Juan Santana - Santana Lepe Orchards

Juan has installed nearly a mile of hedgerows to improve pollination, pest control and biodiversity over the course of two years. 


Juan Santana of Santana-Lepe Orchards sits near a recently planted orchard hedgerow. Photo: Anne Hamersky

Wild Farm Alliance is pleased to release a new video resource about the benefits of hedgerows for pest control and pollination. The video features Juan Santana of Santana Lepe Orchards and Rachael Long, a farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension. Read on to learn about Juan's hedgerow journey.

On a day in early November, the Wild Farm Alliance team watched the sun set over Livingston, a Central Valley agricultural town known for its sweet potatoes, grapes, almonds, dairy and poultry. That sun reflected across over 600 native plants growing to provide new habitat along the borders of the Santana-Lepe Orchards.

Juan Santana (left) and Sam Earnshaw of Hedgerows Unlimited plan the hedgerow layout.

Juan Santana is an almond grower who Wild Farm Alliance has been working with since 2021, when we helped him design and install his first hedgerow. We met him through the California Healthy Soils Program (HSP). He received financial support for compost and cover crops for the orchards and to increase the habitat on his farm with native plant hedgerows. We, along with National Center for Appropriate Technology, had funding to help HSP growers like Juan install these practices. His main goal with installing hedgerows was to provide more habitat for bees, but also to add diversity that would support beneficial insects and birds.

"Without pollinators we wouldn't have that many almonds. Even though the hedgerows are small now, they already have a lot of insects on them," says Juan.

After discussing the best way to get the site ready for planting, we first visited his farm in November 2021. With Juan, Sergio Castro, his son-in-law and backbone of farm operations, and a crew of four of us, we planted a 400-foot long hedgerow at the edge of his home orchard. Late that day, tired and happy, we walked the sites of two much longer planned hedgerows, to be planted in the fall of 2022. 

WFA's Jo Ann Baumgartner (front, center) helps with the 3,300' hedgerow planting.

In November 2022 we returned to Juan’s farm to plant 3,300 feet of hedgerows, but with the amount of work we needed to do, our small Wild Farm team was not going to be enough. We were able to assemble a team to make this project happen! Nick Filannino, who works for us as part of an AmeriCorps program called the GrizzlyCorps, was able to coax 11 other members of his program to come work with us. 

Nick Filannino (left) and several GrizzlyCorps members help install the hedgerow.

Over three days, Wild Farm Alliance¬†accomplished an incredible amount. On paper we installed about ¬ĺ of a mile of native plant habitat. But we also provided a learning opportunity for 11 young professionals in the work of habitat conservation, we increased the number of pollinators and other beneficial insects and birds in the area for years to come, and we forged strong connections with friends, new and old in the name of wild farming.¬†

Field Day participants tour a hedgerow at Santana-Lepe Orchards. 

WFA returned in January 2023 to co-host a field day to showcase the hedgerow habitat and inspire other farmers to adopt hedgerows of their own. While at this event, we also interviewed Juan Santana and Rachael Long, UC Farm Advisor, for the first in a new series about how natural enemy habitat on farms can support pest control. Rachael shares her research about hedgerows and their positive financial impact on farm operations.

Watch the video at the top of the page!