E15: The Farming Way of Life with Scott and Jessica Washkowiak of Field to Fork Farm

Scott and Jessica Washkowiak own Field to Fork Farm in Palisade, where they’ve been growing organic and biodynamic crops and raising pigs and chickens for eleven years.

Scott and I chatted about the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, how important it is to him to be a first generation farmer, what it’s like to raise a kid on a farm, his top tips for backyard gardeners in Mesa County, the importance of good soil, and what a typical day is like when you get up before the sunrise.

Later, Jessica joined us and we talked about their pizza club, how they satisfy their surfing itch in the high desert, and the terrifying train accident that happened near their property earlier this year: why they’re so, so tired of talking about it, but why we can’t forget about it. Then we lightened things up by figuring out what kind of vegetables we all are.

For more info on Field to Fork Farm, including their farm stand’s hours of operation: fieldtofork-farm.com.

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.


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Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast about the people and places that make this slice of western Colorado wonderful. I’m Lisa McNamara.

I visited Scott and Jessica Washkowiak at their Field to Fork Farm this July, on what might end up being the hottest day of the year. After Scott led me on a tour of the farm, which involved checking on some very cute and muddy pigs, turning on and off many irrigation spigots, and finding a giant toad happily enjoying the water in the 105 degree heat, we retreated to their cool farmhouse for a refreshing glass of Big B’s lemonade. Scott mentioned that Jessica would probably be in and out – she was manning the farm stand and didn’t want to miss any customers.

Scott and I chatted about the difference between organic and biodynamic farming, how important it is to him to be a first generation farmer, what it’s like to raise a kid on a farm, his top tips for backyard gardeners in Mesa County, the importance of good soil, and what a typical day is like when you get up before the sunrise.

After a bit, Jessica joined us and we talked about their pizza club, how they satisfy their surfing itch in the high desert, and about the terrifying train accident that happened near their property earlier this year: why they’re so, so tired of talking about it, but why we can’t forget about it. Then we lightened things up by figuring out what kind of vegetables we all are.

All that and more – on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

SW: my name is Scott Washkowiak s-c-o-t-t-w-a-s-h-k-o-w-i-a-k. field to fork is an organically certified farm located at 3526 Front Street in Palisade Colorado we’ve been in existence this is our 11th season

we started all this with no farm we lived in a house in town and we’re kind of refugee farmers we we just leased land and did makeshift wash stations at whatever lot or land had a spigot and people would put up with us and kind of out of that it it rolled into we got heavily involved with CSAs community supported agriculture for those who don’t know what a CSA is it’s always been vegetables we came in through the lease next door at the macios both Mike and Blakely and they had a small orchard that was I called it the artistic orchard um lots of different stuff you know kind of a homeowners kind of a canner’s orchard and that’s where I was introduced to the trees that we have in our valley stone and pomme fruit

and from there this property came for sale and we bought it we got the loan through the USDA program back when President Obama had allocated some money for beginning farmers and we’re first generation farmers which I’m extremely proud of because it’s really hard to become a farmer if anybody out there wants to become a farmer stop by the farm and I will uh definitely convince you that you don’t want to do it now I’m joking I I will give you anything I know of and all my power to to let you know what you’re in for and how to achieve that goal of becoming agriculturalist or or more more specifically I could say we’re horticulturists

I studied Horticulture at Colorado State and studied Landscape Horticulture and some days I I think of what somebody pays per month to have their lawn string trimmed mowed and blowed and go wow yeah like this is mmm or grow carrots for people and do stuff like that but that’s great

Jessica is from the valley she’s raised here her whole life out on 26 Road and when I met her in Breckenridge Colorado I was really looking to to get out of Colorado I wanted to go somewhere to the beach I’ve always wanted to live like that and she went with me we illegally operated a business in Mexico called Surf Sherpa yeah I’m evening the odds a little bit

LM: you know this is for public consumption right

SW: yeah it’s fine I no longer

LM: it’s past the statute of limitations?

SW: I I I no longer illegally work in Mexico without a fm3 card but we ran a surf safari business down there and that was fun but we really had a deeper a deeper meaning and we really wanted to throw some roots down so lived in San Diego for about five years there of which I operated a large organic operation and we got married

and I didn’t believe my dad when he told me this he said whatever he told me so I was a little boy he goes what whoever you marry you’re probably gonna end up living there and I thought what a crazy old man he didn’t know and all my friends you know that wherever I got a friend in Massachusetts you know what I mean like it’s just sure enough dude they get married and the belly swells and they’re right by her parents so we moved here to be with her family and uh that was it we started at the macios and that was yeah like I said 11 years ago

LM: well that was just a great introduction of how you got here right and your path to Palisade um so how did you decide or have you always wanted to own your own farm or was this something that came about later?

SW: um no I I was pretty specific even as a child was it was art uh the boards surf skate and snow and and Horticulture I always knew that those three things balanced me and give me my purpose in life

LM: and so you mentioned that you’ve worked at farms before

SW: oh yeah oh yeah

LM: but this is the first farm you’ve owned

SW: yeah this is the first farm Jess and I have ever owned

LM: what is for your expectations of actually becoming a farm owner what has been harder than you expected and what’s been easier than you expected

SW: I I think the hardest thing that that we didn’t anticipate and didn’t pay attention to is that especially in this end of the valley or even in the other end of the valley or nationwide a lot of people have full-time jobs and and run their farms which is nuts which is just totally like okay you know and so I think that would be the one thing that that like this is our sole income and that

that is uh my estimated risk kind of with the board sports like like riding big waves or riding avalanche terrain or skateboarding I think I’ve replaced that with with a kind of a different kind of sickness as far as risk goes you know and it’s it’s it’s definitely not for the faint of heart for sole income you know and and it really is something especially for a first generational farmer like it it’s been the most challenging thing just just to get my head around how much money it takes especially at a smaller scale in a lot of our big farms they have that wired where it’s the law of uh what is this law I’m looking for it’s called um either way you know the the more you’re doing something the less cost on what your inputs are labor training at Colorado State they’d always say find one crop and become the master at it and so I totally went the opposite way we grow over 76 crops and almost uh 13 different fruit types not varieties so that’s that’s uh that’s good but yeah does that that answers your question

