There's more to the Colorado Rockies than skiing. Aspen, host of the Food and Wine Classic each summer, is awash in locally-grown produce, meat, flowers, and honey. The bounty is largely due to the North Fork Valley area, about 60 miles west of Aspen, which contains the largest concentration of organic farms in the state.
Here small outfits like Zephyros Farm and Garden, a 35-acre organic plot in Paonia, Colorado, are supplying the region with sustainably farmed and crafted foods. Zephyros brings a range of fresh produce and organic flowers to market, as well as sheep's milk yogurt, cheese, eggs, and meat for CSA shareholders.
I recently spoke with Don Lareau, who co-owns and operates Zephyros Farm, which rests on the western range of the Colorado Rockies, with his wife, Daphne. The intereview, after the jump.
Name: Don Lareau and Daphne Yannakakis
Farm: Zephyros Farm and Garden
How many acres? 35
Your crew: 3 to 6 people, including some interns during the growing season.
What you grow: Certified organic vegetables, greens, and certified organic flowers. Yogurt, cheese, eggs, and meat for our CSA shareholders.
Your customers: Farmers' markets, our CSA, various restaurants. We also host farm to table dinners a few times a year.
How you got into farming: We got into it headlong, but prior experience set us up to grow a wide variety of vegetables and flowers successfully.
Where did you learn to farm? We have learned to farm mostly through hands-on experience—from the gardens of our childhood through college and work in the horticulture industry. We continue to take part in conferences and workshops, as well as networking with other farmers.
Your farming philosophy: A desire to produce healthy nutrition-rich food while creating alive soil, and connecting the food and the community.
The best thing about farming? Being outside and working with nature in nature.
The worst thing? Extremely long hours and low pay because people do not value food.
Most important lesson you've ever learned? Wash your hands after using the toilet, brush after every meal and also, wear clean drawers every day. I'm not sure. Farming is a constant learning experience which is also part of what I love about it. It is not about making widgets so it's constantly changing and learning to be flexible.
What's the most important piece of advice you'd bestow on a young would-be farmer? Go learn a lot on both small and big farms in order to see different systems, and to make mistakes on someone else's dime. Try and get experience and then get payed for that experience.
The future for good food? Hopefully people will realize what good food is worth, and start paying what it takes to grow food on a smaller scale operation. Understand that food is not only about your own health but about that connection to the soil from which it came. Thereby caring about how we are all connected to the earth and to the water and air that create that food and each other.