Latest Posts

Reserve your Fall CSA share now!

We currently have several openings available for our eight-week Fall CSA. Don’t miss out on incredibly fresh, nutritient-dense foods farmed organically right here in San Miguel County. Besides the standard veggie box (which will include salad greens, head lettuce, kale, bok choi, mustard greens, turnips, radishes, spinach, winter squashes, potato varieties, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, onions, kohlrabi, late summer tomatoes … well, you get the picture!),  a member can added pastured eggs and granola to their shares.

First distribution is Friday, Oct. 9. The last distribution is Tuesday, Nov. 24. Shares are affordably priced starting at $256 for the eight weeks ($32/week).

Friday deliveries to Telluride (only $2 per week) are available; otherwise you can pick your box up at the farm on Fridays.

To reserve your spot, click here.

Love a Farmer Fund introduced

“We don’t need farmers who raise commodities; we need human beings who raise food,” Kristopher Flack

They say it takes a village to raise a child. We’d like to add it takes a community to grow a farm.

Barclay grew up on an organic farm and bakery in New England. Tony’s family had multi-generational agricultural interests in Peru before his family left that country in the 1960s. We’ve now been farming and baking here in beautiful, pastoral Norwood since 2002. Growing vegetables, raising pastured chickens and turkeys, milking goats, baking amazing granola,  breads and other delicacies. At times it’s been a long and lonely road, although we’ve had tons of support and encouragement from neighbors, apprentices, employees, friends, family, CSA members and regular customers at the farmers markets.

When we started, we felt like we might be walking the plank, so to speak. Farming, let alone organic farming, was barely on the radar screen for most Americans. The movement, if you will, was in its early stages of what has now become a modern-day renaissance not seen since the 60s. Many of our friends thought we were nuts. The US Census Bureau had even taken farm work off its list of employment choices. But we were determined. We wanted to farm. We wanted to grow food. We wanted to share that passion with others. We wanted to eat healthily and raise our children in this environment. We wanted to offer an alternative choice, that of local organic agriculture, to the regional community. We wanted to create a vibrant economy around food. We felt a sense of urgency.

At the time, there were  too few of us venturing into the challenge of connecting with nature to grow food. The fact of the matter is, there still aren’t enough of us. The vast majority of this nation’s food still comes from large corporations who have gobbled up most of the arable land in this country and used dangerous forms of technologies, herbicides and pesticides to increase production. Something like 80% of this country’s food is produced by just five corporations. Imagine that for a minute.

Vocational programs in high schools have all but disappeared. While a few colleges teach sustainable farming, it’s rarely a career choice among the next generation of would-be farmers. Most colleges that are offering degrees in agriculture are still stuck in the old mindset of conventional, industrial, chemical and factory farming. For many aspiring farmers, work opportunities are far and few between. A paradigm shift is really hard to come by, especially in a corporate-dominated world. Fortunately, we’ve  had a stellar crew of interns over the years, most of them deeply committed to the movement.

We just heard from a previous intern who was here for two years right out of college. Of her experience, she wrote, “That (first ) summer season changed everything, personally and professionally, for me.”

When we have folks who work the land around us at the dinner table, in coffee shops, or just shooting the breeze around the bed of a pickup truck drinking a beer together after a long day of work, we’re in heaven. Most folks — young and old —  that want to farm are really turned on and motivated. They want to help out; they want to learn; they want to dream; they want to pursue their passions. They want to be a part of a movement that they see as vital to the very survival of the planet and its inhabitants. But they need our help.

To that end, we’re proud to introduce a new program here at Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery: the Love a Farmer Fund. From here on out, a percentage of the sale of every ounce of granola sold will be collected and put in a fund to help out a small farmer somewhere across this land. Like us, we want the little guy to succeed. We had help when we started from a generous neighboring landowner, Loey Rignquist, who shared our vision. She made it possible for us to purchase the land and water needed to get started. Aspiring farmers today need that same kind of help —  to acquire land and accumulate capital. It’s our turn to give back.

Won’t you join us?

To place a granola order, please click here.

Aspirations for the CSA Movement

Barclay recently wrote this letter to our CSA members and thought we should share it to readers of our website. Enjoy, and if you’d like, join the discussion.

