Rancho Monte Vista

Warren Lyall and his two sons, Andy and Tim, operate Rancho Monte Vista, a 187-acre orchard in the Pauma Valley of San Diego County. They primarily grow oranges, but have also been growing avocados for the last 10 years. Warren’s grandfather moved to California in 1931 from Montana, where he was a cattle rancher. He settled the family in Pauma Valley because it reminded him of home, and by 1933 they were living there full-time as citrus growers.

How they are innovating

For the Lyalls, monitoring the amount of water they use and tracking soil moisture throughout their ranch with diligence has been key to their success. They recently upgraded their sprinkler systems to maximize uniformity across their orange groves. And they now dedicate two full-time employees during the summer irrigation season to monitoring water use, checking every aspect of the irrigation systems to make sure there aren’t any leaks. This has helped the Lyalls get by during this four-year drought. They recently installed a solar power plant on their ranch, providing 80 percent of the power needed for their irrigation pumps. Any excess energy that is produced is sold to the grid for use by San Diego Gas & Electric, adding to the long-term sustainability of their ranch.

“There is a lot of art involved in the irrigation of trees. The way they demand water is different. Water for us is a precious resource. We can’t afford to waste it.”
— Warren Lyall

Their valuable relationship with water

Though the drought has become a hot button topic in the media, it really is old news to the Lyalls. Even in plentiful rain years the Lyalls operate as if the state is experiencing drought conditions, so the current drought has not changed their philosophy of operation. “We are careful to manage our irrigation (and other input resources) every year,” Lyall says. “It is part of our philosophy of stewardship that even if a resource is plentiful we need to be careful not to waste it. It is all part of farming sustainably and efficiently in order to maximize our success.”