Anyone out there have years of experience, or know of a farmer that does, that I could possibly ask to be my mentor as I transition our farm to dry farm during the summer? I'm learning a little online, but could benefit from an email pen pal or someone in WA that I could visit to see how they do it.
Not a big giant time commitment - just someone who is not a whack job who could save me labor and time with the wealth of their knowledge.
I've been working the last few years on dry farming. Things are finally starting to work and I think next year we'll be growing a large, water free market crop. Our rains stop about the same time as our last frost date, maybe a week later, and start again about the first frost date of fall. That can be 6 months of summer with ZERO rainfall. Yet I'm on my second year of growing winter squash, kale, sunflowers, and amaranth with zero water and zero rainfall. I might be getting hot peppers and runner beans this year too.
First step is to really observe your land. Walk it as many times of day as possible. Observe where the dew pockets are. Where the sun and shadows are year 'round. Where the winds come from. What weeds, what birds, what the smells are like, everything you can. Observe.
Second, experiment in small patches. Try different experiments but do them small. Maybe 10 foot square at the most. I usually start with three square feet for my first year, then about 10 by 10, then grow it from there. Each location on the farm responds differently so what works in one spot, may not work in the other. So when I move a technique to a new area, I start small and work my way up. This takes patience but is worth it.
Third, dry farming methods that work for others, may not work for you. The only way you can know what works on your farm is to try it for yourself. If anyone tells you this is the one way to do it, then run away as quickly as possible. Find a mentor that will share what works for them, who can offer things for you to try.
Fourth, if your winters are wet and your summers are dry, re-think when the growing season is. There are many staple crops that can be grown over winter or planted in the early spring.
I'm willing to share what I've learned from doing. 'though really, most of what I tried, I learned about on this forum first.
Washington state isn't too far from here. Tell us more about your location and climate. What's your rainfall and frost pattern like (for your location or the closest weather station, not the nearest city as that will have confounding factors)? What's your dew capture ability like? Are you near enough the coast to get good onshore winds?