Dry Farm

Home of the dry farming project

Dry Farming Project

It is important to note that dry farming is not a new way of farming, but knowledge sharing has been limited because practices have primarily been passed down from farmer to farmer. Compounded by the fact that there is only a very small subset of farmers that experiment with dry farming and an even smaller number have extensive experience in these farming practices, the OSU Extension Dry Farm Project plans to explore, revive, and expand awareness of dry farming.

The Dry Farming Project began in 2013 with case studies of farms in Western Oregon (Garrett 2013; Garrett 2014) and Northern California (coordinated by Community Alliance with Family Farmers) that dry farm a variety of fruit and vegetable crops. These case studies revealed a suite of management practices that support crop production without supplemental irrigation including: careful timing of tillage, keeping soil surface loose to conserve moisture in the root zone (also know as dirt or dust mulch), improving soil quality and water retention with organic matter addition (cover crops, compost, rotational grazing), increased plant spacing, and use of drought-resistant varieties.

There have been dry demonstrations in Western Oregon every year since 2015 (learn more about dry farming demonstrations)

In 2016 the Dry Farming Project expanded to include:

  1. Three dry farming demonstration and field days at OSU Extension research locations in Western Oregon.
  2. Ten on-farm trials throughout Western Oregon.
  3. Growing Resilience: Water Management Workshop Series (funded in part by Western SARE) was organized to increase our knowledge and awareness of how Oregon growers are being affected by drought, expand our toolbox of drought mitigation tools and strategies, and educate agricultural producers and professionals about management practices and strategies for farming with little or no irrigation.
  4. Dry Farming Collaborative - a group of farmers, extension educators, plant breeders, and agricultural professionals partnering to increase knowledge and awareness of dry farming management practices with a hands-on participatory approach. The original function of the DFC was to facilitate farmer-to-farmer information sharing as growers started to experiment and establish their own dry farming trials

Upcoming and Recent Events......

Presentation for the Marion County Master Gardener's Association

Strategies for Growing without Irrigation in Western Oregon

November 21st at 7pm

Salem Public Library (585 Liberty St. SE, Salem, OR

Free and open to the public


Douglas County Dry Farming Forum on January 24th.

Details will be announced soon....


Recently published on Dry Farming Project....

Article in Rural Connections Magazine

Article in Oregon's Agricultural Progress Magazine

Video - Adapting to a Changing Climate: Conserving Water with Dry Farming Management Practices


California Ag Water Stewardship Initiative - The California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative (CAWSI) aims to raise awareness about approaches to agricultural water management that support the viability of agriculture, conserve water, and protect ecological integrity in California.

Cascadia Drought Group - The Cascadia Drought Group is a volunteer group exploring coherent responses to living with drought at the scale of the small farm, and rural & urban-homestead, in the Cascadian bioregion.

Common Misconceptions and Key Points About Dry Farming: Case Study of Dry Farmer with More than 40 Years of Experience - A 2014 case study of a grower who farmed in CA without any form of irrigation for 40 years before retiring to 9.6 acres in Veneta, OR in 2007 where he now farms with no water rights.

Dry Farming: A System of Agriculture for Countries Under Low Rainfall - A 1911 text about dry farming including information on dry farming conditions, soils, root systems, soil water storage, evaporation & transpiration, crops, and cultivation implements. Available free online.

Dry Farming Vegetables: One Farmer's Approach to Building Soil, Conserving Water, and Producing Great Tasting Tomatoes - A 2013 case study of Jeannie Berg, a fruit and vegetable grower in Monmouth, OR.

Dryland Farming in the Northwestern United States: A Non-technical Overview - This publication discusses and describes the process of dryland grain farming, specifically in the Pacific Northwest.

Gardening Without Irrigation: or Without Much Anyway - Gardening expert Steve Solomon has written extensively on gardening techniques for the home gardener. Water conservation is the focus of this work, along with more information on how to have the healthiest plants in your garden through "fertigation", appropriate plant rotation, and soil preparation. (Summary by Brenda Price)

Growing Food in a Hotter, Drier Land: Lessons from Desert Farmers on Adapting to Climate Uncertainty - Gary Paul Nabhan is one of the world's experts on the agricultural traditions of arid lands. For this book he has visited indigenous and traditional farmers in the Gobi Desert, the Arabian Peninsula, the Sahara Desert, and Andalusia, as well as the Sonoran, Chihuahuan, and Painted deserts of North America, to learn firsthand their techniques and designs aimed at reducing heat and drought stress on orchards, fields, and dooryard gardens.

Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades - Evolved from a self-published pamphlet to the master guide to organic vegetable gardening, this book by Steve Solomon includes updates on latest findings on seed sources, refinements in growing and cultivation techniques, and other organic gardening best practices.

OSU Extension Water Management Workshop Series - This workshop series, funded by an Oregon SARE Mini-Grant, focused on drought mitigation tools and management practices for farming with little or no irrigation. Materials from this course are available free online.

The Resilient Gardener: Food Production and Self-Reliance in Uncertain Times - Scientist and expert gardener Carol Deppe draws from emerging science in many fields to develop the general principles of gardening for resilience. Gardeners will learn through Deppe's detailed instructions on growing, storing, and using the five crops central to self-reliance: potatoes, corn, beans, squash, and eggs.

Water-Wise Vegetables - This book shows how to grow a lush, productive vegetable garden with minimal watering. Author Steve Solomon includes information on irrigation, mulching, site and seed selection, and explanations of how plants use water and how to prepare soil for effieient water usage.

