E22: The Milky Way Enters Into Palisade’s Orbit, with Kathy and Scott Gilbert

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 28th of February, Kathy and Scott Gilbert will be one step closer to their goal of total Palisade dessert domination!

That’s because tomorrow is the opening day of their new, eagerly awaited dessert shop, The Milky Way. Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be called something different? We’ll get into that, along with all the tasty treats they’re planning to serve up, the fun surprises in store, and lots more.

Visit The Milky Way at 330 Main Street in Palisade: Wednesday and Thursday 9am-5pm, Friday and Saturday 9am-8pm and Sunday 9am-2pm (check with them for future updates).

  Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.

 

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Transcript:

Welcome to Postcards From Palisade, where we hear from the people who are shaping our slice of western Colorado. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 28th of February, Kathy and Scott Gilbert will be one step closer to their goal of total Palisade dessert domination!

That’s because tomorrow is the opening day of their new, eagerly awaited dessert shop, The Milky Way. Wait, wasn’t it supposed to be called something different? We’ll get into that, along with all the tasty treats they’re planning to serve up, the fun surprises in store, and lots more, on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

LM: we last talked in May and you’ve been a little busy since then.

KG: Teensy bit. Teensy bit busy.

LM: A few things have happened.

KG: Few things. Finally got our permit to build out, and we’ve been building since we got our permit in, what, July? Because that took a little longer than we thought it would be.

SG: And there’s a saying when you do things like this that takes twice as long and costs twice as much. And we were well past that, but almost done.

KG: Very close.

LM: Still, I think in the grand scheme of things, I mean, to have done this much since July is a lot.

KG: Oh, it feels eternal.

LM: A lot of work.

KG: It just feels eternal. Everything is shiny and new. Whether we wanted it to be or not.

SG: This time last year we were in escrow to buy the building.

KG: We’re like, oh, we’ll be open by June. It’ll be so easy.

SG: Foolishly thinking we would just quickly flip it and open. But, there’s a lot of permitting and rules and time and just. Yeah, now we know what it takes and we’re not going to do it again.

LM: So it’s the day before opening. what are you going to serve? What’s the concept?

KG: So primarily gelato and all things gelato. you can do gelato in a latte. You can do gelato Yeah. You flavor your latte with gelato. A scoop in there and it makes it extra, extra creamy because it’s no calories. It’s totally healthy. So we’ll have the gelato and then we’ll have about 20 to 30 different kinds of loose leaf teas. We’ll be focusing on teas. And we’ll be selling the loose leaf teas. And then we’ll also be selling spices. And then for food, we’ll have quite a few breakfast items. We’ll have a breakfast frittata, gluten free. And what else are we having? Oatmeal, cold and regular. And then, mini pancakes. I’m very excited about these. There’s a fancy name for it. Have you seen them? Like the profiterol? I can never say it. Yeah, there’s a fancy name for it. But they’re little pancakes. And then you pimp them out with Nutella and butter and powdered sugar. And then if you really want to make it healthy, then you add fruit to balance. It’s all about balance. And then, for lunchtime, we’ll be doing a line of grilled cheese. Plus all the pastries, we’ll be carrying all kinds of pastries. and we will be carrying kulina lani in the pastry case. And you can buy loaves of bread here.

SG: Candy.

KG: Oh, yeah, candy. We’ll be doing candy too. We’ll be doing, Enstroms candy. And then we have another distributor where we’ll be doing the fancy candies you can buy in a little box. And then macaroons and

SG: cakes.

KG: Cakes.

LM: Oh, my God. So much good stuff.

KG: We’re aiming for dessert. And then we’ll have some fruit. We’ll have some fruit in the grab and go too, because balance.

SG: at its core, it’s a dessert shop, but it’s got a lot surrounding it to make it a you could have your whole meal here too. But if it’s a dessert shop theme.

KG: Because dessert is great. Life is worth dessert.

LM: Absolutely. So when we talked in May, this was going to be the sempre cafe.

SG that was the working title

LM: But now…

KG: that was our working title.

LM: now what’s the latest?

Electrician: is now a bad time?

LM: did I mention that there was a lot going on when we met? The electrician had just stopped by to hook up the sweet retro light fixture that was directly over the table where we had been sitting, causing us to move over to another part of the shop.

LM: All right, so we’ve relocated over to the counter. Okay. What were we talking about?

KG: I don’t know.

LM: Oh, the name.

KG: The name. It just wasn’t working.

SG: Well, the kids didn’t like it. I liked it.

KG: I didn’t like it. You’re the only one who liked it.

SG: So it became the working title.

KG: Yeah. It has to still say sempre cafe on all of the plans, because there’s no way the architect is going to change them at this point.

LM: Right.

KG: But it’s called the Milky Way

KG: the whole line of drink menus that we have, there’s some fun named things in there, like, what was it, the raspberry retrograde? What was the other one? The Armstrong.

SG: this kind of mid century, atomic age things started to develop, so the name was changed to reflect what it was becoming.

KG: Yeah, because you can’t change the shape of the building. The building is definitely mid century, and you can’t change that. So we leaned into it bigly. It all came together. We were a little skeptical at times. Like, is this the right choice? I’m not sure, but we’re committed, so let’s keep going.

SG: I always assume everything’s a mistake until proven otherwise.

KG: That is true.

LM: So Milky Way. Awesome menu. What are the hours going to be like?

KG: we’re going to be open as the market supports. So probably for the first month, we will be closed Monday and Tuesday just so we can get our bearings. But let’s see, so what? That would be Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, 08:00 a.m.. to 06:00 p.m. And then Friday and Saturday open later. We’re just not sure it’s going to be kind of a work in progress.

SG: That’ll change as it gets warmer. as the town’s traffic flow gets back to the summer.

KG: The touristy. And people want ice cream more and gelato. Sorry, I didn’t say ice cream. People want gelato more when it’s not 28 degrees out.

LM: Right?

KG: It’s 80. Let’s have ice cream

LM: no I mean a scoop of gelato in a latte, that’s a winter treat.