Dear CSA Members,

Our farm family for the 2015 season is complete and we are now only two weeks away from our first distribution.  Its been an interesting spring, with below normal temperatures and above average moisture. Once again, it reminds us that we are not in charge and humbles us in the face of Nature. It also inspires us to celebrate our relationships with you, our CSA members, and to share with you a little bit about what defines our CSA family.

We recently read an article entitled, “Aspirations for the CSA movement”, where the author wrote about the definition of a family farm. While all farms are unique, it was concluded that there are two principles that define a CSA ~ shared risk and community support.

Joining a CSA is so much more than making a choice of where to buy your vegetables. When you become part of a CSA you are making a commitment to feed yourselves organic, locally grown food, but you are also making a commitment to a special place and its people, a farm. Your financial support allows us to purchase the seed and supplies in the spring and lends emotional and financial stability to the farm throughout the year. If crops fail, and inevitably, some do, members go without. If crops do well, and most will, the bounty is shared.  Your support insures that Indian Ridge will be here year after year. You are making a choice to sustain both your family and your farm. It is truly the most proactive thing you can do regarding your food short of growing your own.

CSA’s are also defined by a community of people united by the common interest of supporting a farm and its farmers. While some of you may never meet each other, you each acknowledge a shared purpose and responsibility of eating from the same farm. Our farm, in a sense, becomes your farm and through our shared investment we become connected to a the soil, the food and each other.

On that note, we are going to have to cancel (again) this weekend’s Spring Celebration and Workday due to weather. We hope to come together as a community sometime in the near future.  Meanwhile, come to the farm and participate in how your food is grown.  We’d like to get to know each and everyone of you.

It is truly a privilege to be your farmers,

Barclay, Tony and the rest of our amazing team.

 

 

Nutrient-dense foods: the missing piece of the diet puzzle

Digestive disorders seem to be on the rise in this country — almost to epidemic proportions — evidenced by the number of new cases of lactose intolerance and gluten sensitivity to the more serious chronic cases of celiac, Krohn’s or colitis. Many people, in general, are simply “not feeling well.”

Maybe we’re more sensitive to this since we’re food producers and keep our eyes on this sort of stuff. But look around you, count the number of friends and/or family members that are struggling to find a diet that works for them, that will make all phases of their digestion feel “normal.”

The remedy, as recommended by dieticians, is usually some sort of prescribed diet: Paleo, gluten-free, vegan, vegetarianism, you name it. It’s all out there, depending on who the last expert was that you talked to. These diets all have a cleansing regimen attached to them, too.

This is serious stuff. After all, feeling healthy on a daily basis is what it’s all about. To assist us here at Indian Ridge Farm & Bakery, to get clarity out of all the confusion that exists out there, is a research-based organization that we belong to, the Weston A. Price Foundation. It’s a non-profit that disseminates the research of nutrition pioneer Weston A. Price. He traveled the world looking for nonindustrialized peoples who seemed to have great physical form and perfect health, generation after generation. What he found common among these societies was that their members all ate nutrient-dense whole foods and vital fat-solubles found in animal fats.

In our modern day, the Foundation’s mission is to “restore nutrient-dense foods to the American diet, and support a number of movements that contribute to this objective, including accurate nutrition instruction, organic and biodynamic farming, pasture-feeding of livestock, CSAs, honest and informative labeling, prepared parenting and nurturing therapies.”

They have a fabulous website (www.westonaprice.org), a quarterly journal, “Wise Traditions,” and a cookbook Nurturing Traditions. The website is our “go-to” when we have digestive, nutritional or diet related questions. We read the journal cover-to-cover and dip into the cookbook when looking for nutritional meals. Highly recommended, especially if you’re in the “not feeling well” category and seeking some answers.

Rich in carotenes, anti-oxidants, balanced omega 3&6 fatty acids, Vitamins A, E and D, these eggs from our pastured hens, are sometimes called “the perfect food.”

 

Related to all this is the widespread chemical toxicity that surrounds us, whether it’s in the food we eat, the air we breathe or the water we drink. In the US alone, there are over 100,000 chemicals approved for human use. That’s a staggering amount. A recent study demonstrated that after sampling blood cells in some 1000 umbilical cords taken from newborn babies and their mothers, an average of 250 chemicals were found. That’s really discouraging. Even our babies in the protected womb have fallen susceptible to chemicals before they’re even born.