LM: yeah I think so so yeah the surprise is just like that it’s really hard to make a living as a farmer as a sole job

SW: yeah the margins are like we’ll get chefs that start to cry to us about in the past we sold to a lot of chefs and we’ll get chefs that cry to us about their margins and we’re just like dude I’m here taking sunlight water and soil and turning it into food you’re clicking Sysco

LM: right exactly like hello. How many acres do you have?

SW: we’re operating on seven acres here

LM: okay okay so you said seventy six different types of

SW: yeah like between like from from everything from apple to zucchini you know mixing the the the the orchard in with the garden and diversity is key it needs to be diverse and I didn’t mention the seven pigs and the 300 egg layers and we do do some some meat birds as well

LM: yes that’s a lot that’s a lot

SW: yeah it’s a lot going

LM: well so what about what was easier than you expected anything?

SW: you know what just doing it just being like you know what we don’t have a farm we just bought a house in Palisade like I’m not gonna worry I think a lot of um there’s a there’s a term called dreamers a lot of people that you know just really we all pick our thing to Google right at certain times in our lives and there’s these dreamers are great but you just gotta do it you know I mean I think that’s like literally what like it’s kind of like getting a nice car or something you get the loan and you’re like holy cow I have a nice car but then like the 36 or 42 months after that where you have to come up with that payment

I think that’s I but I I see it all the time like it takes a tremendous leap of faith and believe in yourself and your partner and then in uh 2012 we had a son Clive and he’s great I learned a lot I’m originally from the Midwest and I’ve been around a lot of farms and I’ve watched a lot of farms either intentionally push their children out of the the practice or want them in the practice so badly and need them so badly because nobody cares like a family member you know what I mean like nobody has that expertise of of what it takes to give a shit

LM: and growing up here and seeing how everything works

SW: yeah yeah and then some really use the labor of their children and it’s this like double-edged sword to be like they become accountants lawyers nurses doctors engineers anything but a farmer so both those are successful but I’ve seen a lot of people really want their son or daughter to become a part of the farm and chase them away for that so with Clive he’s a kid like it’s really important he gets paid that’s the other thing that will kind of interest somebody at agriculture is they get paid for it you know

LM: it’s an allowance! Kids get allowances.

SW: yeah yeah no it’s great he has a go card and like he he does he’s a big help but I I really try not to abuse that you know because he he has to be a kid like oh you’re going mountain biking you know I could maybe it was going to come to him with a couple favors but I’m just gonna zip my lip and let him go mountain biking this is important I want to go mountain bike I’m an old man you know I got work to do

LM: so other than Clive do you have any other employees

SW: um yeah we do we we have a couple people who work at the farm stand and then we have a chef chef Nate in Palisade if anybody knows Chef Nate he’s been around a couple kitchens and he’s great he he’s currently making a bunch of apricot jam for us we have a makeshift kitchen in the back of the pack shed there so that’s huge he comes here early in the morning leaves when it gets hot he’s great um Heather and Pete work the farm stand and help us out but that that’s about it that’s about it we from time to time we’ll lean on a little little labor around but it’s really hard to find especially vegetables um something as simple as bunching carrots like this has to be a bunch of carrots has to be a unit and now its a bunch of carrots it needs to be picked up tossed

you know we used to do farmers markets we no longer do farmers markets we sell solely out of the farm stand which is really good we it’s enabled us to grow less and make the same if not more money because we’re going direct so like say a bunch of carrots I get four dollars a bunch well when I was selling at Denver or selling to a restaurant I would get two dollars a bunch so this is you know something we kind of realize and just let off it was really hard to let go and being from the Midwest it’s like bigger is better scale

we used to lease this field across from us across from us we look out our window and we see a nice alfalfa patch and that used to be all like we’d sell commercial like carrots squash and it was just it just wasn’t good business plan you know and so everything going out the farm store is just amazing it’s so special I have I have a direct connection with the people in my community and and who eat our food

LM: right and you’re just focused on that that was actually something I was going to ask you because I haven’t seen you at the Palisade Farmers Market but I know that requires I mean time travel a lot of work so

SW: yeah in in in the beginning we did we did um so a bit a bit of organic farm CSA history in Palisade is Thomas Cameron ran and operated the first CSA in in the valley here and it was uh Cameron place was the name of it and so Jess and I were living in San Diego at the at the time obviously I mentioned earlier in our conversation Jess is from Mesa County and we met him at the ag convention in February and he was looking for two people to run the farm and we moved here and and worked for Cameron place CSA it was was great we we enjoyed that

bought a house and he decided to to close shop he had a good seven or eight year run with the Cameron place CSA and we really decided that we there was room in this valley for a CSA so we we did it we we had a kid and started a farm all in one one spring yeah Clive was Clive was raised in a pack and play in underneath the apple trees and in this little little like 16th of an acre garden that we started in and that was great

LM: yeah that sounds pretty sweet

SW: and uh just a couple years after that this place came for sale and and we we lucked out we really kept a hold of our numbers and convinced the the bank the federal government the USDA to to give us give us a loan and we got this farm

LM what a great alignment of everything for that to work out

SW: just dropping in like I mentioned you just gotta do it

LM: yeah that’s so cool. Well so you’ve mentioned a few times about that you’re an organic farm, but I know you’re more than organic, you’re biodynamic.