KG: You can always just do an affogato too. Just do a little affogato, which is nice.

LM: Yeah, that’s a winter thing for sure.

KG: Again, no calories. But it’s really good gelato. It’s really, really good gelato.

SG: It’s distributed from Denver, but the company is actually from Italy.

KG: Yeah.

LM: So it’s the real deal.

KG: It is, excellent. It is truly excellent gelato. And we’re leading off with just scoops of gelato for starters. But then we’ll be branching out quickly into milkshakes with it. and then I like to call it gelato nachos. You take some scoops, and then you put cool toppings on it and sauce, and then you dip your little wafer chips and you’ve got nachos. And if you share it with a friend, it has no calories.

LM: There you go. This is going to be amazing. what’s the difference between gelato and ice cream?

KG: Gelato is a little bit warmer, kept at a warmer temperature, and it’s creamier. And it’s actually less calories I think.

SG: it’s richer.

KG: It’s richer. No, it actually is. but it’s richer. But it has less things in it, for lack of a better word. It’s more pure.

SG: It’s more dense.

KG: Yeah, it’s more dense.

LM: less air. that would be more dense.

KG: And it’s just so good. It’s really good. And we’ll have always on tap. We’ll always have one that’s a sorbet. So if anyone has a dairy and that will change. Our flavors will change all the time.

LM: of the things that you’re going to be serving, what’s your personal favorite?

KG: That’s a tough one. I mean, gelato, probably the hazelnut gelato, the hazelnut chocolate. That would be my favorite thing.

SG: Those who know us, for the coffee bus, and the ice cream truck, we will still have our usual line of coffee drinks. So I like the vanilla chai.

KG: You like the dirty chai.

SG: The dirty chai, yeah.

KG: And now we can get it sugar free. We have a distributor that we can get better chai from and have some more options, but there’s like a sugar free one, so less guilt. That’s his favorite drink though.

SG: Yeah. So we’ll still have everything that you were getting on the trucks too.

LM: And the vending machine. So the small art vending machine is here.

KG: Small art vending machine. And some more oddities in there. Some little odd things like trying to think, can I give that away? Some little retro toys that we grew up with and that sort of thing. Oh, I remember that. Oh, that’s so cool.

LM: You still going to have a local artist in there for some of the stuff?

KG: We will still be having some local artists. by the time this is broadcast, the pictures done by a local artist will be outside and she’ll be putting her stuff in the vending machine as well. And she’s done an amazing job on our art. I’m very excited about those.

SC: tell about the courtyard?

KG: Oh, yeah, the courtyard. Okay. Yeah, they’re starting that any moment. They came today to start it. So, we will have all outdoor seating as well. so it’ll be nice and covered and shady with a fountain and plants. And we’ll have, I don’t know how many seats out there. 15-20. More like lots of seating out there.

LM: Awesome.

KG: So we want this to be a fun place to hang out and enjoy yourself. That’s the goal. Trying to figure out how to put one of those, igloos that they have at the maverick out there in the winter. I really want one of those. They’re just so cool.

LM: Totally fits the theme too.

KG: That’s what I think

LM: it does. I wonder if that’s your patio.

KG: I wonder if that’s that would be dominic from spectrum

LM: your cable! Okay, what else do we definitely want to get? do you want to talk about any of, the components of the store? What should people get really excited about seeing or walking in?

KG: Well, besides the bathroom, the gelato case is lovely. what else?

SG: yeah, the gelato case we’re going to do. It’s going to be the sculpted look. It’s just nice to look at. It’s got the decorations.

KG: It will be pretty

LM: like the peaks and then the

KG: Yes. And you put little sample like, if it’s a strawberry gelato, you put cut strawberries on it. If it’s the hazelnut chocolate, you put Ferrer Rocher on it. You can do that too. So you can take a Ferrer Rocher and have it just pour onto the latte. The latte shots pour onto it and melt it. And then you can pour the whole thing onto the gelato. And it’s like inception affogato, I’m like all about that.

LM: Wow. Was it hard to find suppliers for any of the ingredients

KG: not really. Not really. I don’t think. I mean, equipment, yeah, but the suppliers, the gelato. No, we’ve got a really good company. We had to go, of course, field test it. It’s excellent.

SG: You haven’t mentioned the retail yet.

KG: Oh, yeah, we have retail. Sorry. There’s a lot going on. So we will have a small retail section. Not huge, just small. and we’ll have an entire line of spices and entire line of teas. And then retail themed that it’ll kind of change every month as we go. It’ll change like, we’re starting off with mid century modern just because it’s really fun. And I found some great products. And then as we get into the bee festival, we’ll have more of that. And then going into summer, more of that. That will change all the time. The retail, if you see it, it probably won’t be back. So kind of keep changing it all the time. Our Instagram wall. I love my Instagram wall.

LM: What’s this?

KG: That is at the end when you walk in, you will see a couch and two chairs, a nice little conversation area. And on the wall behind it, the decorations will change seasonally as well. So we highly encourage you to take a selfie at the Instagram wall and post it because social media is key. please tag us because we love attention. I like to see pictures, like we do the farmers market. And we’re incredibly busy, and there’s, like, no photo of us out there at all. Wonder how my bus looked, because I can’t get off and take a picture.

LM: Oh, my gosh. I can’t even get up close to it to order.

KG: Crazy, right?

LM: it’s so busy.

KG: Yeah, it’s crazy. But we’ll be doing the bus again next year in the same spot. So Sundays will be interesting.

LM: Yeah, Sundays will be wild.

KG: It’ll be fun, right?

SG: Yeah. The trucks will be events only with still a presence at the farmers market. but this will be kind of our anchor. And then go into events only on the trucks. And there’ll be plenty of events.

KG: Yes. But food truck life is hard. It’s really hard. Like, let me just take everything I might possibly need and put it in this tiny little space and then drive and hope that it doesn’t break down or blow up, but it’s fine. It all works.

SG: This store this building does not have a motor in it.

