For agriculture producer Chris Grotegut taking steps to save the Ogallala Aquifer on his land is vital. In Deaf Smith County, Hereford, Texas the Ogallala Aquifer is steadily declining due to large industry like dairies and feedlots. These industries are an important part of the Herford economy unfortunately these industries are neglecting the value of the water below them in turn affecting the entire shape of the agriculture community in Deaf Smith County.
Chris Grotegut of GO Foods, LP, which produces certified organic wheat, seed milo, and alfalfa, is a proactive conservationist of the land he owns an the water coming out of his pumps. Owning 11,000 acres Grotegut has a goal to dedicate 8,500 acres back to native grasses from crop land for his herd of about 600 cattle. This restoration of the land is part of Grotegut self funded Aquifer Recharge Module. Sustainability is an important part of this Recharge Module. Allowing his cattle to graze on a blend of planted native grasses like blue grama, green sprinkle top, and lovington grama and rotating the cattle to new a different field every few week is part of this sustainability. “A grass pursed economy is sustainable. Short grazing of high density with a long recovery can do this.”
Grotegut is about 1,500 acres away from his goal of native grassland conversion. When the dairies and feedlots started to move into Deaf Smith County Grotegut foresaw his county’s water issues and starting purchasing land with the idea that “the more surface you control the more recharge you control” helping diminish the neighbor effect, where you land owners around you pump the water out from under you. According to Grotegut the root of the water problem in Hereford is a desire for more money. The industries that have moved into Deaf Smith County have a one generation perspective where producers like Grotegut want the land he owns to be successfully used and sustainable for many generations. As Grotegut sees it their are only two options for water on the High Plains, recharge and importation. Importing water is far more expensive and unsustainable, but recharge is an effort that will provide water for the future. “We need to stop looking at water as a stored resource. The water table needs to be viewed like a river not like a lake,” says Grotegut. The people that settled the great plains did not see the true value of what was already here. As Grotegut puts it, “The water not the money needs to be viewed as a bank account. The water will no doubt be more valuable over time.” At the rate of depletion in Deaf Smith County Grotegut has a fear that the area he loves so much will become a land of winners and losers. “The losers is everyone and the winners are those with a pool of water below.” In the eyes of Grotegut, “if a person can’t get on a recharge level then maybe it’s okay to fail, maybe it’s not okay to think we can pump our was into sustainability.”
A passion to save water and the land in a sustainable manner is a true mission for Chris Grotegut. Using his low maintenance aquifer recharge module and smart farming techniques like not irrigating after a rain or little soil tillage are steps Grotegut is taking to ensure generations to come can live in Deaf Smith County. Chris Grotegut is truly leading by example as a conservationist. “We will all be migrants on the High Plains unless we change our habits.”