LOR’s Field Work initiative invests more than $535,000 in research led by individual farmers and ranchers that investigates innovative approaches to using water in agriculture.
As the Mountain West faces the worst drought in the past 1,200 years, demand for agricultural food products is expected to increase by as much as 98 percent by 2050, putting Western farmers and ranchers on the frontlines of the fight to solve water challenges. Too often, however, funding for innovative techniques that might improve water usage is hard to access and slow to reach the experts on the ground. That’s why LOR launched Field Work.
Through Field Work, farmers and ranchers in rural parts of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming were eligible for up to $10,000 to implement innovative water projects on their land (think: improved water efficiency, water reliability, water quality, crop yield or crop diversification, and labor efficiency). Our goal was to get money quickly into the hands of the people in the field and on the ranch who have the potential solutions.
Over three weeks in February, LOR received more than 250 proposals from producers across all five states. Their innovative projects revealed some important trends among Western farmers and ranchers: the need for more and better pipes, nozzles, and gates to move water efficiently; investment in technology-enabled methods of supplying—and monitoring—remote or hard to access areas with water; a growing interest in how soil amendments like wool, fungi, and biochar can improve water retention and soil health; a return to holistic and Indigenous methods of catching, retaining, and spreading water (e.g., earthworks, waterplanting, underground greenhouses, beaver dam analog structures), and more.
This spring, LOR selected 61 projects, investing a total of $538,802 into research led by farmers and ranchers. Their projects will get underway later this spring and summer. These folks are the experimenters, tinkerers, innovators, and iterators who—while Western states agonize over how to resolve antiquated water compacts—have been finding ways to eke out a living from the land for years. They're people who have a vested interest in finding ways to use water more effectively—for their own operations and for the good of the West. Ultimately, we hope their research reveals the best solutions for using water efficiently to grow food and sustain thriving communities in the West while in the grip of desperate drought.
Learn about the 61 Field Work projects.
If you’d like to receive updates regarding Field Work projects and learnings, please provide your contact information below. If you would also like to receive information about other funding opportunities and resources via LOR’s monthly email, please note that in your message. Thank you.