KG: No, I’m not mad about that at all.

LM: That’ll be nice.

SG: Will it start? Will it make it?

KG: You walk in and you turn on the lights and that’s it. You’re there. Do you want to pause or. Hi, Dominic. I got the text that your name is Dominic. So Wifi…

Cable guy: got you. What’s..

KG: Follow me.

Cable guy: I see you’re under a lot of construction right now.

SG: This is a little more chaotic.

KG: We weren’t expecting this much chaos today. There was chaos this morning, but this is some next level now. Let’s do a podcast. It’ll be quiet in here. Sure.

LM: the last few months have brought visible changes to the facade of the Milky Way. The teal exterior has been repainted a rich cream color. Behind the papered over windows, even more changes have been taking place. Kathy and Scott have spent months working to renovate this former gallery space into a cafe. The interior walls are a calming powder blue, the trim is a bright white. Metal accents are a deep gold and the wooden countertops are stained a rich dark brown, coated with layers of thick epoxy. The floors are a smooth grey concrete.

Walking in, the first thing you’ll notice is the gelato case. Clean, sparkling, and filled with multicolored rectangles of deliciousness, it’s a bit overwhelming to behold.

Metal countertops behind the gelato case hold up a shiny new espresso machine, amongst other equipment. Swinging doors with charming circular windows lead into the kitchen.

Directly to the right is the retail section where Percy, the vending machine that had been posted up outside the Ordinary Fellow, now resides, along with other fun and delicious discoveries.

And then the rest of the space is filled with cream colored tables and chairs, with a back door leading out to a paved patio with more seating, covered with shade awnings. The overall feeling blends a sense of milky calm with a wild sugar rush in a totally unique way.

KG: I think the prettiest things in here, I have to say, I think the prettiest things are the countertop, the checkout counter with the rounded edge, with the brass pole, and then the kitchen doors. The kitchen doors are my favorite thing, I think.

LM: I agree.

SG: We’re getting good feedback on our open sign too.

KG: which is on. I think I’ll turn the open sign off.

SG: it was a bit of a risk because nobody does an open sign like that. But we wanted to do something different.

LM: And you’ll probably have a sign out front, too. Some sort of hanging sign or something

SG: like an aframe or something.

KG: I know what I want to do, but I don’t know if you’re going to like what I want to do. I wanted to have a mannequin, and I want to have the mannequin just say, like, hi. We’re open and holding a basket with the menus if they want to look at it.

SG: Let’s look in the town code.

KG: You’re hoping there’s a mannequin section that I can’t, please don’t let Kathy do that. They have the robot ones that do like, they wave and they move and it’s a little creepy. I won’t do that. Mostly because I don’t have power right there. Otherwise I would.

LM: yet

KG: Oh, bathroom. The bathroom is very unique. That’s all I’m going to say. You’re going to want to see the bathroom. I’m very proud of it.

LM: that’s all

KG: That’s all I’m going to say. It has lots of space.

SG: It ended up being bigger than the kitchen.

KG: Yeah, it actually did

SG: by code. So we might as well use it.

KG: We might as well decorate it. Extremely decorated. We’ll go with that. Let’s let that be a surprise.

LM: I’m not going to say anything.

KG: Not going to say anything till they see it.

LM: Okay. That’s a fun surprise. I feel like you have a lot of fun little surprises and kind of interesting and fun things for people to find.

KG: The goal is to find something new every time you come in to see something new.

SG: And we want to revolve things around. So it is new not every day, but for every season.

KG: the goal is to have a lot of events here during the week. In the summer, Friday, Saturday. We’re just trying to survive. We’re all just trying to survive tourist season. But we want to do some events here that are just fun for the town people. Ooh let’s do a we talked about a couple of wineries, like doing a wine gelato pairing one night. Doesn’t that sound fancy?

LM: Wonderful.

KG: And then we’ll do game nights and trivia nights and just fun. We just want to have fun. because this is kind of a fun place.

LM: And that’s kind of what’s missing too, because there’s a lot of music Friday Saturdays, which I’m not complaining about I love it, very happy.

KG: Right. It’s great but when you’re industry. You can’t go and do that. We’ll be here.

LM: But that’s already kind of going on and drawing people away. So it makes sense to during the week when there’s less to do, when locals are like, I’m bored, I’m off work I want to do something fun.

KG: especially in the winter.

LM: yes, that would be cool.

KG: January and February are hard.

LM: What’s your pitch to get people to come in here? What are you going to tell them?

KG: god you put the pressure on me like that. fun treats. Fun experience. Something palisade has never seen before. The style has never been seen here before.

SG: Our tagline is you are here.

KG: You are here. You’re at the Milky Way. So you are here.

SG: We’ll see you here.

KG: We’ll see you here.

LM: See you at the Milky Way! 330 Main Street, Palisade. And don’t forget to tag those Instagram wall photos and share the love. But please, save me some of that chocolate hazelnut gelato!

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E21: Palisade Trail (and Life) Guide with Rondo Buecheler of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle

Rondo Buecheler is co-owner of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle, Palisade’s local bike and river rental shop.

Rondo and I went on a grand tour of his life, from sleeping under the I-70 bridge and working at the Liv in the late seventies to summers spent in a dory on the Grand Canyon and winters on the slopes at Powderhorn to opening multiple successful businesses across the Grand Valley.

We dug into the history of the Palisade Plunge trail, exciting updates on other local trails, and why Palisade is such a ridiculously amazing place to live if you love the outdoors. We also talked about the wildest things that have happened to him out on the trail, tourists and biking, his legacy and true passion, and why it is so important to strive to make your own backyard a great place.

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.

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Transcript:

Welcome to Postcards From Palisade, where we hear from the people who are shaping our slice of western Colorado. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Rondo Buecheler is co-owner of Palisade Cycle and Shuttle, Palisade’s local bike and river rental shop.

Rondo and I sat down in the shop and went on a grand tour of his life, from sleeping under the I-70 bridge and working at the Liv when he first moved to Palisade in the late seventies, to summers spent in a dory on the Grand Canyon and winters on the slopes at Powderhorn, to opening multiple successful businesses across the Grand Valley.