SW: yeah we’re in the process of getting biodynamically certified

LM: oh awesome

SW: and you can’t be biodynamically certified without being organically certified so it’s like kind of steps and thinking so much of those days when Clive was a baby and we were just starting out it was so weird when oh are you organic you know and you’d say well yeah are you certified and then you know no it’s just it’s so much easier to turn or point over my shoulder and go here’s my certification and it’s really important because you can see up to 220 percent more profit off of being organic and of course people are going to want to do that and in in my mind in my opinion if somebody isn’t certified they’re not organic they can they can flap their gums all they want if if they’re not organic

becoming organic the certification there’s a lot of misconceptions about it it’s not expensive it runs about seven hundred dollars a year and is half of that is is subsidized by the USDA so yeah that’s not the problem what it did though it really made us better farmers your record keeping has to be more impeccable there’s tracebacks that happened to us this year uh the inspector will just pick randomly if he or she chooses a crop that they see on our sales board and from that crop sitting in the farm stand we have to trace back to its every location starting in that that start house in February it was a tomato seed every input every treatment everything that made that tomato be for the consumer and I like it because just like I’m saying it protects the consumer don’t don’t listen to me I’m certified boom and there’s a whole bunch of yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah and there’s a whole bunch of food safety that goes into it too that they kind of keep it so in my in my opinion if you’re a farmer out there listening you know and are you a small farm and you’re really not

it was really important when we were selling wholesale because oh boy selling wholesale if you are you certified no that that buyer just just like lower than what you’d get if you never even brought up organic you know what I mean so so we enjoyed a higher premium there and uh yeah we we made our name in this valley at the farmers markets for sure we did Junction and we did Fruita for a short while and then of course in Palisade and and uh we believe just being three two and a half miles from downtown um it’s so much more efficient that cooler in back of the house is like 50 yards from the farm stand you know and it just I literally pick things the day of it’s so great like I’ll come in and Jess will be working the farm stand and the little buggy pulls in and oh I needed those carrots! that’s what it’s about for me I really yeah yeah we wouldn’t we wouldn’t do it any other way we love it

LM: well tell me more about the biodynamic stuff so I know you’re not certified yet

SW: we’re in transition but we do do all the all the things to do this next fall we will be certified

LM: okay

SW: so biodynamic has to do with the dude who is Mr Man named Rudolf Steiner and Rudolf Steiner really kind of got paid attention to shortly after World War II when when chemical agriculture came in the rototiller and and things started picking up on the agricultural scene and I have tried for a lot of years studying Horticulture at Colorado State I was around it at the farm I lived at a student ran farm and my whole life I I’m I’m I’m hard on myself and I’m hard on everything else as far as a critique and it makes a lot of sense and here’s how so biodynamic is a celestial importance and it’s also in the preparations and the preparations have numbers like uh 500 500 is probably the most common one it’s the cow horn worm worm casting

LM: that’s the one I know about

SW: yeah it’s the most common one yeah so so the cow horns we would get female cow horns in the fall and the reason they’ve got to be female cow horns is because during the um lactation and all the energy that the mama cow has to give to her gestation during the gestation period the calcium wanes a lot which makes them more permeable than like a bull that didn’t have that responsibility or anything like that and then you take cow manure and pack them the horns then you set them up like teepees and then you bury them with a little bit of worm castings in there and then in the spring you unearth that and in that cow horn is the most spongy earthy substance you’d ever put your sniffer to and then we make a compost tea and spread that

and then we do a lot of silica I forget the number of the silica and that’s in the morning and this is so this is like an exhale and an inhale morning inhale exhale so okay lots of voodoo right this is what I really really really would look at but what it is with all these inoculants another one just just to give you three is uh yarrow in a lamb’s stomach and you hang this and it attracts certain uh not fungus but bacteria um yeasts certain yeast specific yeasts not just yeast specific yeast and then that’s all crushed and sprayed again and what goes on here is we’re inoculating we’re taking these yeasts from the atmosphere concentrating them making our own

LM: it’s okay we can just pause for a sec

SW: okay cool tell us when you’re done buddy okay you can make your own inoculants and I and I think in my my mind’s eye that’s way better than having to buy things um

LM: and it’s coming from here

SW: yeah yeah yeah totally

LM: from that location

SW: totally there there is a place up in um near Aspen that sells these preparations that’s what they do and they’re totally legit I I still am certified if I use them and it’s been a big help because I really don’t have time we’ve had lambs in past years but you know like you need like a fresh lamb stomach there’s no there’s no like order a lambs stomach on Amazon as far as far as I as far as I looked last you know so yeah um and the other thing the celestial thing with it is is there’s leaf root fruit days and there’s these days that are favorable to plant like on a root day when you want this energy there or or more importantly to harvest on a fruit day

um the grape world I noticed do say um don’t I

LM: everyone says um I do too

SW: yeah anyways the grape world has really paid attention to biodynamics it’s taken off

LM: that’s where I’m familiar with it from

SW: yeah it’s just yeah yeah so I mean a big believer it’s just something that really naturally makes things inoculated and does that and the other cool thing about the biodynamic cert is we can only get 25 percent of our total farm fertility off-farm so animals are really important on the farm and their manures yeah this is this is the full circle this is the circle of life this is biology this is eat be eaten lay down and be eaten that’s what I like to call it so this this is why we really subscribe to biodynamic it’s biologically a closed loop and hopefully the better our soil gets the more mature our trees get the more trees we plant the more animals we have pass by the farm it just grows and grows

LM: yeah yeah absolutely you talk a lot about I I read a lot of the things on your website and you do talk a lot about soil and how important the soil is and how do you know what crop requires what soil

