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Altman Specialty Plants

Farmers in San Diego County find new ways to make every drop of water count


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Matt and Ken AltmanWhat began as an avid interest in plants for husband and wife Ken and Deena Altman is now a wholesale nursery business that encompasses more than 1,700 acres in six states. Altman Specialty Plants, today is one of the nation's largest horticultural growers, specializes in drought-tolerant and water-efficient plants.

Ken and his son, Matt, manage the company and practice what they preach.

The nurseries are retrofitted with water- and energy-efficient irrigation systems that reduce water use by 50 percent per acre, and soil-moisture sensors are being installed in container plants to further minimize water use. In addition, Altman Plants raises 5,000 plant species with integrated pest management, which controls pests in ways that minimize risks to people and the environment. The Altmans also founded the Center for Applied Horticultural Research, a nonprofit research and teaching center dedicated to advancing a sustainable horticulture industry.

In 2014, the Altmans embarked on their biggest project yet: a water recycling system at their Riverside County nursery that captures irrigation runoff, treats it and reuses the water.

"As a farm and nursery, we're reliant on water, and over the last five years, we've seen water become more and more limited here in California," Matt said. "We took it upon ourselves to ensure we had access to water."

The Altmans recycle and reuse 1 million gallons of water per day. They say they hope the public and other nursery growers are able to benefit from this new approach to irrigation water management.

"There's really nothing better than being able to do a good job with family, share your success and provide knowledge to others," Ken said.

For more information about Altman Plants, visit www.altmanplants.com.

For information about Kendall Farms, which also works to make every drop of water count, read their story here.

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