Unfortunately, the most readily available chemicals are found in our food supply. Application rates of herbicides and pesticides continue to rise on an astronomical trajectory. For instance, the amount of glyphosate (the herbicide in Roundup) used on crops in the US has increased from 27 million pounds in 1996 to 250 million pounds in 2009. Total herbicide use increased 527 million pounds during that time period.

What’s responsible for this dramatic increase? Mostly the introduction of Genetically Engineered seeds, or so-called GMOs. These seeds — primarily corn and soybean, but becoming more widespread in many more plants on a seemingly daily basis —  are developed to withstand the insult of the herbicide glyphosate on weeds. In practice, farmers plant the seed and then spray their fields with enormous amounts of glyphosate to control weeds. The glyphosate residue in the plants is then consumed by humans — either directly, or indirectly through meats and the food byproducts of livestock.

The result? It’s not good. Most recently, the World Health Organization classified glyphosate as a “probable carcinogenic” showing it causes a range of cancers including non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, renal cancers, skin cancers and pancreatic cancers. Other scientific studies have linked glyphosate to breast, thyroid and liver cancers. Why doesn’t this get more media attention? That’s a whole other story. But suffice it to say that our corporate-dominated media will not report disparaging facts about its other large, corporate friends, namely Monsanto, which produces Roundup, and, by design, the very GMO seed.

We  advocate strongly the banning of GMO in the US (besides the fact that GMO foods have never been tested on humans) and the outright banning of glyphosates. Unfortunately, there is now a new  generation of herbicides being approved that will make glyphosates look mild. One of the main ingredients in Agent Orange, commonly known as 2,4-D has now been approved to be used with glyphosate in fields across the land to control the so-called “super weeds” that have developed a resistance to Roundup.

When it comes to our good health, we’re chasing a moving target, for sure. But that’s the beauty of small, diversified organic farms such as ours. We strive to steadily produce, whether in the bakery, in the pasture or in the garden, the most nutritionally-dense foods and pastured animal fats available to our customers. All done organically, without GMO grains, without glyphosates or any other harmful chemical.

That’s our promise to you. Here’s to your good health and ours.

 

 

We’re now taking 2015 CSA registrations!

It’s that time of the year again!

We are now taking CSA registrations for the upcoming growing season. As usual, you can expect to find in your weekly boxes delicious, fresh, nutritious, organically grown and LOCALLY produced food. Distribution for the 19-week season begins the week of May 26 and ends on Friday, Oct. 2.

CSA baskets at Indian Ridge start with your selection of one of  two produce sizes, one to feed a small household and the other to feed a household of four or more. Then, you can decide to add an egg share, a bakery share (including our famous granola and organic breads), and/or a pastured poultry share. All of the products are produced right here at the farm, assuring you the highest quality and freshest food available.

There is no better way to support local agriculture and local farmers than participating in a CSA program!

Registration is simple. Based on the positive feedback we heard from members, we’re utilizing the same online management  system we used last year, Small Farm Central. Signing up is a two-step process: Simply click here to read the details about the program, and follow the link at the bottom of the page to get started. The information sheet will answer most, if not all, of your questions.

A few changes and/or improvements to the 2015 growing season are highlighted below:

• We’re offering two pickup days, Tuesdays and Fridays (Saturday pickup is no longer available). This change was necessary to ensure that all of our resources are best managed in the most productive and profitable manner. Delivery to Telluride on Fridays, during the Telluride Farmers Market, is still available as an option.

• Our basket pricing is still lower than retail prices for comparable organic produce at the grocery store. As farmers we have to ensure that our pricing is inline with the long-term sustainability of our operation.

• This season we are hiring two full-time farm employees, one a garden manager and the other a pastured poultry manager. This change was necessitated by the need to make farm jobs available to budding young farmers who have experience, who have been through apprenticeship programs, but aren’t quite ready or don’t have the means to start their own operations. This change will increase the professionalism of our operation while reducing the demands of constant training. We will still have one intern on the farm.

• We have simplified your two-hour volunteer work commitment on the farm. During the signup process, you will be able to schedule a date with a specific project to meet this requirement.

• In the past we strived to source non-GMO and organic feed for our poultry. This year, we’re happy to report that we now have certified non-GMO, organic grains grown in Colorado as a feed supplement for our pastured poultry (broilers, layer hens and turkeys).

