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

The hurrier I go, the behinder I get
When equipment starts failing and you can hear the weeds growing, it’s nice to have the help of family and friends.

By Joshua Flowers
Posted August 16, 2005

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

July, 2005. The days seem to be stampeding through my life like a heard of wild buffalo. As they rush past, I find it increasingly difficult to round up enough hours to even begin putting a dent in the ever-evolving “to-do” list. However, as I survey the farm and its current condition, I am amazed at all that has been accomplished within the past few months. The entire process so far has brought with it many gains as well as plenty of setbacks, and both have offered some valuable lessons.

The beginning of the season started with some challenges that caused me to alter my plans quite significantly. Our first farmers market here in Buena Vista was a dismal failure. The other two venders were no-shows and the customer turnout was virtually nonexistent. I had little to offer in the form of produce anyhow, a result of not getting seeds started early enough. The other venders tried selling goods the following weekend, while I was out of town, and had little success. After talking with another farmer who had the same experience when she had tried farmers’ markets in this valley a few years ago, I decided the whole thing seemed like a waste of time and that I would be better off spending my Saturdays on the farm. I hope to try selling at another already established farmers market a few towns over later in the season.

The second blow came as my truck began to have some technical difficulties and landed itself in the shop, resulting in an $1,100 mechanic bill and a major obstacle for my farm budget. All of a sudden the whole farming thing seemed a bit risky, financially. So I took on more hours at my two side jobs, which meant I would be working around 26 hours a week away from the farm. Needless to say, farm projects began piling up. With so many tasks needing immediate attention I had a hard time prioritizing. This seems to be one of the greatest challenges of farming. There are many days that there are a handful of jobs and it is crucial that they all are tended to, yet there just aren’t enough hours in a day.

As I began sliding further and further behind in the garden, the weeds got further and further ahead. It seems the manure that I had so highly praised harbored a plethora of lambs quarter and one other type of weed seed. Though most of the pile had sat for over three years, a good portion of the manure on top must not have been given enough time to heat up to the point of seed annihilation. I am positive this is where most of the weeds came from, as I had combined this manure with my weed-free starting mix and the same two varieties of weeds found their way into those pots and trays as well. However, after a few intense days of weed pulling with a few friends, my wonderful mother, and a fabulous little tool known as the “hula hoe,” we managed to thwart the majority of those little water- and nutrient-sucking thieves. Once the competition was alleviated, the vegetables took off.

Though I was able to get most of the vegetables planted, a large portion of my flowers and herbs—both of which I had hoped to be able to market—never quite made their way into the ground. About one quarter of the garden went unplanted, but I hope to use that space for a green mulch of winter rye and a cold-tolerant legume this fall. I had underestimated the amount of salad greens I would need to plant, and for some reason the succession planting of my lettuces had a poor germination rate. The endive and escarole got bitter quickly with the intense heat spell we had. Arugula grew exceptionally well but, just as it was ready to harvest, got ransacked by a horde of little, jumping flee beetles that left the patch looking as if they had been wielding a shotgun in the garden. I have since learned that a garlic-infused spray will detour these pests.

On the brighter side of things, the rest of the garden is doing well and I should be able to market some tomatoes, chard, peas, squash, sorrel, garlic, oinions and kale. Fifty more pullets have been added to my flock of chickens to meet up with high demands for eggs. The coyote that had made off with a half dozen of my free-range birds has been illusive as of late. I have purchased two more Nubian goats, as Colorado just passed legislation in favor of raw goat milk, and I am looking into the possibility of getting certified so that I can sell my yogurt, cheese, and milk. Finally, I have been blessed with some great friends and amazing parents who have all lent a helping hand on numerous occasions and have made this whole farm experience possible and more enjoyable.