Average Annual Precipitation: 12–14 inches
Cropping System: Diversified 3- to 5-year rotation that includes winter and spring wheat and barley, winter pea, and spring camelina or canola
Watch the companion video, Enhancing Crop Diversity: Farmer-to-Farmer Case Study Series, introducing Steve and Becky Camp and their diversified cropping rotations.
Steve and Becky Camp, fifth generation farmers, are well known for pushing the limits of what is possible for dryland production in the intermediate precipitation zone. Their attitude is summed up by Steve: “If it’s impossible, what can we do to make it possible?”
Their experimentation is guided by holistic thinking, with an eye for increasing diversity, building soil quality, and enhancing ecological resiliency. Their goals are informed by a deep commitment to acting as stewards of their land for future generations. As Becky says, “We didn’t do anything to deserve [the soil we’re farming on], or to earn it, you know. We ‘get to’ farm.”
Traveling west from the two land-grant universities in Moscow, ID, and Pullman, WA, to the Camps’ farm near Lacrosse, WA, the rolling landscape changes rather quickly from a verdant landscape of wheat, barley, chickpeas, peas, lentils, and canola to a much drier farming area with nearly half the land in summer fallow. Annual precipitation near Pullman is 22 to 24 inches but drops to 12 to 14 inches 30 miles west, on the Camps’ 3,000-acre farm. Almost all farmers in the arid western dryland wheat growing area of the Palouse use a crop rotation of winter wheat–summer fallow or winter wheat–spring grain–summer fallow.
The Camps have less fallow in their rotation than many others in their area. Their rotations are flexible, diverse, and intensified. The Camps are experimenting with spring peas and Austrian winter peas in their rotation (Figure 1). They have been raising oilseeds such as canola and camelina since 2006. From the oilseeds, they make all the biodiesel they need to operate equipment and vehicles on their farm. (See the Camelina Videos sidebar for more information.)
In 2013, the Camps were recognized by Harvesting Clean Energy, a project of the non-profit National Center for Appropriate Technology, as Agricultural Innovators of the Year for growing and producing their own renewable fuels and reducing their fossil fuel use.