Located at the base of Buckhorn Mountain at 6700' elevation, Buckhorn Gardens is a small, organic vegetable farm 13mi. south of Montrose, Colorado. Our farm is an active part of a 12,000 acre ranch; however, we only manage 3 acres with intensive vegetable gardening.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

CSA Newsletter and Application are now posted!!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tis the season to be goaty. If you haven't heard and seen already, there are baby goats newly prancing and flipping in our barnyard. All over our valley and, most likely, all around the country new goats are being born along with all the other new baby animals--calves, foals, fawns, pups, kitttens. All signs that spring is here!

Of Buckhorn's three does aka "nannies", Midnight is the first this spring to have babies. Last Monday (3/11) on the new moon while checking the goats before the night, we were blessed to receive and spend the twilight hours with the new twins. All these pictures were taken that evening of the new moon. Both of these goat babies are doelings! Awesome, more to milk.....next year.

Reading a little on goat husbandry and asking other farmers with goats, you'll discover that it is common for goats to give birth to multiple offspring at once. It depends partly on the breed, but twins seem to the most common birth occurrence in many breeds.

After taking picture with the twins, Horton thoroughly checked them as they slowly began to dry off and try out their spindly, rickety legs. We gave the goats fresh water with some kelp and warm water with some molasses to the twins before heading back in for the night.
Vernal Equinox occurs this Wednesday (3/20), so we are anticipating that Zen and Rocky, our other two nannies, are very close to birthing their kids as well. We're guessing it will happen this week. Zen is pictured here with her billy-kid Porter, born March 8th of last year.
Last year, from the last week in October until the first week of December we were able to board and care for a herd of 14 goats while the herd owner, our friend Eddy, moved his family from Texas to the western slope. In exchange for caring for his goat herd for over a month, the billy-goat of the herd, Champ, would hopefully impregnate our two female goats. Looks like he performed his job quite well. Midnight was a gift from Eddy at the end of the exchange.

Champ (big grey bearded goat, Toggenburg breed) is pictured here beside Midnight (all black, Alpine breed), as well as a portion of the herd.

What a Champ!

Now that we have had a week of observing the twins they both appear to be healthy: herding and grazing in the field with the others and milking daily on Midnight.

Sorry, but you can't pet the pictures of baby goats...no matter how much you may want to.

Stop on by the farm soon and see all the new kids!! Oh, and don't forget to holler at your friendly, local farmers while you're at it.


Monday, March 11, 2013

It's March, sure. But with a good amount of snow last month, surely we weren't hibernating...were we? Hibernating, no. Thankfully we have been sleeping pretty well, and eating extremely well.

Horton, Laura, and I have all had a chance or two to ski and snowboard in Telluride this winter. I was able to snowboard with Leelyn, one of our amazing volunteers from Telluride who's soon heading to Washington state to start her own CSA farm!
Afterwards, there was a soreness in the muscles for sure, but the big-mountain experience was more than worth it. This beautiful snow has also allowed me to XC-ski up to the farm a couple of times. It's something I've always wanted to do. 

Aside from the times we get to play in the stuff, we have still been busy at work. Many of you know that I have been working part-time at Natural Grocers at Vitamin Cottage in Montrose. NattyGro (as I call it) is a good fit for me in terms of "getting a job". And I have my reasons for working there. One of the biggest perks I enjoy at NattyGro is the bags of veggie scraps that I can take home to give to our goats and chickens. All the produce at NattyGro is certified organic; therefore the scraps provide excellent nutrition to our young chickens and our three currently pregnant goats.
If we weren't giving the scraps to the goats and chickens we'd contribute them to our compost piles. Though right now, it's important that the animals get the green nutrition since our pastures and chicken yards are covered in snow. This way we don't have to feed as much alfalfa hay as we would if we didn't have the veggie scraps. You'd devour fresh veggie scraps like an animal too if your main food source disappeared for 6 months out of the year!

We've also been building our compost piles and worm bins like mad! SHE'S MAD, I TELL YOU!

This pile is filled with worms that have been growing in number and size. We added a bunch of straw, bags of leaves, mycelia, Actinovate, coffee grounds, and other soil builders like greensand, crabmeal, and azomite to increase the nutrient content for the worms to process. This worm pile will be our "starter" pile that we will use to initiate other compost and worm piles this year.

 We've been starting all kinds of onions, eggplants, peppers, herbs, flowers, and some tomatoes in the dome where it's warm.

Leelyn and I are chatting about peppers and eggplant varieties to plant. 

Laura's re-taping up the reflective paneling in the dome, quite a project. But, she done good.