SW: um UC Davis has got a great website uh one of the best everything from post-harvest temperatures and humidities to uh soil science and agronomies is is more Agronomy is the study of the relationship between between livestock and and the things that the plants that grow and that I was really depressed when I first moved here the soil type is definitely not typical it’s super super clay

LM: yeah

SW: and uh it it really is a challenge it’s it’s alkaline which is its own set of deal that’d be the first thing you could probably look up and read is like what what PH does a plant prefer and from there you just you just go and it’s a really difficult climate here in Mesa County because I mean this heat you can’t get enough water on things and uh so animal animal manures and composts and then then there I I do take that 25 percent that I’m allowed and I I choose to buy sawdust is the biggest input we have and then I take the sawdust and mix it with the animals teeth hair eyeball feces feathers fur blood skin and then make that compost out of that

LM: not a compost for the weak of stomach

SW: no no but it’s that’s the thing about compost if you’re doing it right it shouldn’t smell if you’re doing it right it should be earthy it should and that’s a big sign that you’re anaerobic in your compost process and that’s something we do we we totally love talking shop with anybody who comes in I I think that it’s more important for us to educate people on how to grow their foods instead of just being like I’m your farmer I’ll grow foods for you you know but definitely that’s what we do when when you fail at home you know we’re we’re here and we have it we have it dialed

LM: yes I failed at everything this year except I grow I grew one pepper

SW: good

LM: so I’d rather buy things from you than grow them myself anyway uh yeah so you mentioned the heat though it’s been really hot we did a little walk around checked out the watering system is there anything you can do on these days that it’s like well weeks that it’s over 100 or

SW: uh you kind of gotta load the soil before it’s coming you know like in and always just because of our evaporation transpiration in the valley here that high alpine desert it’s water water but this is where it comes back to the soil it’s all about soil it’s all about soil if your soil is low in organic matter its water retention it’s going to be not as great as a soil with three four five ten would be really dreamy hopefully by the time I get too old to do this I’ll have 10 percent organic matter um yeah so it you know that kind of stuff has to go on

as you saw a lot of our hoop houses have shade cloth over them that helps a lot and just that little bit of microclimate through the poly plastic increases humidity just enough uh the way to grow here if I if I lived in Mesa County and had a backyard garden I would have it under some kind of poly or glass you know not not closed all the time but just the the sunlight here is just too intense a lot of times you’ll read in a Horticulture or a gardening magazine full sun and I try to explain to people here if you’re listening at home you can get like a quarter of the sun and you’re gonna be good here

LM: yeah I definitely realized that with the little poor little plants that I bought this year I bought everything that said full sun

SW: yeah you could you could go half

LM: they got scorched

SW: yeah and lots of water

LM: that’s interesting because it’s counter-intuitive you would think putting up glass putting up poly plastic barrier oh it’s just gonna be hotter but

SW: it is a little hotter but but then when you put the shade cloth over now we’re in the shade yeah it’s like I’ve had people ordering shade cloth from out east telling me that they’re not going to sell me the shade cloth because I’m going to kill my crops and I’m like look dude like get out Google Earth find me and they’re like oh I’m like yeah I’m in a desert like like this is like we’ve had this is an interesting story we we had with Colorado State we had some people from uh Iraq they were like kind of a like an exchange program like to learn and they were just dumbfounded on how this looked like their home and I’m just like wow like so we’re at the foot of the Rocky Mountains and they’re at the foot of the Himalayan Mountains can you imagine yeah so yeah it’s all everything has to do with soil and and once you know the characteristics and habits of a plant that’s easy less water wet wet feet dry feet fertilizers you know but like it really is your soil baseline that that’s important getting that acidity up not a lot of plants like a 7.0 pH

LM: interesting how do you spend your day on a farm like what’s a your farm what’s the what’s your typical day like

SW: yeah wake up that’s a great question and when I get off of this rhythm I get really not I I it’s not a good thing like this has to happen this way so I wake up my wife and I we do intermittent fasting so we don’t eat breakfast till 11. sometimes for me it’d be 9:30 10 o’clock because I’m ground running by before I like seeing the early morning stars when I start waking up yeah so it’s it’s a good thing and uh wake up and the first priority is the animals fed watered let out of their pens wellness checks you gotta take a moment watch the pigs is anybody limping somebody got all their eyeballs like you know what I mean like they’re just they’re just clumsy and you know they they live a life while you’re in the house you know or other parts

so I get I get all the animals out of the way and then it’s usually uh water nurseries and start houses and then I come in and delouse myself change clothes change boots it’s really important it’s very difficult and a lot of responsibility having animals on a farm with with leafy vegetables those two things are definitely like you do them change your boots and your bibs wash your face and kind of depending on if I’ve moved pens or done anything like that I’ll eat breakfast and then it’s on to harvesting usually this time of year I skip breakfast because the heat comes on so quick and we’ll just do like a quick micro harvest like whatever we’ll just go in the farm stand see what we need to harvest harvest it up get it hydro cooled in the cooler and then then breakfast always by then that’s breakfast

and then the heat of the day oh I’ll do some fun stuff like maybe some shovel work or some something that something that doesn’t cultivating is really good in the heat of the day you wanna scrape up your weeds when the sun’s beating down on them to to ensure their their their death because if you if you cull if you cultivate when it’s gonna rain you’re just kind of propagating weeds so if you cultivate and it’s a sunny day you kind of solar fry em there yeah so that that’s a day and then the farm stand’s dynamic we uh we share responsibilities with the farm stand and stuff like that and so the farm stand can be super encouraging and energy giving and sometimes it’s just you’re tired it’s a lot to deal with the public

LM: yeah I’m sure it just depends on the day

SW: we love everyone who comes in here though we’ve got some just people who really care about us and and so grateful so grateful to grow grow good food for my community

