Friends of Farming

 San Diego County

Altman Specialty Plants honored for environmental stewardship

22 Jan 2016 4:50 PM | Deleted user

In an annual tradition the California Farm Bureau Federation partners with the Sand County Foundation and Sustainable Conservation in presenting the Leopold Conservation Award to farmers who enhance natural resources and protect the environment while simultaneously producing agricultural products.  Ken and Matt Altman of Altman Specialty Plants were selected as one of three 2015 finalists.  Ken currently serves as San Diego County Farm Bureau President and Matt is a member of the San Diego County Farm Bureau Light Brown Apple Moth Working Group.

The other finalists were Hafenfeld Ranch of Kern County and Prather Ranch of Shasta County, which took the Leopold honor.  The Altman story as it ran in Ag Alert:

Farmers and ranchers are often called stewards of the land because of their close connection to it. They hold true to the belief that they can and must enhance natural resources and protect the environment, while simultaneously producing food, fiber and energy for a growing world population. The Leopold Conservation Award honors landowners who demonstrate such a commitment.

What began as an avid interest in plants for husband and wife Ken and Deena Altman is now a wholesale nursery business that encompasses more than 1,700 acres in six states. Altman Specialty Plants, today one of the nation's largest horticultural growers, specializes in drought-tolerant and water-efficient plants.

Ken Altman and his son, Matt, manage the company with a careful eye on conserving resources.

The nurseries are retrofitted with water- and energy-efficient irrigation systems that reduce water use by 50 percent per acre, and soil-moisture sensors are being installed in container plants to further decrease water use. In addition, Altman Plants raises 5,000 plant species using integrated pest management, which controls pests in ways that minimize risks to people and the environment. The Altmans also founded the Center for Applied Horticultural Research, a nonprofit research and teaching center dedicated to advancing a sustainable horticultural sector.

In 2014, the Altmans embarked on their biggest project yet: a water recycling system at their Riverside County site that captures irrigation runoff, treats it and reuses the water.

"As a farm and nursery, we're reliant on water, and over the last five years, we've seen water become more and more limited here in California," Matt Altman said. "We took it upon ourselves to ensure we had access to water."

The Altmans recycle and reuse 1 million gallons of water a day. They say they hope the public and other nursery growers are able to benefit from their approach to water management.

"There's really nothing better than being able to do a good job with family, share your success and provide knowledge to others," Ken Altman said.

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