Open Space program produces food and farmers – The Sopris Sun


Last March, The Sopris Sun launched a series on the Pitkin County Open Space and Trail (OST) Farm Rental Program. By exploring its genesis, co-creators, open spaces and leases, The Sun sought to shine a light on the calm, industrious and enterprising farmers and ranchers “next door”.

Fourteen months ago, the inconceivable happened. One country has closed exhausted grocery shelves and closed businesses. Communities had not experienced such reverberations since the Great Depression nine decades ago. COVID has proven the need for local agriculture and ranching for readily available produce and protein.

Food and government programs made it possible for those in need to receive freshly harvested nutritious products. Each week, farmers in the valley delivered hundreds of pounds of fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables to food distribution centers operated by Lift Up and Food Bank of the Rockies.

Harper Kaufman is one of those farmers. In 2018, Kaufman applied for and was granted a 10-year lease on OST’s first Emma open space. His farm, Two Roots, became OST’s first certified organic farm. By paving the way for three of its 22 acres, Kaufman grew 30,000 pounds of food in its first season, demonstrating the fiscal viability of local food production.

The Food Safety and Modernization Act of the United States Food and Drug Administration establishes safety and health guidelines with which Two Roots must adhere. To do this, the farm had to face critical financial obstacles: providing a barn, drinking water, electricity, drainage systems and a septic tank. Kaufman got a five-figure federal irrigation and infrastructure grant to help comply with the Food Safety and Modernization Act.

Was OST also willing to invest in infrastructure to keep an open space in food production? They made it public and the public said yes. The OST and its board of directors recognize the need and the value of investing our public funds in small-scale agriculture and local food.

So much so that the potential of OST ag land has attracted a growing number of applicants and a variety of proposed uses. With the contribution of the public and the first tenants of Glassier Open Space, OST reorganized its application selection process, first in 2014 and then again in 2017, and the Glassier management plan, to better support small farmers.

Glassier is an agrarian dream, encompassing a historic farm, vineyards, a decaying brick chicken coop, a pig shed, a potato cellar and a beautiful decrepit barn, dotted over 282 acres of irrigated pasture, ancient trees. stone fruit trees, venerable poplars, irrigation ditches and significant wildlife habitat. Snuggled up against the Crown Rec Area, public and recreational land, it’s one hell of a spread.

In January 2021, after updating and refining Glassier’s management plan, OST issued a call for tenders for new tenants to Steward Glassier in a comprehensive and regenerative manner. Seven entities applied.

Highlighting problems in the administration of the selection process, one of the seven candidates appealed. With a long-standing relationship with the water buffalo and a history of violence and trauma in his home country, Venezuela, herder Jose Miranda has been grieved and grieved. He felt racism and saw corruption. The appeal process and the media response were explosive and divisive. Miranda’s call solicited public input as he made his way to the County Commissioners Council, where Council Chairperson Kelly McNicholas Kury admitted, “This process really missed a few i’s and t’s for me. . Several council members expressed their offense at Miranda’s accusations of corruption and racism.

“We had a few minor deviations, but the process was open and transparent,” says OST Director General Gary Tennenbaum. “The appeal process showed that the process was carried out as planned. Can it be better? Certainly, and that is what we are looking to do over the next few months to educate the public and the farming community. What Jose’s call showed is that we have more demand for farmland than ever before and we need to work to preserve more of it and have a leasing process that meets the needs of farmers.

OST Ag’s lease administrator Paul Holsinger said the pool of applicants was strong, Miranda’s proposal was one of them. As a water buffalo breeder, Miranda stands on the threshold of significant positive change for herding in the West. The buffalo has a lower ecological impact than cattle; reach market size faster; their meat contains 43% less cholesterol; and their milk is more nutritious than that of cows ”. Miranda’s Glassier proposal, prescient as it is, exceeds the current capacity of Glassier Open Space.

A rental recommendation memo from Glassier from February 4, 2021 OST reports that: “The selection committee generally discussed the proposal which matched the overall vision for wildlife, restoration, recreation and improvement. good, as well as agriculture. The committee agreed that the ideal tenant would not only be a successful farmer or rancher, but also one who could be a partner of the OST department.

With a proven track record of teamwork, diplomacy and experience, Alyssa Barsanti of the Marigold Livestock Company obtained the lease from Glassier ag.

“Alyssa greatly impressed the committee with her knowledge and experience in reducing conflict between wildlife, her vast experience with different irrigation methods and her welcoming attitude towards the public. The memo continues, “Her reference expressed nothing but awe and awe of Alyssa’s ability to recognize what a piece of land needs and to successfully cultivate within those limitations.”

She will start with the sheep. As existing OST soil test plots and irrigation studies free up more acreage, Marigold will raise both meat birds and laying hens: “one operation,” the memo concludes, “that is appropriate. in terms of scale, use and practice for agricultural land and will help achieve management plan objectives and improve agriculture in the Roaring Fork Valley. “

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