Berries, Melons, Winter Squash, Season Extension and More... 2020 Farm Expansion Project
Today, I wanted to let you guys know a little, or a lot actually about what’s going on here at the farm; and how you might be able to help. Watch the video below and read on to learn more...
Over the past 3 years, Hethir and I, along with a great team of farmers and volunteers have accomplished a lot!
We’ve gone from 0 infrastructure and pure unadulterated pasture land, to a 170 member CSA last year (approaching 200 this year), weekly donations to the "Lift up" food bank, two farmers market booths in Steamboat and Vail, and serving several popular restaurants in our community with weekly deliveries.
We’ve been able to feed 100’s of families fresh local organic veggies in our town every week. And we love what we do, so that’s pretty cool too!!
But with what’s going on in the world right now, we started to think about what we could do to grow our local food security here in Routt County even more.
We were going to keep growing the farm slowly after the initial investment we made over the past few years, but when this COVID thing hit, we really started thinking about our ability to feed our neighbors and community, and what we needed to do here at the farm to help create real food stability in Routt county.
Just in the past couple weeks grocery stores shelves are wiped out constantly, farm workers from Mexico are not being allowed into the United states, France is the first country that just stopped allowing the sale of any imported produce, and Johnny Seeds, the largest supplier of Organic seeds in the US announced that due to high demand, they are discontinuing the sale of seeds to home gardeners. The food supply is starting to get weird. We felt moved that we needed to do what we could since we’ve put so much into the infrastructure of this farm already.
So what's the plan??
Well, here’s what we’ve done so far over the past 3 years… and then what we need to do on the farm to grow; and if you want- how you can help…
- We’ve developed water infrastructure to grow food on 5 acres of our land. We dug a pond, installed a high pressure pump, installed a blue light water purification system to clean all the water being used on the farm, put in tons of irrigation to serve our current acre and an additional acre of berry and fruit orchard.
- We’ve created almost an acre of bio intensive farm beds where we've been specializing in baby lettuce, root vegetables, crucifers, tomatoes, and other greens. It took a crazy amount of work between taming the pasture grass, mallow, thistle and other weeds,and keeping the deer and other critters out, but we tamed an acre of farmland and have been growing some pretty tasty veggies in their place.
- Purchased everything needed to grow food on this land, a driving tractor, a push tractor, germination chamber, large automated heated greenhouse, lots of farm tools, trays, built a processing kitchen, and a lot more….
All that we've done so far allows us to grow lots of greens, some roots that you’ve been eating like carrots, turnips, beets, radishes, limited tomatoes, and any of the other veggies you’ve been enjoying… for about 3 months out of the year .
NOW here’s what we want to do to help create real food stability for our community in Steamboat…
Increase our growing season
Instead of harvesting from mid June to late September- create the infrastructure to be able to harvest 8+ months out of the year, and have a tremendous amount of storage crops to supply to our members to eat during the winter months. This will be made possible by adding more high tunnels that will allow us to plant earlier and grow later in the year.
Increase our calorie dense crops
Up until now we’ve had to focus on quick growth crops because we have limited land and such a short growing season. And even though lettuces and salad items will probably always be our favorite veggies to eat, we’ve really wanted to expand into longer growth, more calorie dense food. So with this expansion we will start growing items like winter squash- think acorn, butternut, kabocha, and other varieties,- Melons- think watermelons, cantaloupes and honeydew, Beans like Favas, and increasing our snap pea and other bean varieties production.
Plant a large Strawberry Patch
Our strawberries that we’ve planted over the last 2 years as an experiment have been crushing it. Strawberries love our soil and have been producing wonderfully, but in our current limited bed space, we haven’t had enough to bring to market yet. We’re going to take the variety we’ve proven can produce large plump juicy sweet strawberries and devote at least 3200 feet of beds to them to begin with, and then more the following year so our community can have delicious local strawberries. The large strawberry patch and increase in growing calorie dense crops discussed before will be accomplished by cultivating an additional (1) acre of land into 100 ft vegetable beds behind the pond and constructing another 7.5’ deer fence around this plot of land, and adding irrigation to this area.
Create a bush berry orchard
We had a team on our property and spent nearly a month already developing an acre of land for bush berry production. This is ready to go but just needs some weed management, irrigation added, and berry rootstock purchased and planted. Our goal is to have a full (1) acre of raspberries and blackberries! Yum!!
What will we need to condense our 3 year growth plans into the next 6 months?
First, we need a low interest loan, and then we’ll need some volunteers.
We've had a tremendous amount of help from the community already, nearly selling out this year's CSA in record time. But with the cost of running a farm here in steamboat it would take us at least another 2-3 years if not longer to get these projects going with reinvesting all of the farms profits each year.
So, first we need one or more individuals to provide a low interest loan to the farm, ASAP. With most businesses, you can get a new loan and start anytime of year. But the way a farm works, especially here in Steamboat, is if we miss a short window to build the infrastructure and plant the food, we’ll lose an entire year's ability to grow and harvest the food. So it can’t take us a long time to get this loan or we’ll have to wait until next year to start these projects. If we try to go through the SBA with how long that process takes, we may as well wait until next year to get started.
The cost to make these improvements which will grow A LOT more food for you guys and grow food almost year round is just under $50k.
Hethir and I are happy to keep putting in the 60+ hour weeks to make this all a reality, but we need a little help with the financing side after all the original investments we’ve made. Yes, it costs a lot to start a farm. But it’s worth it!
We’ll be very meticulous with how we spend the money and have it all outlined already down to the last detail. Over the last 20 years that Hethir and I have been running businesses together, we have NEVER defaulted on a loan and have paid back everyone that has ever invested into one of our companies.
We are going to be needing lots and lots of volunteers this year to make this project a reality. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to farm or grow food, and want to be a part of the growth of your town's local farm this is a great chance to get involved.
We’ll be needing farm hands and probably an electrician and a carpenter/handyman to help move these projects along. Bee Grateful Farm is deemed an “essential business” since we are in food production, and we will have strict plans in place to create social distancing while folks are working on these projects. Let us know if you're interested in volunteering and we’ll keep you abreast of upcoming dates and projects that we need help with .
Thank you so much for all your support over the past 3 years. It’s been a wild and fun ride, but we are still super excited and motivated to make a local food system a reality for Steamboat and Routt county! Please forward this to anyone you know that may be interested in helping move this project forward, or feel free to call or email if you have any questions.
Jason and Hethir Rodriguez
Founders and Farmers at Bee Grateful Farm