LM: yay and so tell me about that pizza club and the supper club

SW: yeah so the pizza club and supper club my wife is a phenomenal phenomenal culinary artist and um pizza club is we got a Fortuna tuscavano Italian pizza oven and it’s from noon to whenever we sell out which is usually before two o’clock always and there’s a pizza of the week and there’s the cheese take your pick and it’s

JW: margarita

SW: yeah margarita and you eat right underneath the apple trees out front we set up picnic tables and round round I call them wedding rental stuff we got some and that’s that and the supper club is a little bit more of a big deal supper club is a little higher price per plate and it’s a couple courses and it’s a menu designed by Jess from the farm for the farm and uh yeah you can look at our website at field to Fork that’s to f-o-r-k Dash farm.com and that is the bee’s knees for all year there’s some recipes on there lots of lots of photos you can also find out like what’s in season and what we have as well there

LM: the pizza club I see right now you have the schedule through July does it keep going after that?

SW: yeah the problem is with the dough when it gets starts to get colder the dough doesn’t react and and do quite what we need

LM: I love the idea and that’s why I was like I hope that it continues because I want to get some of that pizza

SW: come support it yeah come support it

LM: I feel like you probably are less interested in talking because a lot of people have asked you the question that is next on my list because I I’m sure everybody’s asking this question a really scary thing happened here not that long ago

SW: oh the train

LM: yeah can you talk a little bit about that

SW: yeah I mean we don’t want to be defined by it by any means but um oh on that date it was about 10 10:30 or so it was late night for us spring was was full swing and I was looking out of the window in the door to the west there and I saw flames in it and I knew automatically that that was a reflection I went in the living room to see if the TV had been paused by Jess but they were moving I grabbed my headlamp and I cut through the apple orchard and I was trying to look for hazmat square numbers to figure out or even just when I called 9-1-1 to tell them what what kind of car was on fire yeah the train there was a train and luckily it stopped about 70 yards east of our farm stand because that spot of the earth endured five hours of constant smoking sorry soaking

and so we immediately I came back notified my son and wife to grab the go bag and shut all the windows and we got out of dodge luckily it was uh railroad ties but creosol is not a fun thing and the winds totally stayed to the south and southeast we spent a good 40 minutes up on G road and then I walked back down and talked to a fire personnel and they were totally like it’s cool to come back so now in the gist of it that happened but but what it kind of opened our eyes up to and what goes on on the railway is is more of a broader topic that we’ve

LM: yeah well and like you said you don’t want to be defined by it but I think that it the train runs right through the heart of Palisade

SW: yeah

LM: it runs 50 feet from my house

JW: through the entire valley exactly yeah I mean from any side it goes straight through the downtown Grand Junction it goes to Fruita you know

LM: yeah

JW: nobody can get away from it right and then also like the train yard is right in the center of uh Grand Junction where all the trains come together so if there ever really was a major fire explosion or collision which a train did derail just two weeks ago in the rail yard and it took like many many hours to clean up and they’re they’re not talking about it they’re not educating the public they’re not really you know people aren’t um they’re not aware of the hazard and the cautions that come along with trains

and so there is a new rail that they’re trying to connect from Dinosaur into the Grand Valley Dinosaur Utah where there’s a big natural gas and also oil and other other fossil fuels that they want to explore and extract so if that ends up happening you know they want to to use our existing rail that’s in Colorado

SW: link to it

JW: yeah so they want to use our the existing rail to go up through you know through Mesa County and then through the Roaring Fork and then it would go up around Steamboat and then track into Denver Metro that would then go out to the Midwest and so they want to get it to the east coast a lot of these fossil fuels and different materials so you know it would go through the entire state which travels along the Colorado River and you know when they have done the reports of and I have this linked on to our website where you can read the lawsuit and you can read some more information about this potential track that might get connected to Mesa County

it’s and it’s like you know yes there’s gonna be hazards that’s just it’s going to happen at some point or another you know like especially as they’re using the train travel more and more but you know our rails haven’t been upgraded in like over 100 years so they’re using a very outdated old rail system that is not meant to be carrying the level of hazardous materials that we use now in our modern society so that so there’s like a big conflict there between you know well there should be a big conflict there for everybody because in most countries uh railroads and they’re built on concrete

SW: the ties the ties

JW: yeah so and ours are all wood ties through like the entire country so of course they can catch fire very easily you know and then we’re still like transporting you know so much hazardous material just to repair the railroads and one of the other big things is that there has been more and more hazardous material that has not been ever transported before that they’re transporting now that is that’s that has not been approved you know so there’s really crazy things that are like 10 times the atomic weapon or atomic bomb that has been you know not not to be like Doomsday person

SW: that’s liquid that’s liquid natural gas is the main

JW: so I mean all the workers this is like why railroad workers are striking is because they don’t really want to be carrying these hazardous materials because they’re they know it’s a public safety concern as well as a personal safety concern and and then like they’re not being allowed to have any voice or say in how these materials are being transported

they used to be transported on trucks and now they’re putting it on trains and they are going through our valley they are going through the entire country and the world you know we just saw some big explosions in Pakistan Ohio and that was the real concern when this happened because those explosions had happened just weeks earlier and it was like what is going on you know why is this happening in uh and yeah it was very concerning and scary and we didn’t know what was on fire we didn’t know the tanker cars that were attached to it what was in them if anything was in them how hot they could get if they got too hot would they explode you know there and it wouldn’t just affect Palisade it would if there was a chemical explosion it would be like a toxic fallout for the entire valley and everybody would be in like a safe safety order to stay in to stay home and so that’s the thing that’s just you know it’s a little um concerning when people aren’t looking at it at the big picture of of this

