Cultivating farmers on small farms

New farm proposes partnerships and teaching

Elizabeth Miller | Boulder Weekly

Rows of squash, beans, corn, broccoli, lettuce, potatoes and tomatoes are tended by apprentice farmers, coming out even on the recent blazing hot afternoons to plant seeds, pull weeds and cover potato plants in hay and dirt on a small farm off the Diagonal Highway near Niwot. The one-acre Everybody Eats! farm is planted on 3.5 acres of land leased from the Shepherd Valley Waldorf School. The farm was founded by Dave Georgis, who started the seeds now planted in neat, student-friendly rows in his basement earlier this spring.

Everybody Eats! is one of several farms and school partnerships in the Boulder area. The Children’s House Montessori School and Frederick Elementary are partnering with Bridgit’s Bounty, which broke ground in June on a fruit orchard that will supply students with hands-on learning opportunities and produce. Last year, Bridgit’s Bounty provided fresh vegetables to 200 families in the Firestone, Frederick and Dacono area. University of Colorado students founded C.U. Going Local to promote local food and plant community gardens. One of the goals for Everybody Eats! is to take the opportunity to teach kids and their families how to run their own small farms by working at Everybody Eats!, the farm for the Boulder County Farmer Cultivation Center, also launched by Georgis.

“This is an activism farm. This is not a for-profit business. This is part of a much larger picture to feed our local community,” he says. “We have to rapidly increase our local food supply by increasing our local farms.”

He skips on the herbicides, pesticides and processed fertilizers, opting instead for a compost tea of comfry and alpaca manure (“How’s that for exotic?” he says, sniffing the latest brew). In an effort to get the most out of every inch of soil and ounce of water, he’s used irrigation drip tape to release water a drop at a time directly onto the root systems of plants. The irrigation pond liner, instead of being new plastic, is reused billboards.

Walking down the rows of broccoli, as hundreds of grasshoppers leap away from his feet, Georgis says, “This is like an Alfred Hitchcock movie — ‘The Grasshoppers.’” He can empathize with the traditional farmers who would spray to save their crops from being devoured by hungry insects. But he’d rather plant a row of bushes to block those grasshoppers, who have traveled from a neighboring field of grass for hay, or install a fence with cupped upper edges that will knock leaping grasshoppers back to the ground.

Smaller, organic farms operated in cooperatives could be the model for the next generation, Georgis argues.

Everybody Eats! has 22 participating families sharing in the farm’s labor and harvest this year, all from the Waldorf school, plus additional shares given to lower-income families in the community.

The idea is to teach aspiring farmers how to cultivate their own food so that they can go on to someday run their own small farms, a system for food production Georgis argues will be the most efficient and least consumptive in the future.

Georgis says he’ll begin developing curriculum and a summer camp for the Waldorf school in coming years.

“I’m all about agriculture and farming, and to have it at my workplace where I’m all about contracts and numbers all day is just a really nice balance,” says Barry Freniere, Shepherd Valley registrar, between his tasks around the farm.

The school has partnered with Everybody Eats! on projects like erecting a hoop house, and the two are likely to pair on capital construction projects like building a barn.

Through programming such as farm dinners and open houses, like one held on July 21, Georgis says he hopes to begin partnering with some of the companies in neighboring industrial complexes, developing systems that allow for the propagation of not just organic produce, but small farms and educated farmers to work them.

“What you get with local is you get it all,” he says. “You get a truly sustainable food system not only environmentally, but economically and socially for communities.”