Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Darrell and Trevor Cordova - 2014

Darrell and Trevor Cordova
Darrell and Trevor are unusually tenacious, committed and skilled farmers who would be most deserving of CASI’s high award this year. Darrell and his wife, Norma, along with their son, Trevor, farm a very unique mixture of crops including corn, wheat, triticale and almonds up along the foothills east of the main San Joaquin Valley floor. Their land is undulating and challenging and through the innovations he has developed over the past ten or so years, Darrell and Trevor have now completely dedicated himself and his farming operations to conservation tillage. The path they followed to get to this place is unique in the annals of farming in California. Nothing that they has accomplished has come easily and it is in part because of this that they received this recognition.

Darrell and Trevor first began their initial ventures into conservation tillage back in July of 2003 when they summoned a group of UC Cooperative Extension workers including Ron Vargas, agronomy and weed advisor in Madera and Merced counties, Anil Shrestha, then UC IPM Weed Ecologist, and Jeff Mitchell of the CT Workgroup to his farm to begin a dialogue about his interest in trying various conservation tillage approaches for the edible dry bean, wheat rotation that he then employed at his farm. It would be an understatement to say that “Darrell and Trevor jumped into these early investigations with both feet.” They were way back then quite inquisitive and eager to make reduced tillage farming work at his farm and during a number of those early trials that he conducted with this CE team, he and they learned an awful lot about how things might go wrong. At that time, Darrell also called upon Ralph Cesena, Sr. one of the 2013 CT Private Sector Innovator Award recipients. Ralph advised Darrell and worked with him to try no-till bean seeding using a Buffalo slot seeder. He also tried quite successfully to plant no-till winter small grain crops following his summer beans.

During those early efforts, however, there were challenges that Darrell and Trevor encountered. Weed management and figuring out how to manage weeds in beans and wheat were to be major impediments to Darrell being able to continue his CT practices and thus during those early days, he ended up developing a minimum tillage approach that he refined to great success that involved a shallow disking operation before crop changes. Darrell hosted our workgroup for a major field day during those early times and was most generous in sharing information with folks in attendance.

Then, sure of his newly developed ‘min till’ approaches, Darrell continued using them for a number of years from about 2004 through 2012 or so. Then, after purchasing and learning to successfully and profitably operate a new 135-acre center pivot irrigation system, and also because of a new dairy operation that was set up adjacent to his farm, Darrell began to become interested in producing dairy silage crops that he would have a ready market for. With this new rotation scheme, Darrell resurrected his interest and passion for no-tillage and from 2012 through this year, he has developed no-till capabilities for both his summer silage corn and also his winter forage mixes. At first, when he was comparing results from the no-till part of his field to his conventional tillage sector, he was quite literally amazed to find that the corn grew well and was not only taller, but also greener under his no-till management. That fact and his ability to accomplish no-till convinced Darrell to buy both a new 8-row no-till planter and also a 20-ft no-till drill in 2014 that he now uses quite effectively.

He graciously hosted a major international field tour group with NRCS and UC Davis in the spring of 2014 to show participants his successful CT systems. He also is a frequent and very reliable Workgroup member and has always been someone we can count on to come through with solid information and knowledge. While quite a soft-spoken personality, Darrell commands respect by virtue of his hard work and the very dedicated tenacity he has for farming successfully. He is also a graduate of the Ag Leadership program and in this particular regard, Darrell is a simply superb ambassador for farming and the importance of agriculture.

Darrell and his son, Trevor, are, we thus believe, most deserving candidates for our CT Farmer Innovator Award. They are folks who ‘came of age’ and matured during the very time our Workgroup was operating and extending information about CT alternatives. Darrell and Trevor have made simply major strides in their ability to use CT practices at their farm and are now truly two of our Workgroup’s most outspoken ‘champions’ for these innovative conservation agriculture systems.

They continue to serve as an important advisor to our ongoing CT and center pivot irrigation work and Darrell is a partner with our team on this work.

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