Enhancing Crop Diversity: Steve and Becky Camp

Enhancing Crop Diversity: Steve and Becky Camp

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Georgine Yorgey, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Sylvia Kantor, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, Washington State University, Kate Painter, Department of Agricultural Economics & Rural Sociology, University of Idaho, Leigh Bernacchi, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho, Hilary Davis, Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Idaho, Dennis Roe, Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, Washington State University

Steve and Becky Camp farm near LaCrosse, Washington, in an area receiving about 12–14 inches of annual precipitation. In this publication, the Camps discuss their strategy for diversifying and intensifying their rotations with crops including canola, camelina, spring and winter peas, and barley. Alongside direct seeding, this strategy helps them to benefit long-term soil quality.

This case study is part of the Farmer-to-Farmer Case Study project, which explores innovative approaches regional farmers are using that may increase their resilience in the face of a changing climate.

Information presented is based on growers’ experiences and expertise and should not be considered as university recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement. Grower quotes have been edited slightly for clarity, without changing the meaning.

Readers interested in other case studies in this series can access them at on the REACCH website, as well as in the WSU Extension Learning Library.

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Photo: Sylvia Kantor
Location: Lacrosse, WA

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.

Map: Kaelin Hamel-Rieken, Washington State University


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.



Copyright 2016 Washington State University

Published October, 2016

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