Friday, February 8, 2013

Here is some excellent information I gleaned while attending the first annual Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum:
The first workshop I attended after the opening meeting and networking breakout was titled Feeding your Soil to Feed Your Crops: Cover Crops and Soil Fertility. Isaac Munoz, a representative from the CSU extension office, presented a slideshow about soil fertility management and utilizing green manures, such as legumes and annuals, as cover crops. Dependent on a farmer’s needs both for livestock feed and soil fertility, a balance between needed inputs and potential gains is important to achieve in order to realize both primary and secondary benefits of green manures as cover crops. As with all cultivation of crops, growing and fallow periods should be put into rotation. Another example of rotations that Isaac included in his presentation was the rotation of planting green manures and cash crops during the growing periods. A major point that I learned was how all these rotations exercise the soil in order to strengthen fertility by additions of biomass and fallow rest periods.
The second session I attended was titled Creative Labor Options. Sue Towne from the Colorado Workforce Center identified regulations and gave thorough details involving famers who bring in foreign workers on H2A visas. Most items like housing, travel, work visas, and food must be funded by the employer. Although for larger farms and extensive orchards, the benefits of having skilled herders/laborers were made clear. Cassandra Shenk, the director of Teens on Farms discussed her organization of local teens interested in farming. Farmers interested in having a group of teens on their farm must have liability insurance or be working with an organizer who already does. Cassandra stated that one of the major goals of Teens on Farms is to use education as a platform for building a strong work ethic from the energy of youth. Russell Evans presented his original idea of Transition Lab and how the idea is now a reality. Transition Lab is an experiential internship/workshop with many topics all packed into a 6 month period. Providing young farmers with housing and a location(s) to practice newly learned skills, Transition Lab seeks to be part of a new food revolution as well as being an alternative to endeavors offered at expensive, fruitless institutions of higher-education. Wrapping up the second session, Melanie Kline presented the efforts of Welcome Home Montrose to establish veterans into therapeutic endeavors of their choice. Josh Heck, a veteran with Welcome Home Montrose, frequently volunteers with us at Buckhorn Gardens. During our time working with Josh, we have been impacted by the positive changes and rapid improvements in well-being that we have observed in him. Welcome Home Montrose is doing an excellent job in providing veterans with a sense of community/family—an important first step in assisting with their individual recoveries.
The third session I attended was titled Expanding into New Markets: Retail, Wholesale, and Farm to School. Jeff Schwartz with Big B’s Juices started off the session by presenting some new products in the works and ideas for business expansion. He stressed the importance of good labeling and branding on every product a marketer has to offer. Also critical was to learn all about how to speak to your market in the language that that market can clearly understand. Rhea Flora, my general manager at Natural Grocers in Montrose, presented her slideshow on expanding into new markets by finding new niches for your product. Rhea posed one of the most important questions a business can ask, “How does my product compete with what’s already on the store’s shelf”? Identify vacant niches, do research to anticipate what demand(s) might already exist, and then creatively expand to fill those niches.
The fourth session I attended was titled Managing a Win/Win Internship/Apprenticeship Program. Lorraine Shide, with the Montrose County school district, encouraged our interests in initiating new school gardens and agriculture programs at schools. She informed us that high-schoolers can earn credits for their time working or interning at local farms. Following Lorraine, Julie Sullivan expertly advised us about the blessings and challenges that having an internship/apprenticeship program can bring. Both the apprentice and the mentor learn in conjunction in the full immersion learning style. Apprentices desire the lifestyle they’ll be learning at the ranch/farm, but they just need an opportunity to practice it. This presents the mentor a perfect chance to practice his or her interpersonal skills by investing in the development of a friendship with the apprentice/intern. All of this and more information Julie had to share with us, then finally pointed us in the direction of in Quivera Coalition’s New Agrarian handbook—which I made sure to purchase.
The fifth session I attended was titled Launching & Managing a CSA. Betsy Austin and Barclay Duranyi explained the purpose and many of the common challenges of launching a CSA. Ideally, a CSA farm is what an imagined neighborhood farm might be. The CSA acronym (Community Supported Agriculture) is exactly that: a farm supported by a community through the good and bad years. Betsy mentioned the important gains from first selling at farmer’s market for a year or so to identify the local market. Also for new farmers, selling at farmer’s markets allows the farmer to gain a loyal customer base. This loyal customer base will do much of the marketing for the farmer for the following market seasons and can even bring in potential CSA customers. During the first one or two CSA seasons, the farmer would do well to exercise a substantial buffer between production and the market/CSA demand. A point may eventually be reached when a CSA farm’s production anticipates and matches the market/CSA demands, allowing the farmer to operate on a tighter budget or even gain a larger profit. Success may be qualified when a CSA farm becomes sustainable to operate yearly; and, furthermore, can be quantified when it turns a profit.
The sixth session I attended was titled Magnetizing Customers: Booth Design, Online Options, Social Media, and Loyalty. Abbie Brewer started the session off by speaking on the topic of magnetizing customers through online forms of social media. Abbie has recently built up the website for the Montrose Farmer’s Market. She has designed it to be utilized by the local community through which to place orders to be picked up at market. This is called “media linking”. By keeping your website simple, engaging, and consistently up-to-date more people will visit and spend time on your website. This is a big part of staying visible to your market and new prospects. By staying updated with new media forms, Abbie informed us on how a farm can stay on the minds of its customer base. Following Abbie’s presentation, Carol Zadrozny with Z’s Orchard spoke on how agro-tourism can be a large part of staying visible to your loyal and potential customer base. In the past, Z’s Orchard has brought in local professional artists to showcase the orchard through works of art. It is very important to exercise any creative idea that positively increases the visibility of your operation.