SW: not about the train. I mean I’m done with it. We’ve been we’ve been so

LM: well I know and it happened it happened here it could happen anywhere I think that’s kind of the point too that I was trying make where

JW: yeah so

LM: it’s not about it’s not defining you because you just got unlucky that it happened here

SW: yeah

JW: yeah exactly and it’s the you know even our neighbors across the street behind us on the side of us like everybody was you know kind of freaking out and stuff and yeah yeah it’s not about us it’s not about our farm it’s not about our business it’s about our community and Colorado as a whole not to mention you know the the broader spectrum and picture of like humanity in general so you know that’s where we come out at it is that that we should all be more aware of what’s happening so yeah that’s basically all it really comes down to and and yeah it did really wake us up to a lot of it too because um we didn’t know that this new rail was going to be coming in and if that does happen it’s going to bring in up to um five two mile long trains every single day like not just once a month like every single day and carrying these fossil fuels that are highly explosive

well so so Governor Polis said no he’s not gonna let it happen every other county in the state has said no they’re not going to allow it Mesa County hasn’t said anything so this is the first that it was brought to the attention even in our community and that’s why so many people started asking questions you know and people started going wait a second I want to know more and because our community and in you know our public officials they are very pro oil and gas and always have been and I grew I’ve grown up here and so you know the environment has never really been their number one priority

it’s all and they say it’s economy that it’s going to bring jobs and it’s going to bring all these things to Mesa County but then like my job as an organic farmer will be gone right you know the farming industry will

SW: much less tourism

JW: right yeah the tourism here will be you know so they’re gonna lose so much economy to try to say that this is going to bring in jobs and economy but then we’re going to lose all that other that we’ve all been working so hard at and we’ve built such a beautiful town and city and we have the Colorado River at our access mountain biking hiking it’s just a beautiful place and um and

LM: that’s who we want to be I mean for the most part as a community

JW: yeah and so I’ve grown up here so it’s like I’ve seen it grow a lot in 40 years and it’s changed a lot and it’s really turned into such a nice place to live with the university we have great hospitals you know we have a lot of conveniences and we have a lot of recreation so it’s like let’s make it better and let’s protect it and let’s not like allow these things to happen so

LM: yeah I agree so you’ve kind of been forced into becoming a little bit maybe of a reluctant activist you think

SW: oh she’s had she said people offer her political like that’s been crazy

JW: I don’t know I mean yeah maybe it’s my calling like protect the environment I always have had a passion for that and one reason why we farm and garden and try to make an alternative source for good food in our community is because that is also like one of our original ways we were able to be active in fighting against systems and broken systems that we feel are broken and that we feel people want more you know options like I went to alternative High School because I couldn’t really fit into the regular High School very well and so I needed like more more freedom and and I think people still need a lot more freedom in their choices

LM: Scott did we do did we touch on everything you had written down there

SW: uh kind of yeah I mean you know what you’re doing yeah like how the farm began what we’re doing now and like where we’re going in the future yeah I think you’ve got a lot of and they’ll be cool you can put Jess’s Jess’s voice in there too that’ll be great to hear

LM: yeah I don’t know if it’s going to pick you up super well from over there with the pizza stuff but I’ll see what I can do

SW: let’s get a little bit more with her because I really was hoping that we would look like a cute farming couple on the interview

LM: well like how about I know that you both love to surf this is obviously not a very good place for surfing so how do you get like how do you fill that passion here while living in the desert

JW: yeah it’s been a real challenge for both of us I think like snowboarding

SW: and skateboarding yeah

JW: you know we’re also really passionate we just love being outside it’s more about being in nature and um you know like with surfing it’s not really like the act of surfing as it is so much of just enjoying you know nature itself

SW: spending time at the tideline man

JW: yeah and just like like breathing the air and feeling the air and you know like that part is just but you know we lived in Southern California which it’s so populated and the water can be really dirty at times and so it’s like we wanted to do more trips anyway to go places

SW: yeah

JW: like we have dreams of traveling too

SW: we didn’t travel at all in Southern California like yeah

JW: we travel to Colorado

SW: yeah

JW: like yeah it was just like my family is here so it was like and we found uh you know land here was affordable and we wanted to farm and we liked wanted to be closer to snowboarding because we’re both really really into snowboarding

SW: but our son loves skiing he’s like

JW: yeah

SW: so yeah and mountain biking

JW: yeah we just we love the river like we just love nature

SW: it’s easy to put up with the sacrifices of being landlocked for the culture and community of being in Colorado

JW: Scott dedicated a lot of years he probably dedicated close to 15 years to surfing and I dedicated up to like close to four or five years just like I mean we were like that was what we were doing it wasn’t

SW: you know like living in the truck down in Mexico and surf every day

JW: and that’s the point because when you’re like three months surfing and climbing like they like climbers they kind of have a lot in common with surfers because you just like you just that’s like all you do

SW: except surfers are cleaner

JW: but we’re a lot cleaner because the watering

SW: God sometimes I’m a scuzz ball dude but sometimes I’ll see a young person and go dude you really are dirty man like you really should get a little more water on you

JW: but you know it’s so funny when climbers talk about climbing because they’re like oh the crack dude yeah you know and it’s the same with surfing where surfers are like oh you know and and like snowboarding skiing really isn’t that way and it’s it’s a it’s totally different but like surfing is very primal because it’s just you and the board in the ocean and you’re like you’re choosing it’s your choosing and so there’s um you know a lot of great meditative properties with surfing that is really beneficial um so I think that’s like the part that gets kind of addictive is that you know you get to meditate and and you’re like at one with the ocean and so that’s really neat

