Palo Blanco Farm & Ranch Combines Heritage With Regenerative Farming

Owner Marcella Juárez from Texas-based Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch tells us about utilizing solar power, hydroponic greenhouses and hügelkultur raised beds.

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by Phillip MlynarJanuary 6, 2022
PHOTO: Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch(@paloblancofarmandranch)

The land that Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch sits on has been in Marcella Juárez’s family for over 160 years. Situated in Laredo, Texas, the venture now brings pioneering regenerative farming practices to the region using solar power and German Hugelkultur raised bed techniques to provide sustainable crops for the local community.

“My great-grandfather used to do dry farming and raise cattle and livestock,” recalls Juárez, who studied agriculture at college before revitalizing the family farm. “I knew I was not only gonna live on the ranch but wanted to make it productive and turn this into my career.”

We spoke to Juárez about the challenges of farming in a region prone to droughts. We also covered new ways to incorporate microgreens into cooking. And she gave us the scoop on the farm’s resident canine guardians.

Harnessing Solar Power & Hydroponic Techniques

Juárez says that water management and conservation techniques play key roles when running a modern ranch in an area often afflicted by drought.

“Our grow lights for our microgreens are solar powered along with our home,” she explains. “Microgreens are a very nutritious crop that requires very little water. We also have a hydroponic greenhouse, which drastically reduces the amount of water we need to grow. Hydroponic growing can reduce water usage by up to 90 percent.”

Incorporating Hügelkultur Beds

Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch’s commitment to regenerative farming methods involves use of hügelkultur raised beds.

“It’s a practice born out of Germany and also referred to as lasagna gardening because you have layers within your bed,” explains Juárez. “So that’s going to continually feed your soil.”


Read more: You can use hügelkultur for bare-root nursery beds, too.


Mexican Cooking with Microgreens

Juárez says that the local community enthusiastically consumes the microgreens the farm produces.

“Especially down here with Mexican culture, you see people use them more than just a garnish,” she says. “People use them in their cooking the way they’d traditionally use the herb cilantro—so in their salsas and beans and rice. Microgreens are being used beyond just a garnish you throw on top of something.”

Introducing the Farm’s Canine Security

Bear and Ruby are a couple of resident canines at Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch. The pair gladly took on the official role of heads of security.

“They alert us to anything going on, like rattlesnakes,” says Juárez. “They can be hit or miss when it comes to helping with the animals—they love to chase! But they really are a benefit living out here on the ranch where it’s very isolated.”


Read more: Farm dogs play an important role, like stock dogs who work with livestock.


Furthering Family & Fostering Community

“The land has been in our family for over 160 years,” says Juárez, reflecting on the rewards of being involved in a family farm. “Interest has waned at times. But we’re here and continuing that tradition and also transforming it through sustainable methods.

“The community has been so receptive to what we’re doing. And so many people have told us what we’re doing is needed,” she adds. “So to see we’re impacting the community and see the community wants what we’re doing makes everything so meaningful.”

Follow Palo Blanco Farm And Ranch at Instagram.

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