Greenfire Farm harvests rainwater with the help of a large irrigation pond on the property, which DeLisa Lewis designed to capture the rain. (submitted)

Capture the Rain part 1: Cowichan’s Greenfire Farm picks pond

Use what you’ve got.

Cowichan’s Capture the Rain campaign

The Cowichan Watershed Board is sharing this series of profiles on landowners in our region who are doing their part to prepare for Cowichan’s changing climate by capturing rain. From small cisterns to irrigation ponds, each is collecting rainwater to supplement their garden or farm needs in the face of increasing summer droughts. More info at www.cowichanwaterchallenge.ca

DeLisa Lewis, Greenfire Farm

Who they are: Organic farmer and UBC soil scientist DeLisa Lewis moved to the Cowichan Valley in 2014 with the vision of developing a mixed organic farm.

Why they collect rainwater: The beautiful 40 acres of rolling fields she bought to develop Greenfire Farm had limited water to support the two dwellings on site let alone acres of crops, so an alternative source of water was needed to support this vision.

How they collect rainwater:

Irrigation pond: Use what you’ve got. There was a small pond on the property but it didn’t meet the needs of the farm plan. The land title includes water rights to the creek running along the property, but she hopes to never use that option as drawing from the creek affects the watershed, her neighbours, and the habitat in the creek. With careful analysis of the land it was determined that the old pond site was perfect for rainwater catchment and surface water overflows. The pond just needed to be bigger, but how big?

Calculate the need. With careful crop planning DeLisa figured the farm needed 15 to 18 weeks of consistent water supply to support five acres of mixed perennial and annual crops as well as seasonal livestock. A local excavator was consulted and a new, much larger pond was created, with a depth of 23 feet in the centre.

Results: Without interfering with existing watercourses the irrigation pond fills by the end of December with rainwater and surface water, providing that necessary 15-18 weeks of irrigation from May through August when the days are long and hot. With this increased water storing capacity Greenfire Farm was able to grow, offering a small CSA to the local community, and selling their produce to wholesale markets in Victoria, Nanaimo, and Tofino.

Words of water wisdom: Reflecting on building water capacity on a farm, DeLisa suggests “…using what nature provides wisely can get us through the increasingly dry summers. We are preserving and conserving to reduce impact on the land for our kids and those who live here in the future.”

Next week: Part 2, with Don and Jeanne Ross

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