conservation tillage is that I save a ton of fuel, labor and maintenance costs because I don't use my tractor as much," says Dino. "Less pollution, lower costs... that's how you turn things around for the country's most productive farming region."

Learn more about Sustainable Conservation's work with California farmers to keep the state's skies clear.