Rondo and I got into the history of the Palisade Plunge trail, he shared some exciting updates on future local trails like the Riverfront Trail, Horse Mountain, and Coal Canyon, and why Palisade is such a ridiculously amazing place to live if you love the outdoors. We also talked about the wildest things that have happened to him out on the trail, tourists and biking, his legacy and true passion, and why it is so important to strive to make your own backyard a great place.

Join us for the Palisade Trail (and Life) Guide, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

As I was doing a sound check, Rondo gave the best intro, which I had to keep to start out with, even though I was accidentally using the wrong input device for the recording…

RB: Hi there. My name is Rondo, and I’m here to talk about Palisade.

LM: you have a good radio voice.

RB: Thank you.

After I figured out what I was doing wrong, we dove right into the conversation.

LM: So how long have you lived in the area?

RB: I moved to Colorado, actually, in 1977. And actually, my first job was working at the livery.

LM: No way.

RB: Yeah, I was trying to get a job at Powderhorn and got a job at the livery. I’d worked at Lake Powell and lived under the bridge when it rained. The colorado the interstate goes over the freeway, and then finally got a job at Powderhorn on ski patrol and then stayed. So I lived in Mesa, and then when I raised my kids, I married, a beautiful lady with two kids. She lived in fruita. So I started a bike shop there and then. Speak of the devil, there’s my daughter. I’ll call her back later.

LM: Okay, sounds good. so before we go too far, can you introduce yourself? Your name?

RB: Hi my name is Rondo Buecheler, but I go by Rondo and I’m co owner with Scott Winans of Palisade Cycle and shuttle. And we are the local bike shop in Palisade. And then we offer shuttles up to the Palisade plunge. And then we can also shuttle winery bikes out to east orchard Mesa and people can ride back. And we do limited service here and very limited, retail. We really pretty much just sell our rental bikes. We’re not a big shop you would go to to buy a new bike, necessarily. And we are just the unofficial visitor center for the town of Palisade because we are open seven days a week from march into December. And we’re right on the corner here. We have one of the best locations in town and people stop by and visit with us. So it’s just a fun little social bike shop in a beautiful community.

LM: How long has the shop been open? So you’ve been here since 77. But when did you open the shop?

RB: we opened the shop in 2007.

LM: Okay.

RB: I had a shop and a bike shop in fruita, over the edge sports, and I sold that at that time. And, the first service manager there, Scott Winans, was a good friend of mine. We both had this vision of bike trails at this end of the valley, mesa slopes all the way up to the top of the mesa. So we decided to come out here and start a shop here and work on the trail system. So, same business plan as Fruita. There was very little fruita had. Kokopelli trail was, told about how that was going to become this next bike mecca. so opened up over the edge in Fruita and then worked with 1000 other people on developing fruita for ten years. And then Scott and me are basically doing the same thing out here, coming out here, working with a thousand other people, very involved with the community. Copmoba, your local agencies, BLM, forest service, parks and wildlife to develop, trails for biking. Some of the trails we’ve worked on, horses can go on and you can hike them all for this end of the valley.

LM: So it’s going to be really hard to just talk to you for an hour because there’s so much that you’ve done and you do, and there’s so many questions I want to ask you, but I think probably the thing that I think of the most when I hear, or people say the most when I hear about you or they talk about you, is the plunge trail, obviously. You’re very associated with that.

RB: correct. We are. And it’s not just me again, I’m just one of many, many people. three people really should be thanked for the plunge. My business partner, Scott Winans, he just worked incredibly hard on her for ten years. And then Mike Jones and Chris Pickens with the BLM, those two guys from our partners in the government worked incredibly hard to take this vision of a trail off the top of the mesa and make it happen. And it’s still a raw, rough trail. It’s going to be several years before a larger user group gets to use it just because of the inaccessibility and the challenging terrain that it goes through. But it’s a vision that’s a reality that now is just being fine tuned for a few years and then every year we should have more and more riders do it.

LM: Okay.

RB: But it’s definitely an adventure trail and we’re very proud to have been part of it.

LM: Awesome. Yeah. So what does it mean to you to have been a part of something that big?

RB: it means a lot I guess, personally. My legacy is to have developed several businesses in town bike related that have led to making western Colorado, the grand Valley, Grand Junction, Fruita, loma, palisade into a biking destination and the last key to a biking destination. So we have local riding, the lunch loops, then we have Fruita area which is some destination. You’ve got camping in north Fruita desert, but you’ve got the Kokopelli, you’ve got the north Fruita, Rabbit Valley. So we had all this incredible desert riding here and incredible road riding. We’ve got the Alphabet ride you can do out in Fruita where you just took all the roads that are alphabetically named. And then you’ve got the riverfront trail, which I’ve also been on the riverfront commission. We’re trying to get that done, the monument. But we have lift service riding at Powderhorn. But we didn’t have those epic rides, a shuttled epic ride. So this is the first of maybe some more shuttled epic rides in the grand valley. So we have it all right here.

LM: Yeah. Well when you talk about making it more accessible, what does that mean? Or what would that look like? The plunge trail?

RB: What do you mean by accessible? Okay, so right now, a trail when it’s infancy, when it’s brand new, is raw, it’s rougher, it’s narrower, it gets overgrown, it has more rocks on it, it’s susceptible to weather like flash floods and stuff like that. So it takes a while to wear a trail in to where a larger user group can use it. So right now it’s got some exposure, it’s got some rocky areas and it’s long and it does start on top of a beautiful 10,000 foot mesa, but end up at 4500ft along the Colorado river in the stinking hot desert. So it’s an adventure ride that has a limited user group that would ride it right now. Again, when we tell people, we talk about it, we tell them it’s almost two different trails. You have the mesa top section and you have the plunge section of Palisade. We recommend that people do the plunge section. It can either be done as a 21 or 17 miles trail down to the valley. And that is pretty darn epic in itself. And then if you’re okay with that, you can add more to it. But it’s a challenging trail at this point.

