Friends of the Teton River faced a challenge: how to celebrate the farmers and ranchers who have partnered with the nonprofit to enhance soil and water health, and how to best educate the public on what’s happening behind the scenes in the Farms and Fish Initiative.
Through a grant from Patagonia, FTR enlisted local photographer Camrin Dengel to provide a visual representation of the ongoing aquifer recharge program.
“Cami is great with people and with capturing a story in her work,” FTR development and communication director Anna Lindstedt said. “Our hope was that by bringing in the participants of the aquifer recharge program, we can help the public understand the who, the how, and the why.”
The program is under the umbrella of the Farms and Fish Initiative. The Teton Water Users Association, a group that includes FTR, the Teton Soil Conservation District, local producers, water managers, and elected officials, the Teton County Farm Bureau, the Teton Regional Land Trust, and the Henrys Fork Foundation, has worked for the last four years to maintain the viability and health of agricultural lands, open spaces, and streams.
FTR and its partners are using strategic flood irrigation techniques and canal management in the spring to bolster the Teton Basin’s underground aquifer, increasing flows later in the year and cooling off the river, which benefits both irrigators who need water in the dry months and fish that need a healthy waterway. In 2019 the program met its goal of restoring 10,000 acre feet of water to the aquifer, netting an additional 10 cubic feet per second to the Teton River in late summer.
But how does one photograph that?
“It’s a really hard thing to show people,” Lindstedt said about the aquifer recharge program. “If they don’t understand it, they see flooded fields and tarps in the canals and think it’s a waste of water. But people have attended the Farm Tour [hosted by the TSCD] and they’re really starting to get it, that it’s strategically managed and intentional.”
Dengel expressed that somewhat abstract idea by focusing her lens on the farmers, ranchers, and researchers who are doing the work. The gallery is full of familiar Teton Valley family names like Penfold, Dewey, Piquet, Berry, and Bagley.
“Our role is to facilitate the program, but it’s all these guys,” Lindstedt said about the people Dengel photographed. “We couldn’t do it without their knowledge and management, and they’re out there right now doing the work.”
Those portraits and landscapes are now hanging in the Teton Geo Center gallery and will remain there through September. In lieu of the originally planned gallery show, for the next few weeks FTR is hosting intimate gallery viewings for groups of up to ten. Participants will be able to watch a short film about aquifer recharge, ask questions, and enjoy the photography while safely socially distanced. FTR has installed a credit card reader at the gallery to enable donations, which go directly to the program.
To sign up for a gallery visit, go to FTR’s Facebook page and find the SignUpGenius link to select a time slot.
In other FTR photography news, to celebrate its twentieth anniversary the nonprofit is holding a photo contest. Landscapes, fish and wildlife, and lifestyle photography is all welcome. The winning submission will grace the cover of the annual FTR newsletter and the winner will receive FTR swag. For contest guidelines visit tetonwater.org/20th-anniversary-photo-contest.