Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser - 2017

2017 Conservation Tillage Farmer Innovator Award

February 28, 2018

In 2005, California’s Conservation Tillage and Cropping Systems Workgroup, now known as the Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation Center, established the Conservation Agriculture Farmer Innovator Award as a means for providing greater visibility to CA pioneers in California. The criteria for this award are – demonstrated innovation and leadership in the development, refinement and use of conservation agriculture systems within the California crop production environment.  Nominations are received and carefully reviewed by a Workgroup panel and recipients are announced at an appropriate and fitting occasion. 

This year’s conservation agriculture Farmer Innovator Award recipients are Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser. 

This year’s award recognizes two truly exceptional pioneers. In several very significant ways, Paul and Elizabeth epitomize the intent of this prestigious Conservation Agriculture Workgroup award and they continue and indeed, enhance our tradition of acknowledging truly outstanding innovation and achievement.

The Conservation Tillage Workgroup’s 2009 CT Farmer Innovator Awards are made in recognition of the truly pioneering progress that Paul and Elizabeth have made in developing highly efficient and resource-conserving production systems over the past several years. Let me now briefly share with you highlights of the nomination package for the Kaisers that was prepared by Tom Willey.

United States Peace Corps alumni, Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser cultivate an intensive three-acres of vegetables at their Sebastopol Singing Frogs Farm.

Paul, a degreed agroforester, established the remainder of their eight-acre property to ponds, native perennial hedgerows and pollinator habitat, features he claims eliminate the need for pest control measures.

Their unique no-till system, unprecedented in organic vegetable farming, is key to Singing Frogs’ immense productivity, yielding annual gross sales of $100,000 per acre.

Virtually weed-free permanent beds, top-dressed with several inches of compost, can be cleared of one finished crop’s residue of a morning, then replanted to another from the greenhouse that same afternoon.

Such rapid turnaround of garden beds enables the Kaisers to harvest five sequential market crops over twelve months in a climate with fewer than 228 frost-free days.

A year’s total $300,000 gross revenue, garnered from four nearby warm-season farmers’ markets (two year-round) and their 120-member CSA, provides four employees with $15 per hour wages and the Kaisers with a $60,000 net, none of whom, Paul swears, work more than 40 hours weekly. Not owning or maintaining tractors and tillage equipment saves money -- acquiring land in Sonoma County does not. Singing Frogs’ never-tilled, generously composted soil has measured 10% organic matter content of late (at 12-inch depth), sequestering significant amounts of carbon while optimizing the soil microbiome’s nutrient cycling capacity

Paul & Elizabeth further the spirit of past Peace Corps service as passionate educators, speaking and conducting workshops at numerous conferences where they freely share the ‘nuts and bolts’ of Singing Frogs’ unique, intensive, no-till system with farmers who believe that only tractors and iron can wrest production from their soils. In addition to many public and private farm tours over the years, of late, the Kaisers have been hosting hands-on, full-day, intensive training session at Singing Frogs Farm for groups of twenty farmers and homesteaders.

Paul and Elizabeth have made simply huge contributions to the development of knowledge and to the expansion of innovative conservation agriculture systems in the California.

The quality of their innovations is unmatched and they have been ever willing to graciously share their knowledge with others.   They personify the intent of our Conservation Agriculture Farmer Innovator Award and are uniquely qualified to receive this honor this year.

Congratulations, Paul and Elizabeth Kaiser!

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