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Buena Vista farmer rallies for natural foods

Cassie Pence
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily/Town Planning and Urban Design Collaborative
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BUENA VISTA ” Apples shipped from New Zealand. Pears grown in Chile. Spinach picked in Mexico. A stroll through your local grocer’s produce section is like attending a United Nations meeting. But time is running out for this model of oil-based agriculture, Colorado farmer David Lynch said.

“Every bean, every carrot travels an average of 1,000 miles to get to your grocery store,” Lynch said. “We have created this industrial food system that hinges on cheap oil, and cheap oil is a thing of the past.”

Lynch started farming 34 years ago in Loveland for a church organization. In the ’90s, when the church could no longer afford to maintain the farm, Lynch took over control, forming Guidestone Farms as a business. It’s an example of community supported agriculture, where member families pay Lynch to farm, and in return, they receive fresh produce and dairy.

On Jan. 1, Lynch and the Roberts family ” Seth, Caitliln and Juniper May, who also work on the farm ” shut Guidestone down to create a new project in the Upper Arkansa River Valley at the base of the Collegiate Peaks.

The proposed development, Cottonwood Meadows in Buena Vista, is based on the “new urbanism” building philosophy. The community will comprise four to five villages within five minutes walking distance of each other. There will be townhouses, single family homes, office space, a recreational lodge, retail and other services, like a theater and coffee shop, as well as homes and services for seniors. But instead of a golf course at the community’s center, the villages will surround a vegetable farm and a raw milk dairy.

“This is really about coming home to eat. Coming back to our community and thinking about this whole idea of globalization as a short-lived opportunity based on cheap oil,” Lynch said. “Global warming is coinciding with this peak oil, and those two together are going to bring us back to reality that the earth is a living organism and is finite. It has limitations on what it can sustain.”

Land for Cottonwood Meadows’ farms was donated as open space by the land owner John Cogswell. Through his nonprofit, Guidestone, Lynch will contract the land to vegetable farmer Seth Roberts, and Lynch will run his dairy farm on part. The nonprofit will educate young farmers from around the country during internships and workshops. Even though Cottonwood Meadows has yet to be approved, Lynch is beginning work on the farms.

“A lot of young farmers who want to farm near cities to provide a local food economy do not have the resources to own the land because land is too expensive, especially the land next to cities,” Lynch said. “This is an issue throughout Colorado and nationally.”

The name Guidestone is symbolic. It refers to the Native American symbol for wisdom. Indians believe wisdom is held in the land within the stones.

When Cogswell bought the large hay meadow and adjacent lands across from his home in Buena Vista, he knew he really had something special. A retired attorney, who grew up on a farm in Saguache, Colorado, Cogswell wanted to develop, but he also wanted preserve the meadow and heritage of the land. But the initial plans for the meadow, submitted by designers from Denver, were too “resort oriented.” It wasn’t what Cogswell wanted to leave as a legacy for the community.

After working with engineer and geologist Mike Allen, and learning about “new urbanism” from two young kayakers, Jed and Katie Selby, whose new Buena Vista community South Main follows new urbanism values, Cogswell found a plan that worked.

“Our previous plan had 35 percent open space,” Allen said. “We have been able to increase that to 50 percent with the concept of new urbanism.”

In the 1960s, development grew according to zoning: a shopping mall on one block, high end homes on another and low income housing on the fringes, Allen said. The burden of transportation was on the automobile, and the modern day zoning was creating sprawl.

“New urbanism strives for communities that are more pedestrian oriented and more sustainable over time,” Allen said, who is the president of the development company overseeing the Cottonwood Meadows project. “Given our energy constraints, it’s about creating a community that is more self sufficient.”

Allen likens new urbanism to the Old World villages in Europe, where a family would settle, begin farming, build a homestead and slowly businesses would rise and then eventually a downtown would form.

“There was no zoning. These communities grew organically,” Allen said.

For Cottonwood Meadows, Allen said they aren’t trying to recreate a downtown Buena Vista, but they will provide essential services, like fresh vegetables, within walking distance to reduce the dependency of the automobile.

“In many cases, our society is getting away from its roots,” Allen said. “It’s way to easy to not know your neighbor or to not be engaged in your community. Having the opportunity to move to the mountains and grow your own food, to share that, is really a dream come true to me.”

Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 748-2938, or cpence@vaildaily.com.


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