The Artposium this past weekend in Delta County was called Dinner Stories, and there were three tracks: orchard, farm, and vineyard. I opted for the farm portions (even though I could have mixed and matched), which meant I spent Saturday morning (through a leisurely lunch time) at Rivendell Farm, in Austin, Colorado.
John Cooley raises vegetables on the farm, which belonged to his grandmother.
The land has number-one water rights from 1881 (that's an astonishing status out here in the West). John gets first dibs on the water. Almost unheard of.
When John first bought the farm from his uncle, he had the soil tested and was told to forget it. Because he was determined to make the farm work anyway, he started by using a chisel to make holes to plant seeds in. He also began to learn about, and then practice, biodynamic agriculture. Some of the elements of this technique are familiar (composting and other organic practices) and some sound a little far out (carrying out tasks in accordance with an astrological calendar), but (1) there's no arguing with the results and (2) after this year in our garden I'm about to believe in anything that works. The soil at Rivendell Farm is now workable enough that we could harvest potatoes with our bare hands.
John grows a bunch of different kinds of potatoes, along with tomatoes in his shade houses, herbs, and whatever else he feels like trying out. He sells his produce at farmers' markets because he likes that way of doing business.
A wonderful tomato variety I was introduced to: peach tomatoes, which have slightly fuzzy skins and lovely flavor.
He's also got some eastern European varieties.
John's compost is abundant, quick maturing, and easy to stand next to while he's talking (not much smell and only a small number of flying insects).
He has bees on a different part of the property.
It's a dry landscape, but with stubbornness, ten years of work, an array of self-sufficiency skills, and some water, he's growing fine crops.
- Greek salad with multiple varieties of tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese
- Cucumber salad
- Many types of roasted potatoes: purple, gold, white, pink, fingerlings. . . . I think he grows fourteen varieties . . . they were grilled, and exquisite. . . .
- Local cider
- Room-temperature mixed-herb tea
For dinner Saturday night, which we had at Surface Creek Winery and Gallery, the potato leek soup was made with John's Kerr's Pink and German butter potatoes.