Over a thousand miles away from Green Gulch – and at 7600 feet above sea level – two former Green Gulch farmers are farming, together. I’m entering my second year as the garden manager in this relatively new farming program in Southwest Colorado (it’s my sixth season farming!), and am thrilled to get some Green Gulch company in the field from Emily Haefner.
Emily – a Green Gulch apprentice from last year – has joined the Old Fort Market Gardens’ farming program as a farmer-in-training, or FIT. She’ll take care of a little over a quarter acre, with two fellow FITs and minimal involvement from Old Fort staff. (Or that’s the idea, anyway. I’ve been up in the plot almost much as the three farmers in these first few weeks of the growing season.) Text messages fly and our binder fills up with notes about what’s been accomplished. We’ve already had irrigation problems, planted potatoes, and built pea trellises. Emily sees everything that needs to be done. The quarter acre is in the incubator farm plot, surrounded by a very tall deer (and elk!) fence and the beautiful cottonwoods and scrub oak of the La Plata River Valley. To the north, we can see the snow melting off the La Plata mountains. A few 12,000′ peaks, our neighbors.
The incubator farm program provides low-cost access to land, water, and mentorship to beginning farmers. Incubators can take up to 5 years at the Old Fort to build a name for themselves in the region and transition to owned or rented land. Realizing that many people wanted or needed more experience before starting their own farm, even with the safety net of the incubator program, we decided to offer a guided farming program with a basic crop plan and a lot of freedom.
Our last frost date isn’t until June 10th, so we begin the season slowly and cautiously with hardy plants and lots of row cover. Broccoli, peas, spinach, potatoes, onions, and leeks are in the ground. One of the FITs, Brandon, is sharing his knowledge of indigenous foods from his home of Black Mesa, Arizona, and yesterday decided it was safe to plant some Navajo White corn, but not yet the beans and squash that we’ll grow from seeds he’s saved.
Sadie, the third FIT and barista extraordinaire, contributes excellent recordkeeping, an inescapable memory, and touching humility. We all have so much to learn from each other, from the land, and from this first and experimental year of the FIT program at the Old Fort.
Who would like to join us next season? There’s a collection of us former GGF-ers in southwest Colorado area: Emily, Elicia, Danny, Sarah, Michael, Minna, formerly Betzi, and maybe more to come. For former apprentices, future farmers, and friends: come visit, or come farm.
Wish us luck for temperatures above 32 degrees ’til September (that’s about all we can hope for) and for cultivating and receiving that deep joy of farming together in our current circumstances, a joy that all the readers of this blog know well.
Much love and luck to the current Green Gulch Farm crew: for the first time in 5 years, I have no idea who most of you are.