LM: Sure. Yeah. So building a trail is just one piece of it. It’s complicated. You have to work with a lot of people to get there. But then maintaining it over time is never ending.

RB: No, it’s never ending. And that’s the challenge right now, is taking a raw trail and working it. we’re hopefully applying for some grants, to get some reworking on one section in the forest service from the place called Otto’s wall. It’s this switchback wall section. That’s just incredible. Off the tippy top of the mesa, through the cliff section, through the lava flow, and then to the first crossing of lands end road and that section, we’re hopefully going to get a grant to work on that and improve it and then just due to the inaccessibility of it. It’s hard to go do trail days up there. We work on the lower part and such. But to get, especially with volunteers to get them up there. We had used a trail group last year. Ross Mittleton with Department of Health had his trail crew go work up there for a week and they basically wanted to camp there to make it more effective. And it didn’t work out due to weather challenges. But you need to almost camp on the trail for a week or so and do work on it. And there’s very few trails that are that inaccessible like the other trails that people compare it to. The whole enchilada in moab, the monarch crest trail, they have all sorts of roads crisscrossing it, so you can get in and work on sections. But the inaccessibility of this trail once you hit lands end road, the last 17 miles, there’s one bailout that will go through town of Palisade property down to Cottonwood. But you can’t drive a vehicle there, it’s private to get up through it. So you can bail out there, but there’s no other way to get into it. So you do little projects and then figure out how to get home before dark.

LM: That’s a challenge.

RB: It is a challenge, yeah.

LM: And the bail out’s new, right? That was in the last few months or so?

RB: the bailout’s always been there because there’s some trails up into the watershed. But, the town of Palisade, BLM, nobody wanted us to broadcast that as a trail in itself, because it does go through some area, some country that is special to the people in Palisade, which is your watershed. Both grand Junction and Palisade have this watershed on the mesa that’s worth billions of dollars. It’s incredible. It’s amazing. And they really try to protect it, and they didn’t want a mainstream trail going through that. So, we had a tragedy up there that was a fatality. very sad. And after that point, it was determined that maybe we should mark the bailout for emergency use only.

LM: Okay

RB: So it’s well marked now. So if anybody does get in trouble, because it is such a long trail and it rides a little more challenging than some people think, they do have that option to bailing out and coming down. You can be in Palisade in, like, half hour, 40 minutes from the bailout, and there’s water. Ten minutes from the bailout, you’re in a creek.

LM: Okay.

RB: where you could drink if you had to and cool yourself down.

LM: Makes sense. So dealing with all of these different governmental agencies and the whole list of things that you listed before, private landowners, all the other people who have some interest in a project like this, how do you keep it on track? How do you not just get frustrated?

RB: Well, it was pretty easy for me because I put Scott Winans in charge of that.

LM: OK that’s a Scott question!

RB: Scott Winans was president of CopMOBA. He’s been, a board member, past president, just very involved with copMOBA for many, many years. And we needed an advocacy group to help do the trail. And Scott, as part of CopMOBA, was that person. And he is an incredibly well organized, very diplomatic, very, well spoken. He is the type of person that you want when you’re trying to get all these different people. Because we had. So we had Town of Palisade was involved. City of grand junction because of their watershed, BLM, forest service, Colorado parks and wildlife, private, property owners, leasees. So, the van Winkle ranch leases most of grand junction. And working with that family, which have been incredible, they’re just a great old time cowboy family. it took somebody to do that. And Scott was that person. And then the two, guys I mentioned from the BLM, Chris Pickens, Mike Jones. You know, government people can do what they want, but those guys just really put their heart and soul into this project, too, to make it happen on a governmental way. And then all the other partners, the people work with, all these other entities came together, and just to make this happen.

LM: So finding the right people

RB: it is definitely the right people. And it’s patience and time and money. Time and money. You can do anything. So it’s somebody that’s taking the time and then finding the funds to do something like this. And it’s a lot of people, but it takes. Scott and me came in here with this vision, so we were motivated by fear and greed. So that helps out know both this. And then the fruita project we’re coming into towns with limited riding. I’ve always believed that if you start a business, you shouldn’t start one that you’re taking away from somebody that’s there. So, like, when I started my second shop in Fruita, I was looking for a spot. I didn’t want to do one in grand junction because there were already bike shops there, and there’s a limited amount of business. So it’s always fun to start something from scratch. So, fruita, we proved it could be done, and we came out here to do this. Although this was much more challenging. We were the ones, too, that, instigated getting the palisade rim trail turned into a legal trail. So Scott and me paid for the concept plan for that. There was a series of, social trails up in that area, and we started the process by hiring someone to come out and do the concept, which, in turn, the BLM took over to turn the rim trail into what it is today.

LM: Okay. Oh I didn’t know that, that’s awesome. Well thank you for that!

RB: Well, it’s part of contributing to the community, and it’s part of creating a business. You start with nothing, and then you create all parts of it. So we’ve started the shop here without impacting any other business that was here, and we’ve contributed to the community. The taxes we pay as a business, the people we bring in that support other businesses, and just turning palisade into a community that people want to live here because of the recreational opportunities.

LM: Absolutely. So other trails you mentioned around here, you mentioned the riverfront trail, and you’re pretty involved with one riverfront, right.

RB: I just term limited out, but I’m on the committee, though, for getting the riverfront trail completed to this end of the valley.

LM: Yeah.

RB: So it’s a vision that was started many, many years ago. Again, a thousand people have been involved in that, and it’s all the way to Loma, and now it’s time to finish it to Palisade. And it’s supposed to it connects all the pearls of the grand valley, which are the state parks. So it’s supposed to end up at Island Acres State park. But right now, there’s a group that’s working on getting it to Palisade. There’s actually a work group. That’s where I’m off to a meeting after this with one riverfront and a bunch of partners to try to figure out how to get it to Palisade. And then from there, we can continue on to island acres.