• Our open CSA registration period falls in line with a new national “CSA Signup Day”, February 28, 2015! Join thousands of others around the country who are signing up with their local CSA farms. Continue to be a part of the small farm revolution that is taking place!

We are very excited about the upcoming season and look forward to serving your needs. There are other changes happening here in the farm, too, which we’ll fill you in on as we get the season underway.

Won’t you please join us this season? Thank you in advance for your continued support.

 

Two paid job opportunities & one intern position available for 2015

NEWSFLASH!!: The Garden/CSA Manager, Pastured Poultry Manager and Intern positions have been filled for the 2015 season. But please, read on for more information for exciting details here at the farm about how we’re creating employment opportunities for young farmers. Thank you for your support and interest!!

After 12 years of organizing and maintaining a vigorous apprenticeship program, we’re going to try something different this upcoming growing season. Over the years, we’ve noticed a dearth in real farm job opportunities for the very same young farmers that we’re training. We teach, “At the end of the summer, you’ll be able to grow food and raise animals either on your own farm, someone else’s farm, apply for another apprenticeship program, or take over the family farm business.” But the reality is that it’s a huge step from apprenticing for a season at a farm and then feeling the confidence, and having the skills and resources to actually start one’s own enterprise.

Of course, many of our apprentices have been able to do just that. They’ve gone on to eventually start their own farms or have taken over for their families. For that we’re so grateful and proud. That’s just what this country needs right now: more food grown on small family farms that sustain and nurture communities throughout the land. But we’re also aware that real job opportunities for budding farmers are not that plentiful.

It’s that apparent gap that got us to thinking at the end of last summer: “let’s create a job opportunity model right here at the farm that can complement everything else we’re doing, including maintaining a scaled-down version of our apprenticeship program”. Why heck, we’ve had a full-time, seasonal farm employee in the past (thanks, Sajun), and it worked out great. The bakery has also had grand success with employees who are paid a living wage for their incredible skills and contributions. Our bakers are the fabulous duo of Hannah Rossman (a former farm intern!) and Fumie Hiromitsu (another former two-year apprentice!). So, we know the model works. And we know there’s a demand out there for farm jobs. Sustaining economic vitality in our community through the production of local food has been our mission since day one.

So, we’re offering two farm jobs this season. One, a Garden and CSA Manager, and the other, a Pastured Poultry Manager. Both are seasonal, full-time positions. Both carry a lot of responsibility. Both are paid a salary coupled with room & board. We think they’re fabulous opportunities for aspiring farmers who already have experience and want to continue to pursue the vitally important job of farming. Both positions require at least two years previous experience.

We’re also going to select one intern who will work alongside the two hired hands and us, the owners. All of us will be joined by eight CSA workshare members who contribute 4 hours of their time per week in exchange for a basket of food. All in all, we’re excited about the possibilities for the upcoming growing season!

Applications are now being accepted for both the hired positions and the internship. Interns can click here for an intern application, while those interested in the Garden/CSA Manager or the Pastured Poultry jobs can email Barclay for an application and a job description at:  barclayscakes@rmi.net

 

 

A CSA workshare member shares her experience at the farm

The following was written by Suzanne Cheavens Wontrobski, one of our fabulous CSA workshare members this season.

 

“It’s alarming how charming it is to be a-farming; 
How calming and balming the effect of the air…” – “Now I’m A Farmer,” Pete Townshend, The Who

I’m hot, sweaty, and filthy and every muscle aches. My skin is brown and my hair is tucked away in a disheveled knot. The bandana around my head is sweat-soaked. There’s soil in my pockets and flecks of hay stuck to my neck. I pluck a chicken feather from my sleeve and stand straight to let a cooling breeze surround me. I can’t drink enough water. I am intensely happy. I am on the farm.

For a handful of hours every week, I work at Indian Ridge Farm and Bakery in Norwood. My husband and I are charter members of this thriving CSA. This is the first year I’ve traded my labor for the weekly boxes of amazing food we receive from late May through early October. As I write, I am a little more than midway through my obligation. Initially, I thought I would knock out my hours early in the season, but I can see now that I will likely be making the drive to Norwood for nearly the entire season. As hard as it is, I realize I don’t want it to end. It has become a part of me, as much as the farm’s tender lettuces, baby beets, sweet carrots and plump little chickens infuse my very cells.