SW: we we forget this high in this landlocked the the force field of the earth is easily felt through the tides and I feel when I’m at the coast I can never really lose that that rhythm of the Earth’s spin and this access through floating through the universe so for me that’s what I really

JW: but you also can get into that farming

SW: yeah definitely

JW: so there’s a lot of real meditative properties with farming and gardening and I think like that’s kind of what happened to us as we were surfing but then we were we were farming and gardening and we we just wanted to do more of that and then take trips and go see the world you know like we want to go to more Central South America we want to we love we really want to go to Southeast Asia

SW: Europe

JW: we want to go to Australia we want to you know there’s a lot of places we want to go and surf too you know

SW: and we don’t go anywhere and do anything else

JW: and we needed like a home base we needed

SW: yeah that’s exactly what it is and I feel good I I feel that for our relationship and ourselves as individuals to mature we kind of had to step away from this devotion of surfing and

JW: yeah

SW: I feel I feel like I’ve grown a lot but uh our goal is I’m I’m gonna be 50 this February and so by 65 we hope to be kind of changing chapters in our in our life I think that’s well into older years and this has been an amazing physical feat that I think we’re both handling really well and uh but you just can’t I don’t I don’t think anybody can vegetable farm much after sixty you know 65 not not running it yeah

JW: but like, Elliot Coleman

SW: but dude he’s like he takes a siesta and drinks wine you know what I mean like he’s okay

JW: well so do I

SW: exactly it’s good

JW: you have to like enjoy it you can’t just grind it out

SW: no

JW: all the time because it is a grind you know as spiritual as this as farming and gardening is and surfing and snowboarding and being in nature you know there is a grind in every day like having to check the boxes do the work you know and it’s hot or it’s cold or it’s wet or it’s like whatever’s you know and there is this this real grinding element to the work that most people quit because it’s just not fun you know but every job is that way and the grass isn’t really greener on the other side so you just kind of have to roll with the punches and take your losses because they’re gonna come

SW: it’s really hard surfing and gardening are really really hard and I I personally like things that are really hard I gravitate towards them I find an interest in them

JW: so that’s kind of where surfing’s at right now

SW: we go to Costa Rica every winter last was last last winter was 18 days and I think we’re gonna try to once you go we’re thinking we’re gonna try to do a month

JW: we found a place we really like that is great for our our son too that

SW: it has quite a little good stuff

JW: it’s like a nice town and it has a cool really new skate park so there’s plenty to do lots of mountain biking there and surfing and good food and yoga and like you know things that can keep us like on track because it’s just we have to get away

SW: we get a lot of inspiration from these other little communities and we see we see our own community here in Palisade in them we like to come back

JW: and then another passion is speaking Spanish we both really enjoy speaking Spanish so it get it’s like every time we go we’re our Spanish is like getting good and then we leave and we’re like oh man but I wish we could keep practicing

SW: habla espanol here in la rancho like we we from time to time have Spanish speakers that help us out here and it’s great to speak Spanish we love speaking Spanish

JW: and we both like want to learn French I mean there’s a lot of stuff we want to keep doing through our life so

LM: it’s good to keep learning so what’s your favorite thing about Palisade like community or the place

SW: the trains and the peaches

JW: oh the trains everybody does really like the train actually

SW: I I haven’t I up until this incident I really never had like ever was frightened by it or whatever

JW: it’s kind of like this you know the part of American history

LM: uh real life everybody knows what time the trains come through they comment if the Amtrak is early or late or on time

SW: yeah yeah

JW: um definitely the peaches you know and the wine and the beauty like the beauty of Mount Garfield you know it just is so awing and um definitely like polarizing and it this energy that’s here from all the monuments and the mesas it’s just it’s you know it’s really beautiful the Colorado River that flows right through and we have a beautiful public park that you can access it the Peach Bowl or the um the sorry what am I thinking about

LM: Riverbend

JW: right yeah and then and then like we you know we have some really nice public parks like um the Memorial Park and the Peach Bowl Park which has the public swimming pool for the kids love that um

SW: it’s just the acquaintance of the community too I feel that like we’ll always kind of hear about our son and his day out in the in the general public and the big thing is is that over three quarters of all the ski resorts in the area are like two hours away

JW: but that’s not in Palisade

SW: no but but where Palisade lays

JW: but also I think like the the best thing about Palisade as a farmer and a grower is the microclimate that we have

SW: it’s ridiculous it’s pretty kind

JW: so let’s see if they honk again um we could you know we have up to three to four weeks safety spring and fall on our planting times then like Fruita so that extends our season almost two months outside of theirs

SW: yeah there’s no fruit in Fruita

LM: um so it’s what like 20 30 miles away ish

JW: yeah

SW: the big thing is elevation and then how the valley opens up

JW: yeah so then all the cold air but then also because we have all the book cliffs like right here so that’s a lot of radiant energy so we get a lot of radiant energy coming off of the mountain just right here and and then with our hoop houses and greenhouses that we’ve invested in over the years like so one piece of plastic over our larger hoop houses puts us into a a 10 growing zone which is the same growing zone as San Diego

LM: oh wow

JW: just with one plastic

LM: that’s amazing

JW: and then our sun is so intense that we have almost more sun than California so it’s like we can be growing things all year long very easily

SW: and we are we are a four season farm I didn’t mention that we will have service up to mid-December and then come back into it at the end of February

LM: after that break to Costa Rica

SW: yeah we’re here we’re here

JW: and we just kind of started playing around with it for fun just to see what we could overwinter just without greenhouses when we first were farming because we needed to always be pushing to pay our mortgage and then once we started using covers and hoop houses and and then investing in the greenhouses we’ve been able to successfully have a four season farm for this will be I think our seventh or eighth winner with them so you know now we’re able to string our our income out through the whole year and not just have these big chunks of income and then be broke or trying to find other jobs or you know because then we wouldn’t you know then it’s not sustainable and so um this has been a way to make farming more sustainable for us and be able to pay our mortgage and be able to you know support our child and and all the things that we need in this modern world and it’s also really fun like to go in there in the winter when it’s 30 degrees out

