NEW FARMER JOURNAL: Easy Growin' Farm, Buena Vista CO

Getting started
Farming lesson number one: Sometimes the best-laid plans need to be adjusted to fit reality.

By Joshua Flowers

Farm-At-A-Glance

Easy Growin' Farm
Buena Vista, CO

Farmer: Joshua Flowers

First season: 2004

What they raise: Mixed vegetables, goats (for milk products), edible flowers, herbs, raspberries, eggs

Marketing strategies: Health food store, farmers’ market

February, 2005. As winter begins to taper off and the daylight hours increase, I sit down with my “to-do” list and realize that it, too, has lengthened quite appreciably. At the onset of this farming experience, I remember hearing that little voice of many a veteran farmer whispering “the work begins with the coming of the sun, and isn’t finished until the light of day wanes.” I, however, was determined not to let time beat me into submission. I had my days planned out with great scrupulousness, and I was going to explore these mountain ranges that hover in the distance at least once a week.

Again, I come face to face with my tendency to live in a state of idealism. The romantic mind paints a glorious picture that is often far removed from reality. However, I am quickly learning to accept the fact that with farming things don’t always play out as envisioned, there are too many variables. I am convinced that the number-one quality a successful farmer must possess is patience. There are simply not enough hours in a given day to accomplish all one wishes. Inevitably, something else will come up that must be tended to. Farmer Bob from across the road will pull up a bucket and commence to talkin’ and spittin’. So the “to-do” list spills over into the next day, and soon that day off is nothing but a fading notion.

However, when you are doing something that you love, the sacrifices are incredibly worth it. There have been many an opportunity to remember why it is I put in these long days. The reminder comes with the bursts of laughter as I notice Mocha, one of my goats, chewing cud, cheeks bulging, goofy expression lingering. It is in the sunrise as I walk into the morning light, hands numb from the brutal cold, but soon warmed by a toasty goat teat. I also find it as I sit down, at day’s end, to a meal that consists of produce from last season, eggs from the hens, and a wonderful bowl of goat milk yogurt.

Yes, it is quite a blessing to be here finally trying my hand at—what has become known as a dying occupation—small-scale farming. It has been a dream I have been working toward for about five years now. I have put in many hours reading, interning, experimenting with my own small gardens, wwoofing in Thailand, and coming up with a plan. Now it is here, and the work, joys, and challenges of starting a small farm are in full swing.

Last year I moved onto 260 acres that my grandparents own and started out by testing and amending the soil, then erecting a 7-foot fence to detour the plethora of deer, elk, and rodents that share the land with me (however, something still managed to maul my baby sunflowers). The fence enclosed 1,400 square feet of garden space. I planted a variety of vegetables, edible flowers, herbs, and raspberries. At the time I was working as a wilderness therapy counselor, so I was gone every other week. A drip system took care of the watering and the blessed wind kept most of the winged marauders away from my plants. It was always amazing to see how much evolved (weeds included) while I was away.

The plan for this season is to expand the garden and include a 10 x 60 foot hoop house for growing red bell peppers, tomatoes, squash, and cucumbers. The hoop house was donated by my grandparents in exchange for a season’s supply of real tomatoes. They’re sick of the red, solid, spherically shaped objects that “taste like cardboard,” which they purchase at the local grocers. I have also just acquired a flock of 112 laying hens. They will be housed in 24 feet of the greenhouse and will provide CO2, heat, and manure for the plants. Most of the produce from the garden will be sold at the farmers' market, where the competition is obsolete (last year’s market consisted of a hot dog vendor and a guy selling paintings).

The local health food stores have expressed interest in selling my produce and eggs as well. From last year’s experiment with heirlooms that grow well here at 8,000 feet with a short (80 day) growing season, I have decided to focus on ‘Lacinato’ kale, ‘Green Arrow’ peas, and ‘Five-Color Silverbeet’ chard. I hope to save seeds from these as well as other varieties that prove themselves fit for this climate.

Right now I am a bit behind schedule as funds are low—the money from this article will increase my savings to a whopping 100 bucks—and much of my time has been spent renovating an old school house on the property. I have decided to take a part time job in town to assist in building up the capital I need to get this season started. Again, not what I had planned, but we patiently roll along.