LM: Okay. That would be amazing. And so you’re looking at now, or one riverfront is looking at, I believe, building the path along existing roadways instead of trying to go through private land along the river.

RB: Actually, we’re doing it well it might end up that way because that’s what ended up going to fruita. They had to go different routes. The vision is along the river, but there’s property owners that have beautiful properties, especially between Palisade and Clifton, that if I owned that property and my house was right along the river, I wouldn’t want a bike path in front of it. So we’re working around those people that don’t want to, and then working with other landowners that do say, oh, yeah, we can put a trail through here. It’s not going to affect my use of it. And then where it can’t do that. We’re looking at options, and there’s several options out there. We have three main ones that we’re looking at, and we’ve got $100,000 grant. So we’re working with a consultant to try to identify of these main three options. And maybe there’s one we haven’t thought of yet, which would be the best way to get it, to Palisade and Riverbend park. Because it is part of Riverbend park is part of the riverfront through there. And then from then highway six out, to the freeway, and then to cameo and island acres.

LM: Okay. I’m really looking forward to that.

RB: So am I. In my lifetime.

LM: Yeah. Okay. I was going to ask you what you thought the timing was.

RB: I want to live to be 100, but I’d like the trail to be done so I could ride.

LM: I’d love to just be able, get on the trail. Ride all the way out to fruita.

RB: Yeah, no, it’d be great. And then there’s some other options, are looking at some other trail alignments that could be really cool, that hopefully will become a reality again sooner than later. But all this, again, it takes people to dedicate their time. Most of these people that are working on all these projects, the mountain bike trails and the trails like the riverfront are led by volunteers working with government entities to make it happen.

LM: a couple of other trail things I want to talk about, and then we can move on to other things.

RB: That’s okay.

LM: so I don’t even want to get into the canal paths, but the canal paths, do you think that will ever happen?

RB: I have no idea. I’m not going to just speculate. It happens in other communities. Whether it’ll happen here, it’s up to, again, all the different players, from the canal companies or board of directors to property owners. any canal that does have go through private property where there’s easements. That’s a big question. Versus, say, the government canal. The high line canal is a government canal, and they own all the easements. So maybe there’s an option to do something out there. And again, as time changes, board members change, partners change, just the whole culture of canals and what they were for. Can they be used for recreation that could change over time, and maybe they are, but there’s a lot of players involved, and I wouldn’t want to speculate because I don’t want to jinx anything. so we’ll see down the road, but there’s a lot of people that are involved now, in all these different entities. Maybe it’s something that will happen, but it’s got to work for everybody. And there’s a lot of, challenges to make this opportunity happen. So we’ll see.

LM: There’s more to do there. A lot more to do. if.

RB: There’s a lot more to do there, and you just can’t be forceful. Yeah, we’re going to have trails on all these canals because you have to be sympathetic to the people that have the canals and the property owners that have canals and the safety for the people that possibly could use it. So it’s a pretty complicated issue, but we’ll see what’s happened. It’s happening elsewhere, and we’ll see what the future holds for canals here in the valley.

LM: Cool. Yeah. Just seems like such a great opportunity for trails. I mean, not that I obviously love to bike and, I want more trails. So on, that note, tell me about horse Mountain. What’s happening there?

RB: So horse Mountain is BLM, and it is in their management plan to allow, several types of recreation out there. But again, it’s not high on the list at the moment due to the BLM here has done an incredible job promoting bike trails. And the big trail now is the old spanish trail area. the trails up by east orchard Mesa, and that’s what everybody’s focusing on at the moment. So down the road. Yeah, it is eyed for possible, bike trails. Another area that we’re working with, too, would maybe be some more stuff out cameo. The book cliffs right behind us up here. There’s already some roads and trails up coal canyon. So there’s some opportunities there again, you know, things happen with private landholders, government agencies, town of Palisade. So there’s some options out there, too, that would probably could happen faster maybe than horse mountain, so. But horse mountain but again, there’s access issues because, the legal access is from desert Highlands subdivision. I don’t know if any of them are thrilled to put, that’s where the trailhead is. But the county doesn’t put trailheads in. And then getting access and that terrain up there is interesting because it’s, your shales basically with lava rock everywhere. So you build a trail, you clear all the lava rock out. After the next rain, the lava rock’s back.

LM: Yeah, it’s wild.

RB: So maybe on some of the slopes where you’ve got more sediment over the lava. But that’s the challenging spot out there. And we did have, we used to do races out, sink creek area on the other side of it. There’s some cool riding out there, but it, again, is, used by a lot of user groups and some of the motorized user groups, majority of them are responsible, good riders that care. There’s a few people that we had some trails out there, and there’s trash dumping. So that’s just the wild west out there. But there’s opportunity. It’s just, again, someone’s at some point going to have to be the ramrod, to make that happen. And it’s in our minds, but we’ll see. But the BLM is pretty busy at the moment, so it’s not like on the top of their list. A lot of energy is going toward that new trail system, and then energy is going toward finishing the plunge.

LM: Okay.

RB: So we can have 30,000 people a year come ride it.

LM: Wow.

RB: And then whenever you build a trail, the other challenges is just day to day maintenance and maintaining of them. We’ve got this incredible trail system in the valley, and all of the trails need constant maintenance. So, again, how many trail systems can we have in the valley that the valley can maintain? CopMOBA does a great job, but it’s a volunteer organization. There needs to be a countywide, statewide, maybe a multi government entity trail crew that’s a full time job that works on these bike trails here, and then you just have to look at funding. But that, to me, would be an awesome thing to see. But again, bikers, when you look in the big scheme of things for the county, from the homeless people to potholes to bike trails, you’ve got a justify is there are there enough users, which there could be in this valley because people come here, but, to do something like that. But that’s the big thing is these maintenance plans for all these trails. We come up with maintenance for the plunge. We go out and talk to other businesses. And the economy, with the pandemic, things are coming back now. So hopefully we had a lot of businesses sign on to contribute to that, and that sort of went away for a while. But hopefully it comes back now. And hopefully the revenue that people see the plunge bring to the valley, along with the other trails, makes them want to contribute to maintain them.