Suzanne Cheavens busy planting seed in the garden

The work is often incredibly hard. The garden is large, but not large enough for seeding machines and bed shapers. We do everything by hand. I’ve become adept with pitchforks and rakes, toiling shoulder to shoulder with the farm’s apprentices and interns, Amy and Tanner. Many days, other work-trade CSA members join us in the garden. Under the broiling sun or in the close heat of the hoop houses, we wrestle with weeds, harvest crops, shape beds, lay irrigation line. We transplant young lettuces, basil, tomatoes, and cucumbers and weed some more. There is always weeding.

I am no stranger to hard work, especially of this nature. As a young girl growing up in rural Maryland, I traded work for board for my horse at a small farm just down the road. Mucking stalls, heaving hay and straw bales, helping in the kitchen garden, and caring for the horses defined my youth. Umpteen years later, I can still heft a bale, though this time, it’s sawdust for the turkey nursery Tony and I prepare in anticipation of a second batch of turkey chicks. Those chicks are now hardy enough to live outdoors and it won’t be long before they will be moved out to the pasture where they will feast on the abundant grasses and bugs. And grow.

Watching things grow never fails to amaze me. Whether it’s pea vines or potatoes, piglets or calendula sprouts, everything at Indian Ridge is bursting with life. One of the first things I did, way back in May, was drop tiny flower seeds in little pockets of rich soil in the starter flats. I labeled them with popsicle sticks and marveled how no two seeds were remotely alike. Some were miniscule, black flecks no larger then a poppy seed; others were as big as a fingernail clipping, whorled and spiny. Each will become a bright bloom that CSA members will cull from a garden row to take home and cherish.

It is no exaggeration to state that I learn something new every day. I soak up the information as if it is essential, because it is. When I am not working on the farm, I am working on a novel, one that takes place in a not-so-distant, dystopian future. My characters must learn to raise chickens and goats and grow their own food. They will starve if they do not succeed. It is no secret that I fear for today’s society. So few understand what it takes to grow a carrot from seed to plate, fewer still can wrap their minds around the lifespan of a goat or turkey. My mind absorbs every tidbit of information I derive from my hours on the farm. The knowledge goes into my book and into my own, little garden in Lawson Hill.

I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be able to lend a hand at Indian Ridge. It is righteous work. It is necessary work. It is life itself. When I get home from Norwood, I bang the soil from my shoes and toss my damp T-shirt in the hamper. My body, which has stiffened on the drive home, rejoices under the hot spray from the showerhead and dirty water wends down the drain. But I’m vibrating and deeply contented. I feel as if I have been in service to something larger than all of us. I’ve done my part to help feed people. A farm day is always a good day.

[Check out my blog at: scheavens.wordpress.com]

Lots going on!

A lot of excitement is building on the farm and there’s lots to share. It’s that time of year when the projects come fast and furious in a rush to getting the farm setup for the growing season. Of course, in the midst of special projects, on an almost daily basis we’re continuing to direct-seed in the garden and in flats, and we’ve even done some transplanting already!

Shall we talk about the weather? Not. Other than to say it’s snowing today, on this May 8. At 7000′ ASL. In the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. ‘Nuff said.

The past week saw us move our layer hens out to pasture. In all, the hens have been split into five different flocks, each housed in their own mobile chicken coop, or “chicken tractor.” (Why is it called a tractor? We don’t really know!) The tractors are mostly converted horse/stock trailers, each equipped with a roost, nesting boxes and a feeder and drinker. We park the trailer in one spot on pasture and then setup electric fencing around the trailer in what, over time, appears to be a wagon wheel pattern.  Once the grass within the area inside the electric fence is eaten down, we move the fence to a new spot, keeping the trailer parked in its existing location. This assures that the birds are always on fresh pasture, which for you, the consumer, assures that the eggs will be second to none in good health (in general, the deeper the coloring of the egg yolk the healthier the omega fatty acids and Vitamin D content of the egg). Store bought, industrial eggs are usually a pale yellow, while pastured eggs are a deep orange.

