Vail’s Greener Pastures: Meet my ‘Super Organic’ farmer
VAIL CO, Colorado
End-of-season fever has me thinking about cherries – summer’s grand opening to stone fruit. Admittedly obsessed with those bright red bursts of sweetness, I shot a quick e-mail to my farmer making sure my cherry crop is secure.
Lynn Borden of Borden Farms, located on the Western Slope in the fertile Uncompahgre Valley, replied it all depends on spring weather.
“A late freeze could make a big difference on how much is available,” she writes in an email. “We should have more details by the end of April. I’ll make a note to be sure and save cherries for you.”
Thank you, Lynn Borden.
Is Lynn Borden and the rest of the hardworking crew at Borden Farms really my farmer? For all intents and purposes – yes. This summer I have joined Borden Farms’ CSA.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is a partnership between the farm and its local supporters. Each member makes a commitment to support the farm throughout the season via a CSA subscription. I pay the farm up front, usually by late winter, sharing in both the costs of farming and the risks, like uncooperative spring weather.
CSA subscriptions provide the farmer with a secure market. It helps with the farm’s cash flow, allowing the farmer to fix a tractor, for example, before the 16-hour days of summer begin. And it allows the farmer to plant more cherries knowing there’s enough obsessed CSA members to eat them.
On the flip side, the members of a CSA receive about 16 weeks (from mid June to September) of ultra-fresh produce grown just hours away- not days or weeks away like the produce at the supermarket. As a CSA member, you create a relationship with the person growing your food. Suddenly, those cherries have a hardworking face behind them, making the fruit taste even sweeter.
Each week, members pick up their CSA box at a convenient drop-off location. What’s in the box depends on the season and the weather. This connects people with the true local growing season, a link too often broken in our dysfunctional world of food globalization. Peaches at the supermarket in March? It’s just not right.
Another bonus for CSA members is you are exposed to new vegetables and new ways to cook those vegetables. This is especially the case with Borden’s CSA. Borden Farms offers 100 varieties of vegetables, including their famous “Borden’s Best” homegrown tomatoes. Borden’s variety is one of the reasons Sweet Basil’s Executive Chef Paul Anders uses them for his popular Vail Village restaurant.
“We love the many varietals within each type of vegetable that they raise,” Anders says. “We can get five types of cucumbers, five types of eggplant, innumerable varieties of tomatoes, potatoes, onions, squash, etc. It allows us to play with new things and to show our guests how many flavors one type of vegetable can have.”
When pressed to name a favorite, Anders says Borden’s Sun Gold Tomatoes really stand out in his mind.
“They are little cherry tomato variety, gold-orange in color and have the most amazing sweet ripe tomato flavor,” he says. “It’s like the ultimate taste of summer when you pop one in your mouth, and the burst of savory sweet tomato juice fills your senses.”
A sun-colored tomato is not the real reason Sweet Basil uses Borden. Just like a CSA member would, Anders has forged a relationship with owners Guy and Lynn Borden. He appreciates their genuine passion and love for growing food.
“The care they put into each and every vegetable is evident and translates to the flavor on the plate,” Anders says.
Plus, Borden Farms is USDA Certified Organic, but that doesn’t begin to describe how they tend their fields, Anders says.
“They use no pesticides – even though there are some that are allowable by organic standards,” Anders says. “They hand pull weeds and grass between the rows of vegetables, a very uncommon practice for farms of this size. If there is such a term, I would call them ‘Super Organic.'”
There are still shares available for Borden’s “Super Organic” CSA. As much as I’m tempted to keep the cherry farmer all to myself, Borden is too good, too sustainable a step in our local community to keep it a secret.
Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle. She and her husband, Captain Vacuum, own Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company. Contact her at email@example.com.