Overall, the sessions were incredibly informative and useful. A bounty of speakers and information was somehow squeezed into this day-long conference. We attendees are so thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of a local, progressive conference such as the Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum. Furthermore, as a young farmer and intern of sustainability, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the sessions including all the chances to network with local community members. Thank you, Valley Food Partnership, for supporting us young agrarians and all our wild ideas.

Get Buck!
~Jak @Buckhorn Gardens

Friday, January 18, 2013

We know it has been awhile since we last posted an update about what all has been going on here at Buckhorn gardens. No excuses, though, we have been busy planning, planting, prepping, posting, and postulating. We trust that you have enjoyed the holidays, and hope that you’ve been warmed by your family, friends and fires. I think -14°F was the lowest temperature we experienced these past few weeks; and it wasn’t just one night that was that cold. Yes, you know. I know you folks in Ridgway know how cold it has been because you’ve produced some exquisite facial expressions in telling me how much colder it is down by the river in Ridgway. I heard the temperature dropped below -30°F in some places for multiple nights. Congrats for toughing it out! Winter isn’t over yet. More snow, please?
I think you’ll be as stoked as we are to know that our northern high tunnel (Polaris) loaded with kales, salads, lettuces, carrots, mustards, chards, and radishes is still growing! Some of the greens planted in the rows   by the inside walls of the high tunnel did experience some hard frosting the last couple of weeks. We farmers and those of you who support our adventures in agriculture understand that some loss is to be expected. Instead of focusing on these losses, we take stock in the winter roots and shoots which have gained a sweet flavor that no other season but winter can provide.

We don’t pretend to know exactly how the winter chilled soils add a sweeter flavor to vegetables than warm summer soils. Nevertheless, we do understand that a myriad of earthly flavors and all the necessary nutrients can be coaxed out of our soils and expressed in the form of vegetables. By constantly cultivating our soils, we coax complex flavor profiles out of our soils and into our veggies. Brilliant, right?! Check this out. For the past two months, give or take, we have basically handed over the duty of soil cultivation to our chickens! What are we thinking?! Well, first we started 50 pullets in our grow dome this past September. The chicks grew ridiculously fast and basically “pushed the reset button” on all the vegetation in the dome by scratching and pecking at every square inch accessible to their four-toed feet.

As they finished up the last bits in the dome, we busted open bags of leaves we scavenged from the front and back-yards of Montrose into the beds of the middle high tunnel (Mars). Then we transferred the chickens from the dome to the Mars high tunnel to allow them to scratch around and spread out all the leaves. We are gradually moving the chicken roost around the high tunnel to evenly apply the manure the chickens drop at night. You should come visit us and see this. I highly doubt we could have spread out the bags of leaves as evenly as these chickens have!
After the chickens finish their soil cultivation and weather begins to warm up, we will move them outdoors with the anticipation that the hens will be ready to lay their first eggs this summer. Cross your fingers! Those eggs will be super nutrient-dense, for sure. It’s fascinating to think about the nutrients that cycle from the soil > vegetation > chicken > egg > human > soil (depending on where you flush). Right now it appears to be: soil > vegetation/seeds > chicken > soil. We also have a sprinkler system in the Mars high tunnel that occasionally cycles in the moisture component needed to catalyze the assimilation and distribution of nutrients back into the soil. Finally, we will shake out a light layer of hay onto the beds then lightly till in all this “mulch”. We plan to repeat this holistic management in the other two high tunnels (Scorpio and Polaris) next winter.
In other news, we have a newly re-designed website/blog, if you haven’t already noticed. We hope to keep it better updated this year so we can better engage your web-surfing interests…and so you can show us off to all your lovely internet friends ;-) Any and all feedback is much appreciated.
In addition to our website posting, soil prepping, and postulating about eggs, we have been busy planning all the numerous varieties of veggies we will be planting this year. With the persistent help of our lovely friend and new crew-member, Laura Parker, the grow dome has been cover-crop seeded and the outdoor veggie seed varieties planned and ordered. She’ll be around at Buckhorn Gardens a lot more this year. This summer Laura will also be running the market booth for Parker Pastures like she did last year. Please drop by and meet her if you haven’t already. Look for her bio and entries soon to be posted to this blog.
Check back frequently to our blog for new posts and pictures. The next update should contain some information from the Western Slope Food Forum that we attended January 10th, with a summary of some of the workshop lecture topics and a little about the speakers involved.
We’re having another on-farm veggie pickup soon. Please contact us at gardens@buckhornmountain.com if you would like to be added to our email list to receive updates about on-farm pickups, the upcoming spring/summer CSA, or to trade anything—yes, literally anything.                                                                                                                                                                              -JAK