Threemile Canyon Farms' irrigation system is finely tuned to apply precise amounts of water and organic fertilizer to crops.

Threemile Canyon Farms' irrigation system is finely tuned to apply precise amounts of water and organic fertilizer to crops.

Water is a valuable resource at Threemile Canyon Farms. Our 93,000-acre farm lies just south of the Columbia River and west of Boardman in the dry juniper-and-sage lands of Oregon's Columbia Basin. The sun shines 300 days a year and average annual rainfall is less than eight inches.

As one of the largest center-pivot irrigation farms in North America, we have brought 37,000 arid acres into cultivation while using water wisely. Our state-of-the-art irrigation system minimizes water lost to evaporation or over watering. We recycle all of the water on our farm that isn't used for drinking. And we use dairy compost on our fields to help the soil retain water.

Preserving water resources

We work hard to reduce the environmental impact of our farming activities on the Northwest's water resources. When our farm was first established, we voluntarily placed limits on our allowed acres of irrigated land as well as the amount of water that we use from the Columbia River. Threemile Canyon Farms also contributed $1.25 million to The Fresh Water Trust (formerly known as the Oregon Water Trust) to help restore habitat by enhancing stream flows into the Columbia River and its tributaries.

Every drop counts

Our state-of-the-art irrigation system and closed loop farming practices provide:

  • Comprehensive monitoring: A 100 square-mile Wi-Fi network - the first in the nation on this scale - keeps second-by-second tabs on the operation of each of our 322 irrigation circles. Water-pressure monitors and variable speed pumps allow us to maintain specific pressures at key points around the farm in the most energy efficient manner.
  • Weather data collection: Our system collects extensive historical weather information as well as present conditions. This allows our farm managers to adjust irrigation needs hourly, daily and monthly.
  • Precision irrigation sprinkler packages: Each crop circle averages a half-mile in diameter. Sophisticated software calibrates water application for each sprinkler head. We recalibrate or change sprinkler packages to reflect changes in crop rotation and soil or field conditions within each individual crop circle.
  • Sophisticated soil-moisture measurement: Extensive sampling of soil conditions using neutron probes and real time GPS based electro conductivity moisture sensors allows our irrigation managers to customize application of irrigation water and fertilizer.
  • Pipe modifications: Flow meters on pipes register exactly how much water we are using on a second-to-second basis. This allows us to meet exacting standards on our use of Columbia River water.
  • 24/7 rapid response: Around-the-clock monitoring by our employees allows irrigation system breaks or blockages to be fixed immediately.
  • Green-water' application: Water used to flush dairy waste is collected in clay-lined settling lagoons on our farm. The filtered organic liquids are then injected into our mainline irrigation system and applied at agronomic rates to fertilize growing crops. We have the ability to apply green-water on a circle by circle basis to meet all pre-harvest intervals required by our customers.
  • Long-term soil and crop improvement: Extensive use of dairy compost and cover crops continues to improve the tilth and water-retention properties of our soil. By developing our own seed sources, as we do with our Grand Ronde Seed Farm for potatoes, we can start at the beginning to ensure healthier plants.

Landmark agreements

We settled a six-year dispute over drawing water from the Columbia River in 2000 by helping orchestrate an agreement with seven conservation groups. We voluntarily placed more than a fourth of our farm into a conservation area to preserve native habitat and gave back a portion of our water rights. We also brought formerly uncultivated land into agricultural production, providing valuable products and jobs while building one of the Northwest's leading sustainable farms.

Control central: Keeping tabs on water use

Miguel Sepulveda controls our irrigation pivots

Miguel Sepulveda controls our irrigation pivots

From our "control central," Threemile Canyon Farms' irrigation manager can keep second-by-second tabs on the operation of the farm's extensive irrigation system. Our 100 square-mile Wi-Fi network feeds information to the center so managers can carefully control water use around the farm.

Threemile Canyon Farms continues to look for new and innovative ways to be even more efficient with our water use as well as provide leadership in variable rate irrigation and green-water application.