We are commited to the land, and to living sustainably
Understanding that we must take care of our environment is as basic and essential as taking care of each other. This responsibility we all share has grown in importance as the population expands globally. In our rural area of Northwest Colorado, food is trucked over several mountain passes that can close in the winter. By growing food right here, we are helping to reduce our environmental impact and increase our self-sufficiency. We have created five diverse growing environments within an eight-acre fenced area. The fence helps protect these environments from critters such as elk, deer, coyotes and moose that would dine on these delectable treats. (The bears only get a little discouraged!) The meadow outside the fence produces chemical-free hay.
Caring about the environment doesn’t stop with concern about how we grow our food. It also includes trying to be a good steward of all our resources and evaluating options for optimally managing them. At Elkstone Farm we implement multiple approaches to help steward the land. These include:
Permaculture and Organic Gardening:
The environments at Elkstone Farm are designed using permaculture and organic principles. Permaculture blends traditional and modern practices to emphasize sustainable, diverse ecological design in harmony with our natural environment. In food production, growing areas are designed to mimic nature and are placed close to where the harvest will be used. To minimize waste, we took soil that was removed to build the greenhouse and used it for the raised beds. Good soil is the medium to grow healthy plants, so we add minerals using rock powders, kelp and composted plant materials. We also apply Integrated Pest Management using good bugs to battle bad bugs. Certain herbs such as cilantro entice the good bugs, and onions repel bad bugs. Flowers attract pollinators, while cover crops, such as clover, hairy vetch and rye help build soil fertility or bio-mass.
Determined to make environmentally-friendly building choices, we used LEED standards (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) to guide us in designing and constructing Bohai House. The building houses a combination commercial kitchen, office and caretaker apartment. Wanting to import as many of our materials as possible from local sources, we used beetle-killed pine harvested from Colorado and nearby southern Wyoming. Other sustainable choices include closed cell insulation, energy efficient windows and appliances, low voltage and LED lighting, solar thermal hot water, in-floor radiant heat, cork flooring, and low VO paint.
Solar panels installed behind the greenhouse produce electricity to offset power used by the greenhouse, commercial kitchen and office. Hot water for Bohai House is produced by a thermal solar system. This drain-back system uses water, a better design for winter months than glycol. Heating and cooling in the greenhouse is managed with a Subterranean Heating and Cooling System, SHCS, or “climate battery.” This innovative system transfers excess heat produced in the greenhouse to underground pipes, keeping the soil at a steady 60 degrees. Air then circulates back up to the greenhouse to maintain our Mediterranean plants at a suitable temperature year-round. A stove that burns beetle-killed pine pellets produced in Kremmling, Colorado, provides supplemental heat during our coldest winter days. Even when snow piles so high on the side of the greenhouse that we have to dig a tunnel to the entrance, the inside temperature doesn’t drop below 50 degrees.