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Colorado Updates: Sustainable Farming

By Brian & Adhav

On the morning of our 8th day in Colorado, our group woke up tired but filled with a muted enthusiasm as we piled into the van on our trip to Mountain Roots community farm. Upon our arrival, we met the current staff, Emily, Gavin, and Rachel. The trio showed us around the property, every inch of which was converted in greenery and floral beauty.

Our first task was to weed the spiral garden with our hosts. We were all entranced when Rachel started talking about her passion for perennial pollination. Even when tackling the mundane task of weeding out invasive species for more flower space, she entertained us all with her enthusiasm and knowledge about environmental facts. Just a year ago, she was working on studies about bees and flowers at a nearby research institution in Colorado to learn about how these insects rely on each other and how climate change ruins that balance. On the Mountain Roots farm in the heart of the Gunnison Basin, we learned about the sustainable agriculture system run by the young people there. The farm has a CSA certificate, which allows it to participate in the local food production program connected to the local community. At the beginning of the season, Gunnison residents would chip in some money to invest in seeds and resources for the farm. After the harvest starts rolling, the farm gives back with fresh produce at a reduced price. It is one of the pivotal locations that serve affordable local food in the region, especially for low-income residents who lack access to high-quality fruits and veggies.

After being farmers for a day, we experienced both the frenetic and tiring work in the hot sun. Whacking out purslanes and thistles was intense with the spikes stinging our palms, but seeing the gardens and beds clean of weeds was extremely gratifying. We also helped tie up the cabbage and slice off decaying chard leaves to feed the hungry chickens.

As we were approaching the end of our visit, our guides at the farm taught us how to pick off sugar snap and snow peas from the two rows of heavily fruited plants. Despite our hair slightly soaked from the unpredictable Coloradan rain, and our feet drained after a day of standing, we still harvested with smiles on our faces. We kept talking and joking, as we helped each other pick pea pods off the green vines. The fresh snow peas were incredibly juicy and sweet, while the sugar snap ones had a more hardy flavor.

Right before we left, our newfound friends explained what brought them to the farm. Rachel’s closing statement elaborated on how she felt the research lab was not fulfilling enough, and how she wanted to really impact people through work at the farm. Gavin shared the same sentiment. He stressed the importance of land stewardship and helping others—from using chicken compost to enrich soil to providing equitable access to food in Gunnison.

We unanimously agreed that the journey to Mountain Roots was one of the most memorable experiences of our journey so far. We learned so much about the processes of sustainable farming, but also of the passions and resiliency of people at the farm, and the ways they are creating change locally. The only thing that tastes sweeter than the peas was knowing that our short day of volunteer work contributed to Gunnison’s community.

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