 

Room with a view. Layer hens enjoying their first morning in fresh pasture. The electric fence is attached to a “chicken tractor,” in this case a converted 4-horse trailer. The fence is then rotated around the trailer, always assuring fresh pasture for these layer hens, and, in turn, the best eggs available!

 

 

Baby goats, as we highlighted in the last post, aren’t the only young ‘uns on the farm. Every week we take in another batch of roaster chickens as day-old chicks (we don’t incubate them ourselves). They’re eventually put on pasture as well, in an intensive rotational grazing system and then processed right here at the farm. Already, three batches of roasters have made it out to pasture from their cozy brooder confines. We were also able to locate and bring to the farm two very cute piglets, each of them weighing about 20 pounds. These are York/Hampshire, which we brought home from Bayfield a couple days ago. Finding healthy piglets this season is a challenge. The Porcine Diarrhea Virus is sweeping the country and has affected pigs on Colorado’s Western Slope, as well (mainly in the Uncompahgre River Valley). PEDV has impacted an estimated 60 percent of the US breeding herd. Overall US pork production is anticipated to decline 6-7 percent in 2014, the most in more than 30 years (ACRES USA), surely driving the price of pork up for consumers. (Pork is available for sale through this website, under the “Farm” button. Go to the Meat Order Form. Supplies are very limited!)

The Berta Rotary Plow, which we’ve already raved about in a previous posting, was put to work again this week. This time, the new hoop house, which housed the layer hen flock this past winter, needed to be readied for planting after the exodus of the layer hens into their summer homes on pasture. The before and after pictures are stunning. Unfortunately, we didn’t take a photo of the 1000 sq ft hoop house with the 150 layer hens scattered about, but after mucking out their fertilizer (it’s too hot for the soil if left in there), the beds needed to be raised and reshaped. Berta Plow to the rescue!

The two beds on the right have already been run through by the Berta Plow, while the bed on the left awaits its turn, showing what the entire hoop house looked like post-layer hen exodus. When used in the proper application, it truly is an amazing implement to a walking tractor. A couple days after this image was taken, the three beds were planted with various early-season vegetables!

 

Also adding to the excitement on the farm this week was the introduction of two beehives, brought to the farm and managed by CSA member Laura Duncan.  Raising bees at Indian Ridge Farm is a new endeavor for us, and we’re excited! We’re raising them in both Langstroth and Top Bar Hives. As we’ve all read, bees are in danger throughout the world, victims to Colony Collapse, thought to be caused by all the pesticides, insecticides and fungicides in use by commercial ag producers. We’re doing our small part to change that, and also use the bees for pollination. Already, one looks at flowering “weeds” in a different light with the bees around. Right now the dandelions are in full bloom, and the White Top is closely following. The bees seek out whatever flowers are around for food. Some of our fruit trees are in full bloom, too. We had a bucolic moment earlier this week when standing amidst a glorious Crab Apple tree in full bloom, with a sweet scent in the air, and the buzzing of bees in the air. All was well in the world.

There’s so much to learn, and in the short week that the hives have been here, we’ve already experienced some awe. Granted, the weather has been challenging for the little flyers (strong winds and cold nights). But they seem to have settled well in their new setting. Well, sort of. Tony observed early Tuesday morning a low hanging branch in a Juniper tree close to the Langstroth hives and went out to investigate further. What he discovered was that the bees had swarmed! A swarm is actually an exciting, positive development. It’s how the bees expand their population. It’s the result of a healthy hive. It’s how they grow. As bee guardian Corwin Bell has written, “From an ecological standpoint, swarming is a natural process. It makes the bees healthy and happy, promotes genetic diversity, and encourages them to be productive. Suppressing a swarm discourages the population growth of the bees. It also forces a higher number of bees to live in the same space. Cramped hive conditions produces stress which lowers the immunity of that community of bees. And finally, suppressing a swarm prevents genetic advancement. We love the concept that swarming helps to re-establish bees in the wild, thus maintaining the genetic diversity of the bee species.”

Laura Duncan working the bee hives. That’s a Langstroth Hive in the back, with an open Top Bar Hive in the front.

A swarm! Lots of peaceful activity, the bees are gathered around their queen, searching for a new home. We all thought there was a certain sensual quality to this photo.

Tony and Laura placing the swarm in a Top Bar Hive.

