There are several outstanding CSAs available to us here in the region. Some offer vegetables and fruits; others put veggies, baked goods, and even homegrown organic poultry in your weekly box; others yet work like a cooperative so that your box may contain home-made honey mustard, a dozen eggs, a glass of blueberry jam along with a bundle of herbs, carrots, salad greens, apples and a melon.
After missing the deadline for Barclay and Tony Daranyi’s Indian Ridge Farm CSA two years in a row, I became a member of Buckhorn Gardens CSA.
On a chilly, very snowy day in March I stopped by for a visit. The single step over the threshold of their 50-foot grow dome transported me from grey, blustery Colorado into a fairy land akin to Hawaii. I was greeted by a lovely scent in the air, flowering nasturtiums, citrus bushes, herbs of many sizes and textures, two cages with squeaking chicks, and smiling interns busily planting and transplanting.
Buckhorn Gardens sits at 6,700 feet in a typical south-western pinyon/juniper landscape at the base of Buckhorn Mountain near Colona. Head farmer Breigh Peterson started working the land six years ago and her enthusiasm has not waned. She comes from “a long line of farmers” in Vermont, and dirt is in her blood, she says.
Today, there are several large vegetable fields, a plot for raspberries and blackberries, an expanding orchard, two large hoop houses, and the grow dome – all located on gently rolling land, surrounded by a high, deer-proof fence. When I asked Breigh how many vegetables she is growing she laughed and shrugged,“Well, there are at least 35 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, just as many varieties of peppers and I don’t really know how many other vegetables.” I know I am looking forward to the arugula, the bok choy, the purple potatoes and the amazing garlic, plus all the fabulous surprises.
Buckhorn Gardens is not certified organic, rather “morganic,” as Breigh likes to call it. “We go above and beyond the organic standards,” she explains. “We specialize in growing an assortment of heirloom and open-pollinated vegetable varieties that are richer in nutrients and flavor than standard varieties. We focus on creating and maintaining healthy soil, using beneficial insects and companion planting to maximize production instead of using chemicals.” All the work is done without the use of a tractor.
Some of the organic fertilizer comes from the chickens on the property, some from the llamas, some from composting all the spent plants and rotting leaves. One of the larger fields is still protected by a “cover crop” which will be tilled into the soil when the snow finally goes away, adding valuable nutrients and loosening the heavy Colorado clay.
Starting in late April, freshly harvested goods will be distributed to CSA members every week through October; a bit later you can find the Buckhorn gardeners at the Montrose and Telluride Farmers Markets. Check their website for details buckhorngardens.blogspot.com. There you should also find an announcement for a class Breigh will teach at the farm on April 24: How to grow your own vegetables at high altitude, year round. See you there!
With greetings from Buckhorn Gardens here is a (summer) recipe from farmer Breigh:
(vegetarians can eliminate the beef)
2 large onions, diced
2 TB. olive oil
1 lb. zucchini, thinly sliced
1 lb. tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 sm.-med. eggplant, peeled and sliced
1 green pepper, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
(1-1 1/2 pounds ground chuck)
1/2 tsp. salt
Sauté onions in olive oil for 5 minutes. Add zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, green pepper, and garlic to the onions and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If using, brown meat in separate pan, drain, and add to vegetables. Cook 5 minutes, season with salt. Serves 5.
Elisabeth Gick has worked with plants in Telluride since 1984. She owns OUTER SPACES INC., a landscape design, consulting and maintenance business.