April 12, 2009

A local, organic community garden initiative…in peril.

Society, and government, is all about working to resolve tough issues—with good people on both sides of just about every divide. How we resolve these issues depends upon our longterm goals as a community, reflects our values, and determines our future.

This one—in elephantjournal.com’s hometown of Boulder, Colorado—pits a few neighbors who like a plot of land being left in its natural state, replete with prairie dogs, versus a group of farmers who propose to use the land to grow healthy, yummy, local food. Only in Boulder would you find Nature vs. Organic, Local food! If you feel one way or the other, do your duty and email the County! Contact info below in Bob’s letter:

Hi Waylon.

Janet and I have formed Gunbarrel Growers Asso. (GGA) with five other people, with the goal of leasing the agricultural land on the northeast corner of Jay and Spine and establishing market farm operations on the land.  We got started in this endeavor two years ago because that land was in poor condition, having been taken over by prairie dogs, which had eaten almost all of the grass on the land, leaving it barren but for such weeds as Canada thistle, bindweed, burdock (cocklebur), teasel and others. Janet and I considered the land to be unsightly, and wanted to do something about it. We began working with many of our neighbors and with the county to improve the land.

Our plan is in jeopardy.

One of our neighbors, Mr. Ian McVey, and his wife, Jean, have from the beginning been opposed to removal of the prairie dogs from the property. They propose that the county not lease the land to GGA, and that the land be planted in dryland or pasture grass. 

The county has held three meetings with neighbors.  Mr. McVey has rallied some of his neighbors to oppose the GGA lease. They have come to the meetings and opposed our proposal.  Last Saturday The Daily Camera published Mr. McVey’s letter.  His letter is the second one down on the website, captioned, “Move Farm to a Different Location”. Mr. McVey has created fear in the minds of some neighbors that our proposed farming operation will be unsightly, causing the property to be worse than it was with the prairie dogs.

I would like the opportunity to show and tell our side of this matter.  Janet and I are good land stewards.  We are proud of the work we do, and believe we can dramatically improve the appearance and condition of this land.

So far a lot of the public commentary has opposed this proposal, other than the GGA member comments.


So why should the county support the Gunbarrel Growers Asso. (GGA)?

The association proposes to grow food locally for Boulder County people to eat, using the tools of sustainable agriculture, Farmers’ Markets and market farming.

The Boulder County growers association concept is an excellent tool for producing locally grown food.  GGA is following that standard.

  1. Appearance.  Neighbors have objected to the proposal of Boulder County Parks and Open Space (POS) to lease to GGA the land in Gunbarrel on the northeast corner of Spine Road and Jay Road.  The have been concerned that GGA might create an unsightly farming environment, to their detriment.  However, the GGA founders, got interested in forming the association specifically for the purpose of improving the appearance of the property.  The land has been in very poor condition. We began working with many of our neighbors and with the county to improve the land.  Last May the prairie dogs were killed by plague.  This gave the county a window of opportunity to improve the land with a growers association.
  2. The county had originally proposed a 50 foot grass buffer between the homes to the north and the GGA farmland.  Responding to the neighbors, the county has increased the size of the buffer to 500 feet, taking up more than one third of the land.  Nevertheless, the neighbors to the north are not satisfied.  They wish to stop the lease entirely.  Those who are opposed to the proposed lease have created fear in the minds of some of the neighbors that the proposed farming operation will be unsightly, causing the property to be worse than it was with the prairie dogs. Janet (my wife) and I, and the other three groups in GGA, however, are firmly committed to developing attractive farms on the land, which will enhance the land rather than being a detriment.
  3. The association members are good land stewards. Janet and I have designed and planted the landscaping on three new homes, creating beautiful properties.  We have grown large gardens for many years. We designed our beautiful new home at 6033 Jay Road. We take excellent care of and improve property we control. We are proud of the work we do to improve property, and believe we can dramatically improve the appearance and condition of the land in the proposed GGA lease.
  4. This is all about sustainable agriculture, locally grown food, the Farmers Market concept.  Those ideas are well established. Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, is an excellent source on the subject.
  5. A new idea is Boulder County’s Growers Association concept.  Many people who would like to grow food have no access to land.  Boulder County owns 25,000 acres of agricultural land.  Almost all of this grows hay and other low-value crops.  Recently, with citizen input, the county has established the Growers Association concept in which the county leases irrigated land to a small group of people who want to grow food for people.  This enables a good increase in the availability of locally grown food.  The first two Growers Asso’s started last year.  The county is working to lease to GGA and one other new asso. this year, to make the third and fourth asso’s. 

Boulder County Parks and Open Space has advised GGA that they realize many people are not able to come to a County Commissioners’ meeting or a meeting of the Parks and Open Space Advisory Committee on short notice. Therefore, the county government pays close attention to emails it receives on matters such as GGA.  Therefore, if you support the GGA proposal, you should send an email to the county.  A single email can be sent addressed to all of the following:

Address Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Ben Pearlman and Will Toor care of Carrie Haverfield, [email protected] .  The Parks and Open Space Director is Ron Stewart: [email protected] .  The POS manager responsible for this lease activity is Rob Alexander: [email protected] .

Obviously, if you oppose our proposal, you are certainly able to tell them that also.

Time on this matter is critical.  The county has proposed completing this lease next week.  The GGA members have plants growing indoors, in greenhouses and in cold frames.  If the plants are not transplanted into the land quickly, they will die.  GGA needs to close on the lease quickly in order to prepare the land for planting, and to then plant the plants.

If you have any questions on this issue, please call Janet or Bob Poley at 303-530-9504, email them at [email protected]

Sincerely yours,

Bob Poley.

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