Esteban Martinez of JW Farms grows organic strawberries on 21 acres in coastal Monterey County. He’s been farming for 20 years and purchased the land where he currently grows in 2017. The rolling hills and sandy soils characteristic of this agricultural region make the landscape prone to erosion particularly during heavy rains.
To mitigate this erosion, improve soil health and increase biodiversity on his farm, Esteban has successfully secured two Healthy Soils Program (HSP) grants. The first grant in 2018 helped him plant a hedgerow along two edges of one 14-acre field including natives like ceanothus, coffee berry, coyote brush and toyon. The second project funded in 2021 will allow Esteban to extend the hedgerow this year for a total of 5,200 feet from both grants. He plans to incorporate edible trees like mulberry and elderberry for an additional diversified source of income. The perennial hedgerows contribute to soil health by covering the surface of the soil, reducing wind and water erosion, and establishing deep roots that promote water infiltration and carbon storage.
“The hedgerows have helped with erosion control. But they also attract pollinators and beneficial insects, beautify the farm, and act as a barrier to the synthetic inputs from the adjacent farm.” –Esteban Martinez
Esteban also received an Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) grant through NRCS to install a catchment basin and underground drainage outlets. This project significantly reduced the amount of soil that would previously wash into the creek with rain and irrigation, allowing him to retain the top soils on site. The catchment basin also provides habitat for biodiversity and protects the creek from sediment and runoff from surrounding agriculture.
Esteban noted that another important practice for building and maintaining healthy soil is the ability to rest agricultural land for seasons at a time. However, on such expensive property, farmers cannot afford to sacrifice production without financial support.
As the ambitious and strategic farmer that he is, Esteban is also working to establish a farmer cooperative with other regional growers as an alternative sales outlet for his neighbors and fellow growers. Thank you to Esteban Martinez and Sacha Lozano of Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District for making this farmer profile possible.
We previously published a shorter version of Esteban’s farmer profile on our “Elevate Farmer Voices” webpage.