 

And now, for some news updates from around the world of organics. The Environmental Working Group, one of our favorite pragmatic environmental groups, published their list of the “Dirty Dozen” fruits and vegetables that are the most sprayed upon with chemicals. Here is their list, in order of amount of chemical used: apples, strawberries, grapes, celery, peaches, spinach, sweet bell peppers, nectarines, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, potatoes and snap peas. Shop organically, join a CSA or shop at farmer’s markets. Of course, as small farmers we advocate the latter two!

The life of the farm returns

It really is like magic. After a long winter of dormancy, springtime unfolds its ritualistic return of life to our region.  The earth right now is burgeoning with life; it’s literally gurgling from the earth in small brooks and streams. It’s found in the smallest microbials in the soil to the largest of the winged eagles and vultures flying overhead. From the germinating seed to the already-long blade of grass. From the lilac bushes budding to the fruit trees already blossoming.  Of course, none of this was “dead” in the literal sense. Nothing necessarily “died” during the course of winter (though we did hear of some peach trees that succumbed to the week’s long unseasonable cold in December). It’s all now come alive.

In a discussion during a recent visit with Barclay’s parents — both retired farmers — we all commented on how powerful nature’s display is this time of year. That, over the years, life on a farm begins to overflow in the spring. Over the years, the soils become healthier, the waters more plentiful, the grasses greener, the wildlife more abundant. An organic farm provides a hospitable environment in all of these micro-ecosystems for creatures and plants of all sizes and shapes. It’s something we can feel. It’s something we can see. It’s something we can hear. It’s what scientists refer to as bio-diversity so inherent in organic farming.

Why? Simply it’s that we don’t use chemicals. Our neighbors don’t use chemicals. In fact, it appears that most of Wrights Mesa is void of harmful chemicals (they’re too expensive for most ranchers, who otherwise might be found spraying for noxious weeds and such). We’re not killing the very life that we’ve all grown dependent on.

We’ve seen seven goslings on the upper pond, with more surely to follow since there are numerous pairs of ducks and geese frolicking about. Dandelions are flowering here and there, some of the earliest blossoms to provide the wild bees their pollen as they awaken from their long winter’s nap. The meadowlark are beautifully singing in the large pasture, building their nests to hatch the next generations. A walk across the pasture not too long ago revealed eight bald eagles perched on a cottonwood, all overseen by a herd of about 60 elk. The hummingbirds are scouting for their early return to these parts, although we haven’t put out any feed for them yet, what with the incoming winter storm this weekend that may dump several inches of snow. The ditches are full of water from overflowing reservoirs, this before the “real” runoff begins. We’ve already seen insects flying in the air: beneficials or pests? We don’t know yet. But as long as the ecosystem is in balance, then all will be okay.

Of course, spring projects keep us very busy as we prepare the farm for the upcoming growing season. But we do try to stop and simply admire the wondrous nature of all that we’re surrounded by. It keeps us on a positive track. It truly is magical. Please come by for a visit. We’d love to see you out here and share. Thank you to all who have already made the trip to get their “hands in the soil.”

Proud mama Dahlia, with two of her three kids born just Friday morning.

 

 

Tinker acting as the “dual” following the birth of the three baby kid goats.

 

Barclay helping to harvest carrots that wintered-over. They’re as sweet as can be! That’s Mogli the cat, being playful as always.

 

Fred Voegel, a pisteur on exchange from Tignes, France, visited the farm for a night this week with his two lovely children.

 

Springtime in the Rockies!

It’s springtime here in the Rockies, and we all know what that means: abundant sunshine, sometimes strong winds, warm temperatures giving way to cold temperatures, glorious views of snow-capped mountains with green pastures, rain, and yes, snow! In other words, it’s that unpredictable time of year when a farmer must be prepared for all conditions in which to work to grow food.

 

A mid-April snowstorm puts the brakes on prepping outdoor beds for planting, but gives the mesa and the nearby mountains a good dousing of moisture, which will later be used for irrigation.

