Tour de Coops brings farming home




If you’ve ever wondered if your backyard could sustain something more than grass and a hammock, Boulder’s first Tour de Coops event on Saturday, Sept. 4, from 2 to 5 p.m. will be a great way to find out.


Backyard chicken coops, goat and beekeeping set-ups, culinary gardens, and even an aquaponic system are featured in this self-guided tour of largely amateur home enterprises with a couple of professionals thrown in. And it’s all free.

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, homage is being paid by Laura Ruby, a Boulder owner of an edible garden consulting and design business called Yummy Yards.

Ruby was teaching a permaculture certification class last March at The Farmette, a farm and “sustainability center”

in Lyons owned by Betsy Burton and Mike Whipp. It was Burton’s work for Lyons’ own Tour de Coops last September that inspired Ruby to try the concept in Boulder.

“At first I wasn’t sure about finding people who had their own coops and goats and things,” says Ruby. “I went through a network of my clients, former clients and students. I found referrals in my own neighborhood; someone would mention hearing chickens in somebody’s yard, and other leads. It was really surprising how much was going on all around me.”

Ruby also got help from Burton and Transition Colorado, which is sponsoring the Tour de Coops for its last day of events in its countywide Eat Local! Week activities.

There are 19 participants in north, south and east Boulder signed up and ready to exhibit their chickens, bees, gardens and livestock — including Ruby’s own backyard coop and edible garden on Hawthorne Avenue.

All properties are within Boulder city limits and range in sizes. Owners include families, a housing cooperative and an acupuncturist who grows herbs for his practice. Sylvia Bernstein’s property in North Boulder also features an aquaponic system in a greenhouse.

“Aquaponic” is the meld of fish farming with hydroponic gardening. Fish — in Bernstein’s case, tilapia — grow in tanks. Fish waste becomes the fertilizer, rather than the chemical products common to hydroponic gardening, for vegetables, herbs and other plants.

Information Transition Colorado Yummy Yards (303) 908-3054 The Farmette]

“Open tour,” as with Boulder’s long-established events involving local art studios and historic houses, means there is no official start or end to the route. You can choose all, a few, or even one place to visit at your own pace, and there is always someone on hand to serve as guide and guru.

Want to know, say, whether you need a noisy rooster to keep hens a-laying? Or how to keep freshwater fish tanks from getting odorous? The Tour is a good way to find out.

Just download a flier from the Transition Colorado or Yummy Yards websites. It lists all participants, including addresses and features at those locations. (Note: You may want to take along a current map of Boulder to aid in address searches.)

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