Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation
University of California
Conservation Agriculture Systems Innovation

CT innovators

Alano Sano and Jesse Sanchez - 2009

This year’s CT Farmer Innovator Award recipients are Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez.

Jesse Sanchez
Jesse Sanchez
This year’s award recognizes two truly exceptional CT pioneers.  In a number of very significant ways, Alan and Jesse epitomize the intent of this prestigious CT 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 Alan and Jesse have made in developing highly efficient and resource-conserving strip-till tomato production systems over the past several years.

Alan Sano is the co-owner of Sano Farm, a 4000-acre farm in western Fresno County and Jesse Sanchez is the Farm Manager who works directly with Alan on their innovative systems.  In past years, it produced a variety of crops including cotton, melons and tomatoes, however, during about the past four or so years, it exclusively produces processing tomatoes on its annual cropland.

Together, they have developed nothing short of truly revolutionary tomato production systems that are based on conservation tillage, the inclusion of off-season cover crops, and highly efficient and innovative management.

In 2004, Sano Farms embarked upon a production program for their processing tomato acreage that dramatically reduced tillage passes while including off-season triticale, and more recently, barley cover crops as a means for adding organic matter to their permanent, subsurface drip-irrigated beds.  Soon after their initial success with strip-tilled tomatoes, Alan and Jesse began what has turned out to be a very generous and gracious series of tours, interviews and public service activities for the CT Workgroup.  In 2005, they hosted the CT Workgroup’s Farm Tour Conference by sharing their production practices with over 90 attendees and by hosting a very well received luncheon at their immaculate shop yard.

In 2006, they hosted longtime CT tomato farmer, Steve Groff of Pennsylvania, in an evening visit at their farm that within 24 hours was reported on to other North American CT farmers by Steve’s extensive communication network.

Alano Sano
Alano Sano
They also hosted a number of other groups that year including Tony Turkovich (2007 CT Farmer Innovator Award recipient), Bruce Rominger and Gene Miyao of Yolo County, a group of processing tomato producers from the Dominican Republic and a large group of farmers from Mexico.

In 2007, both Alan and Jesse took part as presenters in the Strip-till / No-till Workshop put on by the CT Workgroup in Five Points, and Alan also participated in this event as a panelist speaker.

Their fuel-saving CT systems have also recently been featured in an extensive article in AG ALERT that focused on Jesse Sanchez and Jim Couto, also of Fresno County and one of our two 2007 CT Farmer Innovator Award recipients.

In 2008, working with Monte Bottens and Alan Hoekstra of CalAgSolutions, Alan and Jesse experimented with and refined the use of modified Orthman 1-tRipR strip-till units ahead of their tomato transplanters.  These units are ground-driven and greatly sped up the strip-till operation.

Alan Sano and Jesse Sanchez are true innovators. They are major CT leaders and pioneers who have created astonishing advances in CT systems for a new crop that previously has not had real reduced till practices available to it.  The essence of their innovative CT system involves permanent, 60” tomato beds, subsurface drip irrigation, winter cover crops (when water allocations have been sufficient to allow their growth), strip-tillage in the tomato transplant line, and minimum postharvest tillage that is effectively a two-pass operation with a Wilcox Performer.  This system that they have perfected has been highlighted in two UC Agriculture and Natural Resource Division peer-reviewed publications and in a recent summary article that we provide here to everyone today.

Both Alan and Jesse epitomize the ideals of the CT Workgroup by also sharing their insights and innovations.  They have been “ever ready” to help whenever they can and they have, without question, advanced the work of our CT Workgroup ahead considerably.

Because of their innovations, their generosity and their tenacious spirit of overcoming obstacles, they are truly deserving of our Workgroup’s CT Farmer Innovator Award for 2009.  They have made major contributions to the development of CT systems for tomatoes and are extremely deserving of this prestigious award.

Alan and Jesse have made simply huge contributions to the development of knowledge and to the expansion of CT systems in the Central San Joaquin Valley.  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 CT Farmer Innovator Award and are uniquely qualified to receive this honor this year.

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