Alley cropping, an agricultural system dating back to ancient societies in China and South America, involves growing annual agricultural crops in alleys between rows of perennial tree crops. The annuals - which in Sustainable Settings' plan include potatoes, quinoa, rye and beans - generate income while the perennials mature.
Swales, or ditches dug according to the contours of the land, are key to the system. Swales distribute water evenly among the crops and help control soil erosion, even in the event of heavy storms.
"We're teaching people how to harvest what does fall from the sky," says LeVan. "By controlling erosion and distributing water, we get into productive use." LeVan hopes that the system, if successful, will be adopted by other Western farmers frustrated with the longer, drier summers and diminishing snowpack levels.
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