Agriculture on Open Space & Mountain Parks
The Open Space and Mountain Department (OSMP) has a long history of supporting local agricultural producers. Just over 14,000 acres of land is leased to local farmers and ranchers in support of their family operations.
Livestock production is the most widespread agricultural use of OSMP land, followed by hay and forage production. Due to soil types, slope, and access to irrigation water, most of the land owned by OSMP that is leased for agricultural purposes is best suited for livestock grazing. The native grasslands and irrigated hay meadows surrounding Boulder have long been used to support a viable livestock industry in Boulder County. Currently, Open Space and Mountain Parks leases land to four producers who are certified natural beef producers. One OSMP cattle producer has been naturally certified for over 10 years, while most of our other producers have been certified for the last 5 – 7 years. Combined, these producers lease over 7,600 acres. The natural beef produced on open space can be found year-round, from summer grazing pastures in our southern grasslands, to fall and winter aftermath grazing on our hay fields.
Most of these producers sell their naturally-raised animals on the Superior Livestock Auction. The Superior Livestock Auction is an internet-based auction that allows producers and consumers to buy and sell livestock all over the country. In order for a producer to market their beef as certified natural on the auction, they must prove that their animals have never received any hormones, antibiotics, or animal by-products. This is done through an affidavit process. The Superior Livestock Auction is just one of many ways a producer can certify their beef naturally.
The natural beef label you might see in the stores is a much different system and focuses on the processing and handling of the product that is on the shelves. This natural beef certification is through the USDA and requires that the meat be minimally processed and free of artificial products or chemical preservatives. Staff is currently exploring ways to develop greater local markets for beef produced on OSMP lands.
Local Foods on Open Space
Supporting local agricultural producers has been a longstanding tradition at OSMP. Significant effort has been, and will continue to be, devoted to increasing the amount of food products grown for local sale from OSMP land. The Open Space and Mountain Parks Department currently has 470 acres of agricultural land dedicated to the production of local food products. Two of our tenants, the Sawhills and the Biellas, direct-market natural beef animals locally within Boulder County, approximately 35-40 head a year. They grow forages and graze their herd on the 416 combined acres that they lease from the City of Boulder.
The first lease for organic vegetable production was finalized in 2011. Anne Cure, of Cure Organic Farm, leases an eight-acre parcel for organic vegetable production adjacent to her base operation on Valmont Road. In 2012, she produced over 75,000 pounds of organic vegetables on this parcel; these vegetables were then sold to local consumers.
Eric and Jill Skokan, of Black Cat Farm, lease the 46-acre Lousberg parcel which they use for grazing sheep and meat birds. They plan to put eight acres into perennial vegetables in the fall of 2013, which will be marketed through their two restaurants, their CSA, local grocery stores, and the Boulder and Longmont Farmers’ Markets. In conjunction with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks co-owns an additional 83 acres that are dedicated to local food, forage, and fiber production in the county. The Hygiene Dairy property currently houses part of Red Wagon Farm’s organic vegetable operations and the J-Family property is home to Black Cat Farm’s pastured pigs.
OSMP staff have identified more properties suitable for diversified organic vegetable and/or integrated organic vegetable and livestock farms. Some sites need considerable infrastructure improvements before they can be leased for this type of production. Planning is underway to make these improvements in the near future. A third organic vegetable farm will be available for lease in late 2013.
Staff has also been investigating alternative crops and integrated pest management strategies for traditional commodity producers. A field trial is currently being conducted to investigate the effectiveness of a pesticide approved for organic use for the control of alfalfa weevil. Alfalfa is an important crop in the region and is also an important rotational crop for organic producers to maintain soil fertility. A second trial is in the planning stages to incorporate cover crops into traditional wheat-fallow and organic vegetable crop rotations.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 04 June 2013 15:38