EAG Field Trips inspire the promise of regenerative agriculture

The Environmental Affinity Group (EAG) of your Community Foundation organized three field trips in September, allowing the opportunity for participants to dig deeper into the power and promise of healthy soil and regenerative agriculture...right here in Boulder County.

Participants learned about the science of healthy soil in drawing down carbon, fighting climate change, improving biodiversity and pollinator habitats, and increasing the nutritional value of our food. Participants also had the opportunity to connect with other donors who are engaged and learning about our local environment. 
Hear directly from participants, below, and visit us on Facebook for related photos.

Field Trip #1: 

Contributed by Robyn Landry and Gerhard Assenmacher:
On September 9, my husband and I (along with a small group of other friends of Community Foundation Boulder County) took a tour of Jack’s Solar Gardens off N. 95th Street in Longmont. Byron Kominek, the owner and manager, is creating a 1.2 MW community solar garden – enough to power over 300 homes and to provide nutritional food to the community, as well as educational opportunities to all ages. Beneath the solar panels, he will grow vegetables in healthy soils. It is a family-owned social enterprise. We were absolutely amazed at the size, creativity, and ingenuity of this project, especially for the space that is available. Byron also created an ecosystem of berries, native plants, and beehives. It’s an agrivoltaic solar garden – the first in the United States! We were so inspired that the next day that we contacted Byron and applied to be one of the future homes to receive solar energy directly from Byron’s farm. 
Next, we had a tour by the owners/managers of Ollin Farms located nearby (also on 95th St. in Longmont). We learned how Mark and Kena Guttridge carry out the principals of regenerative agriculture. We were able to taste the cherry tomatoes right off the vine. Oh, so nutritious and delicious! Much effort, Mark explained, goes into soil nourishment. Their philosophy is that “healthy soil means healthy food, and, therefore, a healthier community.” Food is grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. The family offers on-farm educational programs geared toward teaching youth about healthy ecosystems. It’s a science classroom from preschool to university engineering students!  
The Community Foundation and the Environmental Affinity Group give my husband and me many opportunities to learn about and support innovative community projects...and we feel proud to be part of that.  

Field Trip #2

Contributed by Heidi and Steve Todd:  
On September 10, Steve and I participated in the Community Foundation’s Environmental Affinity Group field trip to two of Boulder County’s Regenerative Agriculture farms. While we were aware that organic and regenerative agriculture are developing in the area, walking the gardens, and petting the pigs made it real! 
I was particularly impressed with the depth of knowledge and commitment displayed by Alice Starek of Golden Hoof farm and Andre Houssney of Jacob Springs farm. These are not hobby farms, and the complexities are daunting! Now I better understand the challenges in fostering a network of interconnected biological systems inherent in regenerative agriculture. They are not only raising animals and plants for market but also doing so in a manner which restores degraded soils and habitats, improves our regional ecosystem, provides healthy local food, and models a more sustainable kind of agriculture. 
The important interaction of animals and plants in this dynamic was another surprise. Now I’ve seen for myself the improvement that animals, properly managed, can make in the land. Moreover, the critters all seemed healthy, natural, and happy. Steve and I had been eating a mostly plant-based diet mainly for environmental and ethical reasons; now, I’m thinking I can reintroduce some meat as long as it’s raised in this way! 
The need for support, cooperation, and advocacy for regenerative ag was expressed several times by the farmers. They’re simply too busy to collaborate as much as they wish. Efforts such as a local meat-processing plant would help them to expand this type of farming to the benefit of all.  
My hope is that the Community Foundation and the EAG could assess the needs and the involvement of other organizations that already advocate for regen/organic ag in this area, then bolster those efforts with financial and, possibly, volunteer support. 

Field Trip #3 

Contributed by David Carpenter: 
What an outstanding afternoon at Fair Farm! I will long remember the fantastic presentations, the beautiful setting, and the good company, not to mention the 1,000+ chickens. Seeing the example that Walt Pounds is setting at Fair Farm, and learning about Phil Taylor’s work with Mad Agriculture, made a lasting impression. I can already tell that it will steer my work, my shopping, and my local philanthropy in new and better directions. Thanks to the Environmental Affinity Group for providing such a unique and powerful opportunity to engage global issues on a local level. I’m truly grateful.  
Contributed by Dita Hutchinson:
Community Foundation Boulder County’s regenerative agriculture field trip to Fair Farm with Walt Pounds and Phil Taylor last week was such a joyful and nourishing departure from the very troubling day-to-day world we all inhabit right now. It felt so healing to gather in our (masked & socially distanced) small group on Walt’s fields amidst hundreds of his happy chickens roaming freely all around us. On our tour, we got to see and hold precious 1-day old chicks and collect eggs from the roosting pens. Phil talked about regenerative agriculture from his heart – he is clearly so passionate about the importance of this “virtuous flywheel” which results in one farmer at a time finding true happiness in their passionate work that builds healthy and sustainable communities in which we can all flourish. As a group, we brainstormed ways to elevate this important conversation, including with a wide range of diverse stakeholders from our community. We tossed around the idea of making a documentary film about Mad Ag’s work highlighting Phil, Walt, and many others that are committed to the transformative practice of biodynamic farming right here in Boulder County. 
Learn more about our Environmental Affinity Group, and join us!