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Veggies and flowers bloom at local farm collective

 

Photo courtesy of Nelson Esseveld

Treehouse Collective partners and members (from left): Nelson Esseveld, Helen Skiba, Matt Kuebbing, Melissa Ogilvie, Cody Jurbala and Eldur the dog.

Pink tulips and crisp lettuce are signs of spring at the new Treehouse Farm Collective a few miles northwest of Niwot. The season offers a fresh beginning for plants and people, including two agricultural businesses that saw a way to expand their offerings of flowers and fresh vegetables by leasing land together.

Farmette Flowers and Speedwell Farm and Gardens leased a 17-acre property on 63rd Street in January, something that would have been out of reach if they hadn't done it together.

"I think that's a unique and upcoming thing especially for young farmers given that access to land on the Front Range, and really all over the country, is really challenging with high prices for all kinds of land, especially agricultural land," said Cody Jurbala, who owns Speedwell Farm and Gardens with partner Melissa Ogilvie.

"We can help each other on the property, which is a huge thing, allowing a little bit of flexibility and timing for everyone because we have a community on-farm that we can rely on," he said.

Helen Skiba of Farmette Flowers said the collective can rent or borrow equipment from their neighbors and landlord as they grow their businesses.

Skiba is planting more than 100 flower species on the land for weddings and to sell to people who want one-off bouquets or a season's worth of fresh flowers as CSA shares (Community Supported Agriculture). She is planning to use a patio on the property to offer nine public workshops in floral design this year. The collective is also looking at hosting farm dinners on the former hemp farm.

Speedwell Farm had recently been leasing backyard gardens and a quarter acre of land in Boulder. It created a niche for produce during the pandemic by delivering CSA shares to homes from Longmont to Golden. Customers sign up weekly instead of purchasing an entire season's worth of produce which most CSAs require.

"It was a big hit with all of our people," Jurbala said. "When COVID hit last year it was a lot to have people sign up for a whole season. Frankly people couldn't afford that. We found people liked the idea of weekly signups, if not more, than signing up for a whole season."

The business also does pop-up markets on Saturdays at Moxie Bread in north Boulder and provides taco ingredients and other produce to several local restaurants. "We have just had lots of demand from our chefs and our community. That's what led us into this new opportunity with the Treehouse Collective," he said.

The two businesses do not compete, but are similar enough to support each other with the farm work and marketing. They share a commitment to regenerative agriculture that builds soil health and supports the environment. They hope their shared efforts will allow them to buy the land at some point in the future.  

"Our vision is a place that is a really established farm that includes lots of avenues for perennial plants, pollinator plants," Skiba said. "A farm that is a garden that has value, not just for the people that take from the land, but also has value for all the animals and creatures and birds that use our land as well. That's a really important part of our effort. To make sure we provide for all the other beings that are our teachers and use the land as well."

The name Treehouse Collective fits their shared vision. "It connotes a place where kids make the rules and we all create our own reality - a place where we can imagine and dream," Skiba said.

 

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