Celebrate the Autumnal Equinox this Saturday by harvesting fresh vegetables at City Harvest, a family farm in Lakewood, Colorado. City Harvest hosts You Pick It events during which visitors can pick their own veggies for a flat rate of $25 for whatever you can fit in your reusable tote bag.
Mark you calendar for Saturday September 21. Skip the farmer's market that day and go straight to the farm, open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. You'll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring your own gardening gloves and knife, as well as your own tote bag.
If you've never harvested fresh produce straight from the garden, you're in for a treat. Bring your kids or grandkids, too, so they can learn about the food cycle and experience the delights of the garden. If you have harvested fresh produce straight off the plant, you know the enormous difference freshness makes in the taste of food.
City Harvest is a family affair according to Amy Klapper Greaves. She and her husband Charles Greaves and her parents Gail and Jack Klapper operate the urban farm. Via an email interview, Amy answered questions about the family's local produce business.
• How did you get started growing produce for the local market?
Amy Klapper Greaves: We have been growing wildflower sod on our 8.5 acre farm for many years. The property is irrigated with water from Ward Lake, which sits right next to the farm. Over the last three years, my mom decided to use some of the extra space to grow vegetables. She funded the venture and got our whole family involved. At least a third of our family is vegan, and growing our own food just made sense.
As usual, in our family, we went big. We grew enough to feed an army, and that's when we got the idea to do the You Pick It events so other families could enjoy picking their own food, as well. We don't use any pesticides and weed frequently. The farm is surrounded by large gates which keep out most animals.
• Are your vegetables available elsewhere?
Amy Klapper Greaves: Last year, in addition to our You Pick It events, we sold vegetables to many local restaurants including Linger, Jax and Row 14. The You Pick Events are the most fun because you get to walk around and choose your own fresh produce. Kids are picking and eating veggies as they stroll around and everyone has a great time.
• What looks especially good in the garden for the You Pick It event in August?
Amy Klapper Greaves: Right now our spaghetti squash, and zephyr squash are amazing. We also have a great crop of Easter egg radish, excelsior cucumbers and starlight watermelons are ready. The lemon cucumbers are just about ripe, as are the merlin, touchstone and chioggia beets.
In a few weeks we'll have happy rich broccoli, purple and purple haze carrots, purple cauliflower, fairytale and travatia eggplant, sweet potato, butternut squash, red onion, brussels sprouts, javelin parsnips, and New England pie pumpkins.
We'll have more You Pick It events through September.
• How do explain all the growing interest in fresh, local produce?
Amy Klapper Greaves: I think most people are more than a little concerned about where their food is coming from right now. All we really need are seeds, soil, water and sunshine. Food is best when it's kept simple, in my opinion. I love teaching my kids about growing food. They're really proud of themselves when they pick out something they want, bring it home, and we prepare it together. It gives them a positive sense of ownership and power. We get tons of kids from their school and community out in the field, as well; and they all seem to get much more adventurous about trying new foods when they have picked them straight from the farm.
• What have you learned in your gardens?
Amy Greaves: Amy GreAmy Klapper Greaves: There's so much to learn about growing food, and we are still novices. We planted really late this year due to the spring storms and then miscommunicated about what we were planting and where it was going.
We learn something new all the time. The first year, we had no idea when to harvest some of our crops so we watched You Tube videos to help us! I don't think we would have been able to get the salsify we grew out of the ground without You Tube.
The whole thing has been a fun experiment, and this year we really made an effort to plant unusual varieties to allow people to try new things. The purple cauliflower and the two-tone carrots and squash are things I've never seen in any grocery store or farmers' market.
We have an amazing staff of farmers--Jorge, Horacio, and Umberto--who have been growing the wildflower sod all these years. They have been instrumental in this operation.
I think we've learned how passionate people are about their food and where it grows. We've learned that bringing people together over food makes everyone feel good. The joy that kids and adults get sitting in the dirt digging up potatoes really surprised all of us. We all have such busy lives. It's so refreshing to take some time and do something as simple and important as harvesting your own food.
City Harvest is located in the Thraemoor neighborhood in Lakewood. Thraemoor is located near Sheridan and Lakeridge Drive. The farm is all the way in the back of the property on the right.
For more information, visit the Facebook event page: City Harvest You Pick It.
••• "Cultivate your corner of the world.
You grow your garden; your garden grows you." •••
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