A national movement toward understanding where our food comes from has been on the rise for some time. Now, in this unprecedented and uncertain time as Coloradans navigate the global COVID-19 pandemic impacts, local food source providers are kicking into high gear with the summer harvest season almost upon us.
The Hoop House, located in Eagle, Colorado, just east of City Market, is offering for a second year in a row subscriptions to their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. And the philosophy behind CSA seems more relevant now than ever.
The retail nursery Hoop House and the CSA program is a function of The Farm at Knapp Ranch. Sandy Story, Sustainable Agriculture Manager for The Farm, explains that CSA is a relationship beyond a simple exchange of produce for cash.
“The mutual respect between CSA members and farmers is special,” says Story. “Members are funding farmers, and farmers are planting and tending crops for months before members see them in their shares. Each share represents the work and attention to detail of The Hoop House employees to seed, transplant, weed, grow and harvest the prepaid shares.”
Depending on the monthly harvest, the weekly milk crate includes hearty and colorful vegetables; lettuce; bok choy; microgreens; and tomatoes – 75 percent organic and no pesticides or herbicides are used. And what makes The Hoop House shares unique, adds Story, is that they provide fruit from sister farms in Palisade, Colorado; herbs; live plants; and a honey treat.
This year, share weeks may begin June 24 or July 1. There are two share costs available: $234 for six weeks, and $420 for 12 weeks. There will be two weekly pickup locations and times available in Eagle and Edwards. To sign up and receive a share contract, contact Story at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Hoop House is currently open Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
The Farm at Knapp Ranch is one-of-a-kind – as is Story, herself. The Farm, located in the greater upper West Lake Creek valley, is committed to sustainable organic farming practices at 9,000 feet in elevation. All agricultural activities are monitored and adjusted on a regular basis to accommodate the variety of opportunities and constraints afforded by existing water resources, soil composition, microclimate impacts, and the unknown effects of a changing climate.
The Farm is packed with a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, flowers and herbs in protected raised beds and gardens. Hoop houses produce nutritiously dense and flavorful microgreens year-round. Knapp has partnered with restaurants and chefs in the Vail Valley to provide fresh, gourmet-quality ingredients with a locally-grown twist – Story hopes to expand the plentiful bounty into the broader community, locally and regionally.
“I’m definitely seeing more people interested in gardening,” says Story. “People right now want to grow their own food, buy local produce – or both.”
The pride Story has in the one-acre farm at 9,000 feet is evident. Continuing the tradition of growing at high-altitude in perhaps the Vail Valley’s most stunning location – even with the challenges of a short growing season, being able to use only what nature provides – is inspiring commitment. Even the soil is special as the farm sits in a glacial moraine.
Story grew up in Ohio and Denver and moved to Vail in 1994. Her son and daughter were both born and raised in Sweetwater, the valley where Sandy owned and operated an 18-acre ranch growing organic vegetables and raising Pekin ducks. She has a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, a minor in Business Administration, a Master Gardner certification, and a master’s degree in Agriculture and Integrated Resource Management. In addition to her passion, Story brings incredible experience to Knapp Ranch as a business owner and farmer. She created a program in 2009 for the Vail Valley Foundation called Sowing Seeds, alongside friend and local chef extraordinaire, Kelly Liken, with a mission to teach horticulture (food production) and sustainability to more than 6,500 students in Eagle County Schools, and she built the organic garden at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, where Knapp Ranch now partners to grow in the CMC greenhouse during the winter months.