Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Danny Ramos - 2013

Danny Ramos (Photo: Patrick Cavenaugh)
Danny Ramos (Photo: Patrick Cavenaugh)
Author: Jeff Mitchell

Danny Ramos is the manager for The Morningstar Company’s Lucero Farms Central San Joaquin Valley crop production activities.  He is responsible for the company’s farming operations and is also the one who develops efficient production paradigms for crop productivity and quality for the largest processing tomato production company in the world. The tremendous initiatives that he has instituted within Morningstar during the past few years in terms of implementing a whole host of conservation tillage practices for tomatoes, corn and cover crops are nothing short of phenomenal and abundantly qualify him for our Workgroup’s 2013 Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator Award. Danny is a unique person with respect to his drive toward CT and is thus quite deserving of our prestigious Workgroup recognition.

Danny began the very ambitious conservation tillage work of Morningstar back in 2010 when he initiated a series of demonstration evaluations involving the use of off-season cover crops coupled with minimum and strip-till management for tomato production in 2011. He himself organized very well coordinated farm field evaluations of different cover crops, different cover crop management, followed by strip-till and minimum tillage in both Hollister and Madera and invited CASI Workgroup members to work with him to evaluate the performance of these approaches. This initial season of experimentation provided him with several insights and the determination to improve this CT approach in the 2012 season. During these early efforts, he created each of the implements needed to perform these operations including an 8-row 60 inch strip-tiller that was the first such implement ever built. 

Following this first season of exploratory CT work which Danny allowed our University of California Cooperative Extension team to monitor at both the Hollister and Madera sites, he then geared up to expand the use of cover crop CT systems for not only additional tomato acreage in 2012, but also some of the rotation land that Morningstar farms to corn.  He prepared a 16-row 30 inch strip-tiller that he used to strip-till into burned down cover crop ahead of corn planting with a John Deere no-till planter that he had equipped with precision monitors and GPS.  He graciously held a field day for students in the class of Ken Heupel at California State University, Fresno in May of 2012 out at the Madera site and he very carefully and thoroughly walked students through the entire CT program that he has developed.  This field day was a very generous effort on the part of Danny and because I was also there with him that day, I witnessed firsthand the tremendous impact he had on these students in terms of demonstrating to them just how innovation takes place and the attention to equipment detail that is required to succeed with successful conservation tillage alternatives.   He also has very graciously provided on-site visits and observations to CASI tomato studies underway at the WSREC in Five Points, CA and has given staff at the field station guidance and advice regarding tomato transplanter equipment.

Earlier this spring, Danny also graciously took part in the video production CASI has now created on conservation tillage tomato production systems.  He is prominently featured in this video and forthrightly shares with people who will watch this video the steps he and Morningstar have taken to make CT tomato production systems successful.

From the footage of Ramos in this video, it is clear just how committed to CT that he and Morningstar are but also just how successful any sort of production system change must be in order for them to accept and adopt it at a wider scale.  Balancing the long-term benefits to the soil that may be accruing with CT over time with the immediate need to be profitable, efficient and able to produce high quality processed tomato products, is the production goal that Ramos and Morningstar seek to achieve. 

In 2012, Danny also did something with CT that had previously never been contemplated and certainly not tried in California. He effectively ‘double cropped’ tomatoes and strip-tilled corn in the same field. 

Then, in 2013, he made a huge positive out of a near-failed wheat crop due to the drought and limited irrigation allocations to no-till plant and irrigate up cotton on the 60 inch beds he rotates tomatoes and wheat on in a field in South Dos Palos out on Nees Avenue near I-5.  In doing this, he took considerable risk by doing something that has not been done on significant acreage in the San Joaquin Valley since our very first CT Farmer Innovator Awardee, Bob Prys, did it in a small 28-acre field in Riverdale. Danny’s stand is now up and following some rather anxious days during which he carefully watched the crop emerge, he has now declared that it has been successful and he also graciously hosted a public no-till field day event there on May 30 as part of our CASI educational offerings. When asked by a UC Davis student, Annie Bossange, why he is doing this no-till approach, Danny answered, ‘Because it is a challenge.’  It is this attitude of taking on quite hard CT challenges that has characterized Danny’s phenomenal accomplishments to date.  He is abundantly qualified and deserving of our Workgroup’s 2013 CT Farmer Innovator Award and we very enthusiastically congratulate him for this high honor.

It is highly fitting that our Workgroup honor Danny Ramos as a 2013 CT Farmer Innovator.

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