Stewardship of Tres Pinos Creek has been a decades-long pursuit for Paul and Leti Hain, third generation farmers in Hollister whose property runs adjacent to the creek. After the El Niño flood events of 1998 washed out four acres of their 30-acre organic walnut orchard, as well as the riparian species along the creek, they took it upon themselves to restore the waterway to protect their farm from future flooding. Using a bulldozer, Paul dragged the washed out vegetation—like cottonwoods and willows—back upstream and anchored them into the streambed to re-root. Within a year, all of the trees had sprouted and stabilized the creek bank.
Recently, the Hains decided to take their efforts to the next level, realizing the benefits that riparian restoration provided to their farm. Not only does it improve wildlife habitat, but it prevents streambank erosion and enhances natural pest control in the adjacent orchard. Also, removing thirsty non-native plants (like Giant Cane, or Arundo) helps keep more water in the stream for fish habitat and irrigation, and makes more room for natives. Partnering with WFA, Hedgerows Unlimited, and an army of volunteers from the Boy Scouts and the Naturalists at Large program, the Hain’s spearheaded riparian improvement projects on Tres Pinos Creek. WFA and Hedgerows Unlimited took great care in choosing over 450 drought-tolerant native plants for the project.
Volunteers planted riparian species to prevent erosion along the creek bank, which will both protect the orchard and reduce sediment entering the creek during future flood events. They also planted trees and shrubs in gaps in the existing hedgerows that line the property. Plants were chosen based on the ability to attract insects that provide benefits to the farm like pollination of cover crops or predation of common orchard pests. The Hain’s no longer use pesticides, and their codling moths and husk fly counts are at an all-time low. The farm has been lauded as a refuge for insect species by the Xerces Society, in an area where their habitat has been greatly diminished.
The Hain’s work to activate resources and work with government agencies and nonprofit organizations provides an excellent example of how local landowners can steward their land to balance the needs of agriculture as well as wildlife.