Members of the Plant and Dig Garden Club of Cedaredge found themselves “on the road again,” this time to the Paonia area and a visit to The Living Farm. Everyone who attended was impressed, and rightly so, because this establishment is special.

This farm began in 1938 when Mike Gillespie (the grandfather of the present owner) moved his wife and seven children to a pleasant and productive valley near Paonia. Today this establishment covers 132 acres owned outright, and spills over into another 80 that are leased. All produce is grown under the “Abundant Gardening” philosophy; all animals are “sustainably grown,” grazing on organically grown alfalfa and grasses. They are also fed the farm's corn silage along with organically grown oats, barley and triticale grains for the highest possible nutritional diet. All waste products from the animals and the garden are composted for next year's soil.The goal of the owners is to bring to everyone's table the quality of products that they themselves serve at their own. They sell these through an outlet in Paonia and utilize them in the food they serve at the Living Farm Cafe. There is also a five-bedroom inn above the restaurant.

Here are some interesting comments from club members who attended.

Patt Jones: “was very impressed with the farm and the methods they use to create their own soil (secret formula) and structure used to do vertical beds for everything from squash to strawberries. Their composting system is amazing! They also raise lamb, turkey and poultry. Much of what they raise and grow supplies their restaurant in town. Another interesting aspect is their educational programs they've created online where you can see and learn their growing methods. AND all this is accomplished by only three people: Lynn, her husband and Elaine Brett.”

Sonia Scott: “Elaine Brett met us at the entrance and showed us around. She first showed us the pigs, chickens, turkeys and goats which were in buildings or corrals made of natural materials sourced from around the area. We met owner Lynn Gillespie, who joined Elaine in giving us a tour of the various eco-friendly and organic greenhouses. These are thermal and solar, and they use a rich soil that they produce using sandy loam and chicken manure. Their website, thelivingfarm.org, includes training videos on organic gardening, no matter how big or small the space. We all agree we would like to add this to our itinerary of educational programs for next year.”

Susan Layman: “These people care so much for the welfare of their animals that they grow their own feed!”

How lucky residents are to have facilities like this to visit and to learn about – to learn from. The farm’s website (mentioned above) gives more details about its operation, its educational programs, and more information about the restaurant, the inn and the produce outlet.

Members finished their field trip with a visit to the Western Culture Farmstead. This facility raises goats milked for cheese products which they sell. Most members, according to Scott, purchased items which they were allowed to taste. Susan Layman stated, “We liked this facility the best of all and loved learning how they prepared their cheeses.” Odds are that everyone enjoyed eating them, as well.

Maintenance activities continued during the past month at Pioneer Town and Horizons Care Center. Members wrapped up their club's Horizons obligations with an end-of-August cleanup of the containers, beds along the buildings, and the courtyard. They will continue to maintain the beds at Pioneer Town until the flowers there decide it is time to quit blooming (or Mother Nature decides for them with a frost).

The club’s annual plant/seed/produce/jams and jellies sale is the activity for its September meeting. It is always fun to see what members have produced over the summer and the ways in which they use their garden products to share with others. The day will also include a lunch in Cedaredge Park and an added bonus this year of touring five club members' gardens. That will make one of their favorite yearly activities even more pleasurable, interesting and informative!

September sees their gardening activities slowing down a bit – if only the weeds would do the same! Happy gardening, all (even the weed-pulling?).

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