SW: and after you’ve been skiing or snowboarding

JW: yeah it’s like 30 degrees out you walk in there it’s like 70 you’re like stripping off your clothes because you’re just like oh my god it’s hot in here but yeah it’s really it’s really fun and it’s really fun to kind of blow people’s minds when they walk into the farm stand in February and they’re like what the how did you do this you know so they think we’re like growing just outside these beautiful greens and and they don’t realize we have you know almost 11 hoop houses

LM: wow yeah I heard I was talking with somebody about the I love the little French breakfast radishes and you know I thought they’re only like available for a couple weeks or whatever I can get them at the farmer’s market and they said oh no we get them at fields to fork Farm all the time

SW: we’ll always have some kind of radish yeah

JW: they’re one of our favorites too they’re hard to grow in the summer they kind of don’t do as great but soon we’ll have them through the fall and winter.

SW: we got the Bell ones we have right now

JW: the Cherry Bell oh no they’re pink yeah Pink Beauty or some their pink one they’re spicy they’re not oranges

SW: so the hotter the hot out of the weather the spicier your greens and radish and the cooler the weather the cooler the reason being is when plants sense that it’s getting cold they’ll take their starch and make sugar because they know sugar has a lower freezing point yeah so the winter greens are just there’s no comparison they’re so sweet like our son Clive will eat radishes in the winter but not in the summer

LM: yeah yeah they’re getting a little too spicy for me now and so now I know why

JW: yeah and now’s the time when you need and want tomatoes watermelon sweet corn peaches like things that are wet and juicy and sugary and like you know to get you through these hot hot desert summer days that are just you know it’s the only way to get through is a little sugar and a little water feel a lot better caprese salad it’s my favorite this time of year

SW: mmmm that’s what we’re having tonight

JW: its mozzarella you get a little protein

SW: balsamic and olive oil in there

LM: I love basil well yeah is there anything else that you want to add on I mean we’ve covered a lot of great stuff.

SW: you feel good?

LM: yeah yeah

SW: thanks for coming in

LM: I’m glad you came in too

JW: I know I’m worried I’m gonna miss somebody but its hot out there oh my gosh

SW: like the the tin the tin is like you can I’m taller so I can feel them

JW: you can feel it yeah yeah it’s like the tin from the roof it’s hot

LM: not good

JW: well I think today is like the hottest day of the summer so

SW: well so far

JW: yeah

LM: so far well I really appreciate both of your time

SW: it’s your time and you’re

JW: like yeah thank you so much for yours and um so tell me you know what is your favorite vegetable or no no no if you could be a vegetable what would you be

LM: ooo you know what I love and I saw you have some of this out there but I love the dinosaur kale or Italian kale or whatever you call it um I just love that and I like it because it’s fun to look at and it’s fun to eat and it sucks up any dressing you put on it really well

SW: it’s a good

LM: yeah I just like it makes me happy when I eat it

SW: yeah that’s interesting you choose that because because your interest with the podcast you’re kind of a scepter you’re kind of just that thing that’s holding the dressing that is our community I like it

LM: yeah luckily I’m not that wrinkly yet though

SW: no there’s all kinds one of our favorites is the red Russian it’s got a purple uh vein in it and it’s more flat leafed and it is heat and cold tolerant like a Russian it is like one tough plant dude it is like tough plant dude it just like doesn’t balk at anything man

LM: that’s awesome so what type would you be

JW: I would probably be some type of Allium onion garlic leek or something because of just lots of layers and when you cook them they’re sweet so and spicy a little spicy too you know

LM: yeah you might never know sometimes they’re spicier than others

JW: yeah

LM: I love it and

SW: what would I be I would be a carrot because they’re full of beta and they’re underground the carrots it’s an unsung workhorse of when you look at human history a lot happened when we figured out root vegetables and storage vegetables like potatoes and carrots and beets and parsnips and turnips a lot happened to us when we had the time to figure out that so for me I just love carrots carrots and watermelon are my two favorite things to grow

LM: I love carrots too awesome well I really appreciate you having that question to close with

SW: yeah yeah that was a good question yeah we’ve done we’ve done that would you please take a bunch of carrots home you and your husband right

LM: yeah

SW: cool you and your husband can share

JW: and we’ve got that red Russian kale too okay

SW: yeah let’s let’s load her up

JW: yeah we’ll give you a little bag

LM: that is very nice of you

JW: some fresh tomato…

LM: and so Jessica and Scott sent me on my way with a bag absolutely overloaded with fresh produce. Even more so than the fruits and veggies that I get at the farmer’s market each week – it was incredible. The lettuce was possibly the most flavorful I’ve tasted (and I’m a big lettuce nut – like, when lettuce is good, it’s so good), the kale somehow got fresher the longer I kept it, the tomatoes made a vibrant pasta sauce, and the potatoes…. the potatoes actually tasted like potatoes, and I can’t remember the last time I tasted a potato and thought that I was eating anything interesting. Here I was, boiling the potatoes to make a potato salad with Scott and Jessica’s fresh onions, sneaking pieces out of the boiling water, yelling to Paul about how amazing they were every time I ate one. The proof that Jessica and Scott are doing something right is right there, on your fork.

If you’d like to be on the podcast or you have an idea for an upcoming episode, I’d love to hear from you. You can reach me at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com.

The Postcards from Palisade podcast is available on all major podcast distribution platforms. Find it and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Episodes and links to more information are also posted on the website postcardsfrompalisade.com.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

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