Dry Farming Project Presentations

Dry Farming Collaborative: Participatory Climate Adaptation Research

  • PDF (Poster presentation)
  • Northwest Climate Conference, Tacoma, WA, October 2017.

Dry Farming in the maritime Pacific Northwest

  • PDF
  • International Master Gardener Conference, Portland, July 2017.

Dry Farming Collaborative: Co-creating the future of how we manage water on our farms

  • PDF | video
  • Climate Impacts to Water Conference, Jan 2016; Organicology, Feb 2016.

Dry Farming Vegetables

  • PDF
  • North Willamette Horticulture Society Meeting, Jan 2016; InFARMATION, Jan 2016.

Growing without Irrigation

  • PDF | video
  • Oregon Small Farms Conference, Feb 2016.

Participatory Plant Breeding for Dry Farmed Systems

  • video
  • Oregon Small Farms Conference, Feb 2016.

Dry Farming Collaborative

Initiated in the spring of 2016, we are a group of growers, extension educators, plant breeders, and agricultural professionals partnering to increase knowledge and awareness of dry farming management practices with a hands-on participatory approach. 

The Dry Farming Collaborative (DFC) is exploring what crop varietals perform well dry farmed in our bioregion. All of the crop varietals selected for replication in 2017 were grown at the OSU Lewis Brown Research Farm. In addition, there are 30 DFC sites throughout Western Oregon and Washington that hosted dry farming trials. The DFC selected which crop varietals they wanted to grow for our replicated trials and many also conducted experimental trials of their own. To see what crops were grown for our 2017 DFC Replicated Variety Trials click here.

Twelve DFC sites also hosted tours for our field days in August 2017! Participants learned about dry farming, saw crops (tomatoes, potatoes, squash, melon, zucchini, dry beans, corn, orchard crops) grown with little or no supplemental irrigation in the field.

Winter meeting will be scheduled soon! This will be a great venue to meet other dry farmers, learn about results from this year's trials. Join the Dry Farming Collaborative FaceBook group for project updates or contact Amy Garrett (amy.garrett@oregonstate.edu) to join the email list if you are interested in hosting a dry farming trial of your own.


Dry farmed perrenial systems meeting

A group of Dry Farming Collaborative members and OSU scientist convened in July of 2017 to discuss interests, resources, and opportunities for dry farmed perennial systems in our regions.

Dry farmed perrenial systems meeting notes (pdf)

Status: pursuing grant funding for dry farmed orchard establishment rootstock evaluation and case studies.



First winter Meeting was held on December 6, 2016 at the Mary's River Grange.

2016 DFC Winter Meeting at the Mary's River Grange

2016 Report - summary of results and observations from the dry farming trial at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture.

2017 Demonstrations

Dry Farming Trial Hosts 

For those involved in planning our 2017 trials, contact Amy Garrett (amy.garrett@oregonstate.edu).

See guidelines for our 2017 Replicated Variety Trials with the Dry Farming Collaborative here.

2016 Demonstrations

Four sites in Western Oregon hosted Dry Farming Field Days in 2016!

Nearly 200 participants attended one or more of the 2016 field days to learn more about dry farming, see crops (tomatoes, squash, melon, potatoes) grown without any supplemental irrigation in the field, observe roots from soil pits in irrigated and dry farmed plots, do side-by-side tastings of dry farmed and irrigated tomatoes and melons, and talk to experienced dry farmers.
Tuesday August 2nd  - Southern Oregon
4-7 pm:  Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center
569 Hanley Rd, Central Point, OR 97502
Tuesday August 9th – South Valley
3-5 pm:  OSU Vegetable Research Farm
34306 NE Electric Rd, Corvallis, OR 97333
4-7 pm :  Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture
844 SW 35th St, Corvallis, OR 97333
Tuesday August 23rd – North Valley
4-7 pm:  North Willamette Research and Extension Center
15210 NE Miley Rd, Aurora, OR 97002

The 2016 Dry Farming Field Days are part of the Growing Resilience: Water Management Workshop Series. To learn more about upcoming sessions and see video recordings of past sessions visit: http://smallfarms.oregonstate.edu/wmws

2016 Dry Farming Demonstration Report

2015 Demonstrations

Dry Farming Demonstration launched in 2015 in Corvallis

In 2015, three 10’ x 100’ plots were established at Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH) to demonstrate dry farming management practices in several crops including dry beans, tomatoes, potatoes, squash and melon. Varieties and management practices were selected based on interviews with several established growers experienced in dry farming. Absolutely no irrigation was applied to these plots.

This project is funded in part by the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture under the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program.

See articles on this dry farming demonstration in the Capital Press as well as the 2015 Summer edition of Oregon Small Farm News!


2015 Dry Farming Field Day

A Dry Farming Field Day was held on August 3, 2015 at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (844 SW 35th St.) in Corvallis, Oregon. More than a hundred farmers and gardeners attended to learn more about growing without irrigation and do taste comparisons of dry farmed and irrigated melons and tomatoes.

Summary and Resource Sheet for 2015 Dry Farming Demo - Includes varieties, planting date, plant spacing, harvest date, some preliminary yeild data, and soil preparation description for 2015 Dry Farming Demonstration plots.

Dry Farming Demo Plot Map - see layout of plots and varieties

See pictures of each plot througout the growing season:

Fabaceae Plot (Dry Beans)

Curcurbit Plot (Squash, Cucumber, Zucchini, Melon)

Solanaceae Plot (Tomato and Potato)


Learn more about results from past dry farm trials, future directions for this project, and how the OSU Extension dry farm project has evolved into regional movement!