Couple keeps small-farm alive, sells products to community
April 25, 2001
VINELAND, Colo. (AP) – Diversity is the name of the farming game for Ryan and Betsy Morris.
The St. Charles Mesa couple, state-certified organic growers, raise and sell free-range eggs and “pastured poultry,” and they are local pioneers in the community-supported agriculture (CSA) movement.
“It all goes to the idea that you can still make a living on a small farm,” Ryan said. “We have 13 acres here. We usually have about half in vegetables and the rest in some type of cover crop like millet, alfalfa or clover.”
A quick tour of the Morris’ Country Roots Farm, about 13 miles east of Pueblo, shows chickens in several stages of development, the plastic-covered “high tunnel” planted with snap peas, freshly plowed fields and a long season of work stretching ahead.
“We produce just about everything,” Ryan said. “Green beans, wax beans, cabbage, carrots, corn, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes, melons, squash.”
“We’ll start planting lettuce in a couple weeks, and will plant it once a week. We’ll plant spinach every two weeks. We’ll have tomatoes _ early, mid-season, late-season _ and four different types of sweet corn,” he said.
They plant every two weeks until mid-June. They start again in mid-July with fall crops. People can pick up lettuce, green onions, radishes and snap peas by the first week in June.
“By mid-season, they’ll be taking home a bushel box of produce every week. We try to add one or two things each week,” Ryan said.
The community-support wrinkle is what makes Country Roots unusual in this area. Individuals or families pay an up-front fee or share for the entire growing season, which allows them to pick up fresh produce at the farm each Saturday, June through October.
“We have people come to us for different reasons,” Ryan said. “They want fresh organic produce or they feel disconnected from the land and their food. This is an excellent way to make that connection again and personally know the person who grew the food.”
The Morrises grow food for 20 families in Colorado Springs and 10 in Pueblo, with the understanding that everyone shares the risks and the benefits. If hail damages the tomatoes, Betsy said she calls everyone and says, “Get out here and get your tomatoes now!”
“And get ready to make spaghetti sauce,” her husband added.
“But we think we are pretty well covered,” he said. “There’s always something else _ root crops, late-season crops.”
Betsy said community-supported agriculture requires commitment.
And with commitment comes friendship in the form of two huge potluck dinners each season for members, a cookbook for folks who might not know how to prepare turnips, and experiences that city dwellers otherwise wouldn’t have.
One woman saves all her vegetable parings and takes them to the farm on Saturday mornings where she feeds them to the chickens before picking up her food. She enjoys it, and so do the chickens.
Five members have work shares, which entitle them to a discount but require them to do some work.
The Morrises moved to their farm in 1993, and began the CSA program six years ago. They both grew up in the area and were longtime 4-H members, but aren’t from farm families.
“I decided I wanted to be my own boss,” Ryan said.