Early adopters with can-do attitudes, Bruce and Rick Rominger are at the agricultural community’s forefront when it comes to innovation and adaptability. They couple a willingness to take risks with a strong conservation ethic. In other words, these fifth-generation farmers are committed to growing crops and managing rangeland in ways that protect and enhance the environment.
The Romingers realize today’s farm must be environmentally and economically sustainable. They achieve this balance while growing wine grapes, rice, wheat, processing tomatoes, safflower, corn, onions, sunflower, alfalfa and oat hay on 6,000 acres in Yolo County.
The Romingers understand the connection between improving their soil’s health and feeding a growing planet. They build soil by planting cover crops, adding compost and utilizing crop residues. Cover crops are planted on hillside vineyards to minimize soil erosion and improve water quality. Sheep are grazed instead of using pesticides on some fields.
In addition to conserving water, they switched from surface irrigation to a buried drip system for their tomato crop to reduce soil erosion, produce fewer weeds, lower labor costs and increase yields. Tomatoes that yield 50 percent above average levels help fund other conservation practices.
To improve wildlife habitat, the Romingers have planted miles of hedgerows, and diverted irrigation water from rice fields to provide shorebird habitat. The hedgerows and a compost trial on processing tomatoes are monitored for research purposes.
With funding from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Romingers restored a 15-acre riparian corridor by planting native vegetation and installing fencing. A new cattle watering system, including a new well and solar-powered pump, provides wider distribution of drinking water for better grazing management on their rangeland.
The restored corridor connects a wetland with a blue oak woodland, a critical California habitat. More than 330 different wildlife species depend on oak woodlands to survive. The Romingers manage the area to reduce the threats of development, low survival of oak seedlings and Sudden Oak Death disease.
The Romingers have also placed agriculture land easements on portions of the ranch to preserve forever their grazing and conservation values with the California Rangeland Trust and NRCS.
Bruce and Rick Rominger provide leadership to the farming community through one-on-one interaction with other growers, as presenters at workshops, and by hosting tours to diverse audiences, including youth. Both serve on various agriculture, water district and education boards.