LM: Yeah, makes sense. Yeah. How do you measure that? How do you measure exactly what’s tied to people coming to bike the plunge?

RB: There’s ways. It’s out there. They can measure it. And I don’t know all the details, but you can see what mountain biking has brought to the grand valley, which is a lot. hunting, fishing might not be quite as popular as they once were. Fishing is, but it’s brought a lot of people in. It’s a whole different user group that contributes to everything else that historically has been here. One of the challenges the county has, like, we’re doing all this recreation on public lands that in the past were used for extraction oil and gas, primarily coal, all around us here. So we’re replacing some of that with recreation. But recreation jobs traditionally do not pay what the extractive energies jobs were. So the challenge is now on the recreation industry, to pay livable wages to their staff that work here. And that’s like a big challenge with everybody. so we can contribute what other industries used to from recreation.

LM: Sure, makes sense. So, just shifting to you personally, I assume that you like to ride your bike.

RB: I do, yeah. I started my first bike shop at Powderhorn just to get a deal on a bike. Stupid idea. Should have just bought one.

LM: So what’s your favorite trail, personally? Like, what do you love to get out and ride?

RB: Personally, I would say I do like the rim trail once I’ve done the climb. and the other end of the valley, horse thief bench was always my favorite. It’s just got a little bit of everything on it from view to, some interesting moves and just neat out in that area. I ride the upper plunge a lot now. So the part from highway 65 to Otto’s wall section to shirttail point and connect a lot up there. I live in Mesa. So one of the reasons we came out here because it’s so stinking hot in the summertime. Well, let’s ride up there. So I love riding on those trails. So I ride that trail a lot. Do the plunge to Powderhorn. so I’m up there quite a bit.

LM: I just went downhill biking at Powderhorn this last summer. First time I’ve ever done downhill biking. So fun. I’m totally hooked on it now.

RB: It’s fun. I work on the bike patrol of powderhorn.

LM: Okay.

RB: So I’m up know at least once a week usually, or try to be once a week or so. and my grandkids all love riding up there.

LM: Yeah.

RB: So again, it’s a nice addition. Not many valleys have everything from lift service to epic trails to incredible day cross country riding. That’s along the I 70 quarter.

LM: Ah.

RB: So it’s pretty cool. But Powderhorn. Yeah, they’ve got some really nice trails up there. Hopefully that’ll keep expanding. Their summers grow to be as big as their winters someday.

LM: Yeah, that’d be great. what’s the toughest situation you’ve ever been out on a trail and what did you learn from it? that you want to talk about?

RB: No, I’ve been involved in some rescues out in the early days of fruita. I had one where a child went off a ledge and it was pre cell phone so I had to send someone, he was unconscious to go out to get a phone to call, to get that person stable, to get a helicopter in to help the helicopter crew because there’s just two of them and a couple of riders evacuate this child out of a canyon and get them there. So that was probably the most interesting, I would say. Others are just being on just some of the spots we have. especially when you’re exploring, you’re out looking for new trails and where they could go and you’re just out in the middle of nowhere. If something breaks, you have a long walk.

LM: so you’ve had a few long walks.

RB: I’ve had some long walks, yeah, everybody has. but yeah, I have not personally had anything horrific happen to me, which is, knock on wood. It’s a blessing, for all the miles that I’ve ridden.

LM: Okay. What happened to the kid? Was the kid okay?

RB: Yeah, he was fine eventually.

LM: Yeah. I mean, now, it’s amazing to think about how easy it is to really, if you have the right tools, you can summon emergency services so much more easily than before.

RB: Yeah, I’m thinking of getting an inreach, because they’re pretty cool now, and things happen. And where people are riding, the way the young people are riding now, my grandson, all my grandkids, how they’re riding at their age is stuff that I never would have dreamed of doing. And for whatever reason, they’re going big, because all the videos of people going big, people get hurt, and they get hurt in these situations. Thank gosh. We have mesa county search and rescue. They do an incredible job of getting people and the fire departments, along with the other government entities, getting people out of stupid predicaments that they get into in, just challenging terrain and locations. And we have a ton of riding. And a lot of the trails in the valley, some of the stuff out in fruita, the book cliffs along with the plunge and stuff are. You’re out there, so nothing’s easy.

LM: Yeah. Right. You’re far from the trailhead, and it’s not a smooth ride back to the trailhead. Usually. It’s usually pretty challenging.

RB: And then powderhorn, we’ve had some challenging up there because, again, downhilling, these people are going fast, going big, gaps, rocks, whatever.

LM: Yeah, it’s exciting. These kind of trails didn’t really exist before. You know, you didn’t have the opportunity to do things like this.

RB: No. And you didn’t have, the trails have been here for a while, but you didn’t have the equipment. When I first started riding, both Scott and me, Scott’s toured around a lot of the world on a bike. I did a lot of bike packing back in the 80s. but the equipment you had couldn’t let you couldn’t go big. You would just fall before you could get very big. And now the equipment that they have and then the skills that these kids have, it’s pretty amazing. Equipment is a lot of it. How the bikes have changed.

LM: Yeah. So here at the shop, at your shop, you mentioned you rent a lot of bikes.

RB: We do

LM: you rent cruisers for wine tours and, bikes for, some of the mountain bike trails around here. so those are two very different groups of people. I’m sure there’s some overlap, but

RB: they are, very interesting.

LM: What do you recommend for each group to have the best experience here? What do you tell them before they go?

RB: We’ll start with the winery rides. It’s real popular. This is the only spot in the world you can hit 25 wineries on a day on a bike. if you’re good

LM: physically, I don’t know about that!