 

It’s also that time of year when we are forced to prioritize projects as we get the wheels turning for the upcoming season. We learned long ago that one can’t be fooled by a warm spell. Patience is a must. In other words, don’t plant cold-sensitive produce too soon, or you’ll live to regret it. The use of season extenders is how we can stretch what is a three-month frost-free season into a six-month growing season. We do this by, among other things, using hoop houses, planting lots of starters in the greenhouse that will eventually be transplanted and using row covers in the garden. A planting calendar with the exact dates on when to plant (with help from the Bio-dynamic calendar) also helps, with careful consideration to those plants that are cold tolerant. We have many tricks up our sleeves, gained from 12 years of commercial growing at 7000 feet in elevation!

Ultimately, the health of the garden comes down to the health of our soils. We’re strong believers in cover cropping as a means of producing “healthy soils.” Cover crops of cold-hardy winter rye and hairy vetch are planted in late summer and through the fall, and then tilled into the soil in the spring. Sometimes we’ll plant cover crops on fallowed beds in the middle of summer, with a warm-season buckwheat, which has a beautiful bee-loving and sweet-smelling blossom. The cover crops add nutrients back into the soil, compete effectively against weeds, help retain moisture and add organic matter to the soil.

A new implement this spring, the Berta Rotary Plow, has been invaluable to tilling in the winter cover crop and forming beds for spring planting. In the above picture, the plowed in beds are on the left, the bed being worked is on the right.

Beds that weren’t planted in a cover crop will see a thin coating of soil amendment produced as the end-product of our composting system.  A vegan may want to stop reading here. Why? Well, because the best soil amendment comes from the so-called “waste” provided by farm livestock — chickens, turkeys, horses, goats, pigs. In our case, that’s manures, yes, but also offal, blood and bone meal, and feathers from the poultry processing plant, which are all mixed together for two years with garden scraps and from the pastured poultry brooder’s wood shavings. We let all of this organic matter compost for at least two years before it becomes a suitable soil amendment. In our way of farming, livestock is an integral part of a holistic living and breathing farm organism.

So, what does all this have to do with prioritizing projects, which was the beginning of the thought process of this essay? This discussion is a long-winded way of saying that in the spring, we focus primarily on bed prep and getting as much seed into play as is humanly possible. That, in essence, becomes the top priority out of a long, almost daunting, list of projects. But it also takes water for seed to germinate and grow. So, part of the priority process is to reconstruct the farm’s water infrastructure, which was dismantled in the fall, before the long, cold winter months.

We also spent some time in the past few days burning ditch. That is, we burn the dead grasses in the ditches that restrict the even and smooth flow of water. An efficient delivery system of water is an absolute must in the drought-prone southwest. Every drop of water is sacred; every drop of water counts toward our success.

Our first apprentice arrived this week, Amy Sobel. Look for her profile soon (with a photo!). She’s awesome and an avid learner. Two more apprentices will arrive in May.

This past week, we had a mini “work day” with some of our CSA members. A good time was had by all. We spent a morning prepping beds, planting seed and cleaning up the garden.

So far, we’ve outdoors: peas, beets and carrots, to go with the garlic that was planted last fall. We’ve also seeded onions, lettuce, arugula, beet greens, bok choi, mustard greens, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, leeks and scallions. Farmer Sajun Folsom, our only hired farm worker, is hard at work already, managing our pastured poultry flocks, three batches of which are now  in the brooder. Once they reach an age suitable to put up with the freaky mountain weather, these birds will be put out the pasture to feast on the grasses in the intensive rotational grazing pasture.

Our mama goat Dahlia is showing signs that she may kid any day now. She’s huge, barely trudging along in the pasture! We’re excited to be drinking raw goat milk again!

A neighbor showed up one morning, out of the blue, and offered to sell us his retired stock trailer, which we will convert into another chicken tractor to give our egg laying hens more space for their summer pasture rotations. We’ve ramped up our hen count this winter so that hopefully there won’t be an egg shortage this summer, when our delicious and nutritious pastured eggs are in such demand.

So, what does all this mean? It means that, if you’re still with us dear reader, you’re part of a revolution that goes well beyond the healthy food on your plate. It’s about an intimate connection to nature, it’s about the economy, it’s about agriculture, it’s about community, it’s about the efficient use of resources, it’s about bucking the power of the corporation and empowering yourself to be more free than you can ever imagine. It’s about restoring a healthy planet. It’s about your own good health. Thanks for being a part of the ride. After all, ultimately, you’re in control. Make sure you’ve prepped your own figurative beds, readying them to germinate the seeds that reside within all of us.