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Thinking of joining a CSA?

Jeff Pieper
Special to the Daily
Kyle Velvis with his kale crop in February. Currently, The Green Wagon Farm dedicates most of its growing space to leafy greens, such as kale, lettuce and Swiss chard.
Special to the Daily |

Buy a share

This year, The Green Wagon Farm will be offering two different share sizes through its community-supported agriculture program. The large share is good for a family of three or four, while the small share is perfect for one to two in a household.

• Large shares: $31.25 per week ($125 per month)

• Small shares are $22.25 per week ($89 per month)

Members can choose where to pick up their weekly share. There are three pick-up locations in the Eagle Valley.

• 7 Hermits Brewery (Eagle)

• Crazy Mountain Brewery (Edwards)

• Colorado Meat Co. (Avon)

Learn about growing veggies

Colorado State University Extension is hosting a three-part lecture series and plant sale in three separate locations this spring. Learn how to grow better vegetables, and get tips from local vegetable-growing professionals. Doors open at 5 p.m. for each event, with lectures beginning at 5:30 p.m. and plants on sale until 7:30 p.m.

• Wednesday, May 25 — Kyle Velvis discusses basil cloning and aquaponics techniques, Brush Creek Pavilion, Eagle

• Wednesday, June 1 — Nick Courtens discusses tips he’s learned gardening at altitude and from his father while growing up on a vegetable farm in Upstate New York, Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, Vail.

• Wednesday, June 8 — Chris LaVenture will talk about companion planting and crop rotation, Avon Salvation Army and Community Garden, Avon.

Editor’s note: This is the first part of a three-part series about the lecturers featured at this year’s Colorado State University Extension Vegetable Gardening Lecture and Plant Sale series. Find more resources at http://www.eaglecounty.us/csu.

Though the spring snow continues to pile up, the longer days and blooming crocuses have brought with them visions of summer and a desire to garden. While any smart Eagle County gardener knows patience in the spring is the key to a successful harvest in our area, a couple of ambitious locals have been bucking the trend.

In fact, while you have been making the most out of your winter, The Green Wagon Farm has steadily been producing vegetables all winter long. Four-season farming has found it’s way to Eagle County, and fresh produce is now available year-round.

The Green Wagon Farm, located between Gypsum and Dotsero, is owned and operated by Kyle Velvis and Jay Giordano. With a passion to reinvigorate the agriculture scene in Eagle County, these two entrepreneurs started their farm business in the summer of 2014.

After quickly realizing that year-round food production would be essential to their success, the business partners built a 4,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse. The greenhouse was the first piece of infrastructure built on the farm, and now it is the cornerstone of their business, but it’s not just any old greenhouse.

Innovative Techniques

Having an educational background in ecological design and spending a lot of time studying hydroponic growing techniques, Velvis decided to pursue aquaponics to grow their products. Aquaponics utilizes the symbiotic relationship between fish (in their case, tilapia) and plants to create a living ecosystem that grows plants in one of the most environmentally friendly ways known to man.

“Aquaponic techniques are not only an effective way to grow the plants, but having over 18,000 gallons of water in the greenhouse provides an incredible thermal mass that makes heating the structure in the winter way more economical,” Velvis said. “We heat the water directly to keep it at a nice temperature for the fish and plants; therefore, we can keep the ambient air at a much lower temperature, which saves us a lot on our heating bill.”

Currently, they dedicate most of their growing space to leafy greens, such as kale, lettuce and Swiss chard, but they also have a good variety of other plants to create a well-balanced offering for their customers. Other items currently growing in the greenhouse are chives, mint, radish, basil, lemon basil and a unique type of lemon cucumber.

Realizing that a diversified market would be essential to its success, The Green Wagon Farm currently sells its offerings through several different outlets

“Although sales to restaurants generate great revenue, most restaurants have huge fluctuations in their business, due to the seasonality of this area,” Giordano said. “In order to balance this, we started a community-supported agriculture program, where members receive a basket of produce every week.”

Restaurants typically purchase specialty items such as basil and micro greens, while the CSA members’ weekly basket includes a wide variety of products that are both grown in the greenhouse and sourced from other local growers.

“We have networked with over a half-dozen farmers in other parts of the state, primarily the Palisade area, to create an outlet of sales for them through our CSA and restaurant sales,” Giordano said. “Most of these farmers do not have the time or resources to dedicate to sales, so we help them by providing this service.”

Currently, The Green Wagon Farm is taking deposits for its summer CSA share program. The program starts the first week of June, but Velvis says it is good to reserve yours early because they sell out fast.

“This year, we aim to double the CSA program from 50 members to over 100 members,” Giordano said. “Interest was really strong last year, but we were still dialing in our production and expanding our network with other small farmers, so we kept it limited in an effort to make sure everyone received a good value of food each week.”

Jeff Pieper is the Eagle County horticulture and small acreage agent for the Colorado State University Extension. You can reach him at 970-328-8633 and jeff.pieper@eagle county.us.


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