Agricultural lands provide valuable habitat for wildlife like deer
Deer passing through crops Agricultural lands provide valuable habitat for wildlife like deer © Hamilton Wallace

Stories in Idaho

Providing Food and Water Sustainably in Idaho

Feeding a growing population while promoting a healthy environment and helping communities thrive.

HEALTHY SOILS, CLEAN WATER

When you think about conservation in Idaho, agriculture may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, agriculture, an industry that depends entirely on healthy lands and freshwater, plays a critical role in Idaho’s environmental health.

Idaho produces a lot of food for the U.S. and the world. It ranks first in the nation in the production of potatoes, barley, and commercial trout. Due in part to irrigation, Idaho is also the third largest water user in the U.S., consuming 19.5 billion gallons per day of freshwater.

In 2018, The Nature Conservancy launched the Healthy Soils, Clean Water Program, an initiative to provide food and water sustainably in Idaho. We will focus on implementing farm practices that improve soil health and working with dairies to improve manure management.

Goals

  • Support economic viability of Idaho’s agriculture community
  • Improve soil health and water quality
  • Address water scarcity and climate change

USING NATURE TO FIGHT CLIMATE CHANGE

Natural climate solutions like improved agriculture practices can reduce one fifth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a recently published peer-reviewed article in Science Advances.

Improved manure management and using cover crops — practices we’ll introduce through the Healthy Soils, Clean Water Program — are among the most impactful ways we can fight climate change in Idaho.

 

This project has real value to us, particularly as we look to identify meaningful ways to maintain, or even increase, the farm's value for our children.

Teton Valley Farmer

 

COLLABORATING WITH IDAHO’S FARMERS AND RANCHERS

The Penfolds have been successfully growing seed potatoes in eastern Idaho for generations. But they also know that innovation is key to the future of agriculture. They were one of the first farmers in the Teton Valley to experiment with growing quinoa.

That spirit of innovation led to a partnership with TNC and Friends of the Teton River to test new crop rotations, experiment with cover crops and practice no-till farming to reduce fertilizer and pesticide inputs and improve soil health and save water. Using less water and smarter practices leads to savings and gains for farms.

"Working with The Nature Conservancy and Friends of the Teton River has allowed us to test an innovative crop rotation that we’ve been thinking about for years but never implemented due to potential economic risks,” said Wyatt Penfold. “This project has real value to us, particularly as we look to identify meaningful ways to maintain, or even increase, the farm's value for our children. This project allows us to test ways to improve soil health, adapt to changes in water availability, all while safely evaluating impact on revenue generation.”

By partnering with farmers, industry and agricultural agencies, we believe the Conservancy can help reduce the risks of change and conserve Idaho’s water, soil and air — in a big way.

Idaho Agriculture By The Numbers

  • 3.3 million acres of irrigated farmland
  • 2.1 million cattle
  • 579,000 dairy cows
  • 21% of Idaho’s economic output in sales generated by agriculture and food processing