It is a beautifully overcast morning to spend on a farm tour of Shire CSA, an amazing gem in the middle of FOCO suburbia. Located on East Prospect, the garden is bordered on the south side by Spring Creek Trail. In the summer, it is an agricultural oasis tucked between subdivisions and a school yard.
Luke Hall is the owner and operator of this family operation, run with the assistance of his Dad, brother and his son and recently acquired mascot Pacino (a little black scruff of a dog they found wondering in the street a few weeks ago). Luke graciously gets the credit from his brother for doing “99% of the work”. My first thought entering the property from Parker Street was what a score! At approximately 4 acres, this long property is a garder’s paradise hosting a pond, matured trees and rolling topography. He explained that he was originally the landscaper for the property’s previous owner. By trade he is a landscape designer, with a deep love of plants. When the property became available ten years ago, Luke took the opportunity to write a letter to the owner explaining his intention of being a steward to the property, appealing to the owners desire for preservation. It worked. And that is what he set out to do. Taking years to mow and clear and uncover it’s potential.
In 2008 when the housing market crashed, and the luxury of landscape design wained, Luke make good on his dream to grow his own food and started the gardens. In 2010 Luke launched his first CSA membership. He had 40 members. The next year he grew to 90 members. Last year he took the year off to evaluate, build needed infrastructure and let the ground rest. This year he is back, and has plans for expansion. The vision for the future is providing his members with full diet options. This year he has partnered with Loco Foods to provide grocery shares on a weekly basis as add on’s for the shareholders. Each Thursday, pick up day on the farm, there will be 10 $50 grocery shares available on a first come basis. Items include coffee, baked goods from Fiddlehead bakery, eggs, cheese, snacks and more.
One of his neighbors/members came by for a visit during our chat. When asked about his experience he stated “Shire is a peaceful place in the neighborhood. It’s a great place to come and just be.” The gardens are visible from the Spring Creek Trail and the subdivision to the East. The property is long and one of the large garden beds and a greenhouse are leased to the Growing Project, a local non-profit food provider. Surrounded by trees and water, Luke says “It’s good to be close to nature. This place gets it’s hooks in you. It’s a magical place.” He also explains that having your food source nearby, within walking or biking distance, was once the norm. He believes to be sustainable and healthy, we are to return to normal. “It will take a generation to get us back to normal.” Where your food is close, real and high quality. He has plant starts from his greenhouse for those interested and is willing to teach folks to grow their own. His hopes for the future are incorporating value-added products and education to the mix.
I asked if living in town, did he experience a lot of restrictions. Covenants or HOA’s or the city limits on agriculture. Luke said it wasn’t too bad. The main thing to deal with are neighbor issues and keeping up with such a large property. It takes communication and patience to merge a 4 acre market garden into a subdivision/apartment community, that may not understand bee hives and compost piles next door. Or tractors and equipment running 8 hours a day prepping beds. The 6″ inch weed/lawn rule, no branch piles, 6 chickens, etc. also offer limitations, but it is all manageable. The one thing folks might not expect is the permit needed for this type of operation. $100. Which may seem small, but to a farm trying to find solid ground under it’s feet, every $100 counts. Luke’s immediate goal is self-sufficiency, in the form of not having to work two jobs. He continues to work in landscape design to supplement the garden income. A common goal among new farmers.
Shire provides market shares to it’s members. So far they have 20-25 members for the season and are aiming for 40+. The uniqueness of what Luke offers is choice. Folks get a designated pound allotment each week and choose what they want. Whether it be all tomatoes for canning season, or a large variety. He has planted fruit trees to one day relieve the need to purchase fruit from the Western Slope for his members. He grows herbs and tries to grow a little of everything.I must say, I fell a little bit in love with the Shire. It is a magical place that not only supports your health but gives a refuge in town, and a community to support you beyond the table. Luke is most often on the farm. If you’re curious, stop by for a visit. Tell him Erica sent you!