In mid July a group high school girls from Colorado Youth for a Change in Boulder (a drop-out prevention program), along with one girl who flew all the way to Colorado from the DC area just for this course, spent four days at beautiful Sunrise Ranch learning the ways of sustainable agriculture on Cottonwood Institute’s Cesar Chavez Organic Gardening Project. Upon arrival at the ranch, a smiling straw-hatted, bearded man, Patrick, greeted us eagerly and warmly, setting the tone for the entire course. We toured the property picking apricots out of the trees along the way, and learning that this has been a small farming community for decades. We ended the tour on top of a hill in a beautiful ponderosa forest above the farm, our home for the next four days.
After camp set-up and lunch, we headed back down the hill for our first session of farming. Patrick and the interns living on the farm taught us all about harvesting garlic, cucumbers, and broccoli. Harvesting cucumbers was a highlight as we all got to munch on them while working. To wrap up our afternoon of farming, Patrick thanked us for coming to the farm. One of our students returned that thanks by stating, “You inspire me to garden and thanks for getting us out!”
On the second day we started the day off with a peaceful sit-spot. Many of us looked down into the valley over the farm, with the red cliff bands glowing in the morning light and the songs of meadowlarks accompanying the view. We spent the entire day on the farm, weeding the corn and beans and harvesting four huge buckets of basil. In the afternoon Patrick sat with us under the apple tree while we picked the basil leaves from the stems. As we worked, he taught us about permaculture and even played some banjo for us. After dinner we sat on Moonrise Rock and had an engaging discussion about Cesar Chavez, food, and the agriculture industry. We watched lightning in distant thunderstorms as the light faded and the stars came out.
Wednesday morning started at 6am as we woke up to the yips and howls of coyotes in the valley. Half of us went down to the fields to help move the sprinkler pipes. Working together we lifted the pipes, helping the farmers move the sprinklers in half the time it would normally take. We rewarded ourselves with a frolic through the sprinklers to cool down and ended the morning with a meditation circle, where we learned a Navajo song about beauty and sang and danced in the dewy field. We spent the remainder of the day re-making Shelly Mo, a giant Mother Earth turtle pizza oven that had been washed away in the rain. Everyone got down and dirty mixing together the clay, water and manure mixture to make up her shell. We got the afternoon off at the pool, and after relaxing for a while we went back to the farm to make pizzas in our finished oven. The interns helped us harvest onions, basil, beets, zucchini, kale, and garlic to put on our very own pizzas! We even got to have pesto sauce made from all the basil we picked the day before.
We had an amazing evening hanging out with the interns making delicious food. By the time we had to head back up, we were all full of pizza, a familial love and a real sense of the community around farming. Once again we sat on Moonrise Rock, this time with a fit of giggles, giddy from the evening of fun. Once we calmed down we had a touching thank you circle to wrap up our last night on the farm.
On our final day we finished weeding and planted flowers, leaving behind a blossoming memory for the interns and Patrick. We held a roses, thorns, and buds circle followed by many goodbye hugs from our new friends on the farm. Patrick and the interns taught us so much about sustainable agriculture, love for one another and our planet, and how we can all make a difference for the environment with our decisions around food. One student stated that her time on the farm “opened my eyes to the issues of modern agriculture and what individuals can do to make a positive impact for sustainability.”
Many thanks to Sunrise Ranch for giving us an opportunity to learn in such a beautiful place and to Patrick for giving us his expansive knowledge on farming!
Click here for pictures of the adventures!
Written by Kelly Muller. Edited by April Pishna.