Archive | November, 2012

Our visit to Stonebridge Farm near Lyons, CO

18 Nov

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Well, if there were ever a more pristine farm in the world, I would have to see it to believe it. Stonebridge is nestled comfortably in the foothills about 30 minutes outside of Boulder, CO, and their operation is 20-some years in the making. I didn’t know how important it was for us to go and meet them (although I was well aware how generous it was of them to invite us), but it turns out that it was essential.

I hate to sound repetitive about people in the organic farming community, but John and Kayann were extremely helpful, kind, and welcoming. If they were cautious or judgmental with us at all, I didn’t sense it. We invited our parents along to see their CSA (since my parents didn’t have a whole grasp on exactly what Community Supported Agriculture was) and, even though it shouldn’t have, it made me a little nervous. I was afraid that the dynamic would shift- that Victoria and I would be seen as extremely young and treated like children. I also had the fear that every teenager knows all to well; I didn’t want my parents to say anything embarrassing. In case you didn’t already know, they didn’t.

We headed out to Stonebridge quite late. I got off work at 1pm and forgot to bring home any coffee for us, my parents, or Stonebridge. Anyone who roasts good coffee for a living knows that this is a CARDINAL sin. Typically nice family members and friends turn into violent, raging animals spiraling out of control if they wake up one day and you forgot to bring them their coffee. So, on top of normal things you do when you get off work, I had to go back to work to get coffee that I had roasted thirty minutes earlier. I was pissed at myself.

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I only tell you that we were late because, when I called Kayann to let her know, she seemed disappointed that we wouldn’t have as much time to talk! I mean, if this isn’t a switch from the city to farming life, I don’t know what is. I made the presumption that we were probably a huge burden on any farmers that gave us a tour. They made us feel like welcome guests.

One of the biggest things I learned from them is to start small. I’ve been slowly learning this on my own when I wanted to start with 7 acres (go ahead and laugh, I can’t beat you up through the internet), then it went down to 2, now I’m pretty sure we’re starting with ½ to 1 acre. Us city folk have no idea what an acre means, but now that I am transitioning, I understand that it is A LOT. Like, a lot a lot (to help my city friends with translation). They have slowly but surely grown to 4 acres over their 20 years, and their operation is much more in-depth, organized, and essentially bigger than we can be in our first years. I was extremely impressed that they had built a community rather than customers, and even then, those are one and the same. I love that they have parties for their shareholders and how intricately they involve them with the produce- their shareholders come to the farm and pick out their own baskets, wash their produce, etc. It saves them money and brings in the type of people they want to be around. So. Cool.

Also, there is no way I could’ve understood sowing green manure or the equipment needs without seeing it. I’ve read (and re-read) The New Organic Grower where these things are outlined, but squiggly drawings and lists don’t always cut it for real learning. I saw a walking hoe, and a rototiller, and I saw oats growing over as a winter crop.

There is way too much for me to completely include here, and I am still mulling all of it over in my head as I write. I think, however, the lesson in this blog post is not to relay all of the information I learned from the lovely people at Stonebridge directly to you, but rather, to impart that visiting other farms is absolutely essential. There is only so much your brain can read and truly, truly understand. But talking to people doing what you dream to do is an unbelievable resource. Tour other farms, talk about successes and failures, laugh about accepting an organic grower’s relationship to weeds, and smile over coffee. There is no replacement for this.

I also wanted to include Stonebridge Farm’s contact information here. I would encourage anyone in the Denver/Boulder area looking for a quality CSA to inquire about their shares and support a wonderful, local organic grower that has been thriving for over 20 years. If you want to know how it’s done, they’re doing it! They also offer classes for writing, farming, anything. Check it out.

http://www.stonebridgefarmcsa.com/
And their blog:

pearlmoonplenty.wordpress.com

Crop yields, Fundraising, and our visit to the Chatfield CSA

3 Nov

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After my week-long stint with discouragement, I am back on my feet again. Talking to my Mom the other day really helped, and today I got my first email from my Dad that oozed with plans and excitement. Watch out world- I wasn’t gone for long.

The last few days, I had been taking baby steps in preparation for getting back into real work today. This was mostly done inside my head, mulling this and that over, but I don’t think this thought process should be denied it’s importance. It is always the first step towards achievement.

So today, I woke my butt up and drew a hardly-to-scale map of the two acres of farm we are planning on turning into beautiful rows of veggies and separated it into 8 equal sections for our crop rotation. Two acres is approximately 87,120 square feet. Divided into 8, it gives us around 10,000 some square feet per section. After accounting for walkways and our 45 inch rows and taking some square roots here and there, I discovered that just one row of tomatoes could contain a huge amount of plants.

I guess I didn’t realize how big an acre really was.

After that, I got on my phone to deal with some financial matters. I called my sister, Andee, because she is the goddess of all things fundraising (and all things in general). She has four kids and still manages to organize a 5k for her son’s hockey program every year, be on the PTA, have a job as an executive assistant, and keep her house clean. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I don’t know when she brushes her teeth, but I’m sure she does. I wanted to see if we could hire her to organize a benefit to raise money for startup for this year, and as I expected, she’s brimming with ideas already and we are meeting next Friday to get started. We are considering a wine tasting/art auction with CSA memberships for those who donate over $300 and perhaps having a kickstarter or indie-gogo for our out-of-town friends and family. Friends, keep this in mind- what a great Christmas present… fresh, local veggies from a startup family farm for an entire season! (Oh no, I’ve already begun advertising and we don’t even have a date yet.)

After that, we weren’t done. I had called the Chatfield CSA outside Denver to see if we could come check out their operation, but no one answered. We decided to take a chance and head down there anyway, and were we glad we did! The Chatfield CSA has about an acre of veggies growing there, and their one acre feeds 55 families for the year. It absolutely amazes me. Why are we shipping in produce from anywhere again? Imagine the Colorado economy if we only bought produce from local farmers. I’m getting off topic, but we found out a lot of other important things too. Like drip irrigation; they use it everywhere, just as we suspected. They also have a great herb garden on the side for their CSA members since herbs grow so well in Colorado. What a great idea; send them some oregano to go in their veggie stews!

After a quick tour of the old homestead there, we decided to hit the road back home. We were tired, but we are re-energized and more ready than ever to start up next spring. We have emailed several other Colorado CSA’s back and forth as well, and for the most part, they have all been extremely welcoming and informative. We have plans to visit two of them, and one nice lady who lives deep in the mountains promised me a long phone call soon while her son is taking a nap.

One thing I have really learned from all this is to REACH OUT. Most people think I’m pretty outgoing, but inside I feel so shy and anxious all the time. But I wouldn’t have come nearly as far without the support from my family, friends, and strangers. And I would never have gotten the help I have gotten if I didn’t ask for it. There are so many resources in the world, and I haven’t even begun to touch them all. If I succeed, I will never be able to say I did it alone.

And I would never want to.