One Colorado Farmer Is Going Against the Grain to Use Less Water. It’s Working.

On a chilly morning 5 miles north of Fruita, Lowell King, standing at the edge of a cornfield, reaches down, grabs a clump of dirt, and starts tearing at the soil with his meaty fingers. King eventually points to a tiny white spot in the dirt. “Anytime you can see stuff almost like that mold right there, that’s fungi,” he says. “And there’s all this other good stuff, and these roots intertwined; that’s what increases your water infiltration.”

King, who’s been farming in the Grand Valley since 2005, is illustrating an important principle of a concept known as regenerative agriculture — a technique he says could help Colorado stretch its dwindling water supplies. But adopting that philosophy also requires rejecting deeply entrenched conventional farming methods, such as tilling fields to prepare the ground for planting.