RB: so those people that come in, we have regular cruisers because we have the five mile, a seven mile. You can combine them for this twelve mile ride and the wineries right around here and they’re great for just a pedal cruiser. And then we do have a pretty big fleet of, ecruisers that you can go farther or if you’re, say you’re riding with a parent or someone that maybe isn’t as good a shape they can be on that. but, the ebikes are definitely becoming really popular, especially when it’s hot out or it’s windy even doing the twelve mile loop. They’re great, they’re popular. But the big thing is just respect where you’re at. People come here to have a good time. And unfortunately in this area, or fortunately for all of us, a good time involves drinking. We have the, dispensaries. So the big thing we try to pre educate people is if you’re going to come here, be aware of that, don’t become too impaired. Don’t go get a bike ride to the dispensary, and then hit a winery, and then don’t drink water or eat all day long and while sitting in the sun without a hat. so we just try to educate people. I’m, on the tourism advisory council. We’re actually working with a mentor to come up with how to ride palisade. so you can just respect the people, the lifestyle, the area you’re coming to, but still have a great time. and the big thing is just watch what you eat and drink, drink lots of water, stay in the shade a bit, wear a hat. And the bikes are kind of cool. I think you don’t get as impaired as easily than sitting in a limo, although that’s a great way to go wine tasting or a van because you’re somewhere and then you’re out, you’re actively moving, sweating, and then you stop again.

LM: Takes more time to get from stop to stop.

RB: Right. But we’re very aware of what they’re doing and we really try to educate them. If someone does get impaired, we will come get you and your bike and gladly bring you back, so you can start again the next day.

LM: that’s a nice added service.

RB: Yeah. And then mountain biking again. Most people that come here, our two mountain bike trails are the rim trail and the plunge. They’re both challenging trails. Rim trail has that climb to start with. So, like, if someone does ask a big question is, hey, how do I know if I can ride the plunge trail? Is there anything? And we go. If you can ride the whole rim trail and you’re not intimidated by some of the exposure, the terrain, because the bottom part of it can come out the lower rim trail. If you can ride all that and think it’s great, don’t mind the heat, then that’s a good primer for doing the plunge. And again, depending upon your ability. But most people, we would recommend to do the bottom 21 miles first, although there is a lot of people that show up and do the whole kit and caboodle, and they’re done in 3 hours going, wow, that was great.

LM: Wow. Have you ever talked to anybody out of doing the plunge?

RB: Oh, yeah, we have. you don’t necessarily talk them out. You just want to explain to them the challenges, the exposures, and let them make the right choice for their ability. Because it is hard to talk to somebody not knowing their ability if you haven’t ridden with them. But, yeah, we try to educate them so they can make good choices. Where to start. If you would need the bailout, that option is there. Just, maybe ride the top part. It’s 110 degrees in the valley. Riding the bottom part is great if you’re riding by 7:00 in the morning, so you’re off early and being prepared, having the right equipment. We’ll look at people’s bikes. If you see someone show up with a bike that’s not appropriate, you try to go, hey, are you sure you know what you’re doing? Having water, having food, repair parts so they can fix most common things and just good. It’s common sense. So, yeah, we do talk people out of it. There’s no ebikes allowed on any of the trails out here, so we educate people that you can’t ride them here. There’s other spots to ride them in the valley. but this isn’t the best place. Should I turn that off?

LM: Does it just stay on like that?

RB: It comes on and off. It’s that heater, but I can turn it off for a while.

RB: How am I doing?

LM: Good. Great. How do you think you’re doing?

RB: Fine. I’m just rambling. I’ve rambled my whole life.

LM: I mean, that’s kind of what a podcast is, is just listening to people ramble.

RB: Okay.

LM: At the end of the day, that’s what it is. Okay. So we talked a lot about biking. Oh, wait, I had one more question about biking at the end of last season. You were doing some group rides last fall. Do you think you’re going to start doing anything like regular bike shop rides in the future?

RB: We’d like to. Yeah, we will. We’re going to do that again. The challenge is for mountain biking here. It’s the rim trail. You can ride after work. and that again is a smaller user group because of the climb. but we’ll do the rides. We’ll ride around town, the road rides, we will do some where we meet somewhere at a trailhead, lunch loop, go out to maybe Loma, or fruita, and do out there. So, yes, we’re planning on doing something like that. our hours are such, though we have a limited staff here and our hours are long. We’re open from basically nine to six. By the time stragglers get back, it’s late and we have a limited staff. But yeah, we want to do that. We like to be involved in the community. We’re part of this community, and it’s fun to do that. And there’s other businesses in town that do the group rides also. So we encourage everybody to look at what everybody offers.

LM: Yeah, I’m really involved with the Bike Palisade group and the, Monday night rides. But I mean, that’s really just a fun ride.

RB: That is. That’s a fun ride where you end up at Pali Thai and a beer.

LM: Yeah, exactly.

RB: but, yeah, we’re going to try. We will do more of that this year. We have a really cool staff. Everybody is returning from last year. just about everybody that works here in the summer is the ski patrol of powderhorn in the winter. So it works perfect. As soon as they’re done ski patrol, they start here, and as soon as they’re done here, they start ski patrol. So it’s a perfect lifestyle for people looking for nontraditional where you have different jobs that are fun, exciting.

LM: Ok so I asked you think all the bike questions I have. But I know you do more than just renting bikes here. I know that you also rent river craft or things to float..

RB: right we do, so my passion was river running. I was a river guide for 40 years for this really unique company, Grand Canyon Dories. At over the edge and here, we like to have some river involvement. My partner, Scott likes to float the river. So we did teach paddleboarding for many years. We’ve sort of gotten out of that because there’s a couple other businesses that are doing it and there was just too many people teaching. But we do rent and we rent paddleboards and inflatable kayaks and tubes. And the river is this incredible resource for the whole grand valley. It’d be nice to have the Colorado river designated as a river trail someday, starting here and ending up down in Loma. but we really encourage, if you’re here, like to do a bike ride, either a mountain bike ride. And we didn’t talk about rental mountain bikes yet.

LM: No, we didn’t.

RB: We do do that. But if you’re coming here, it’s another thing to do in Palisade. that involves drinking. but no, you don’t have to. But it’s a great. Kids. I take my grandkids out all the time. It’s just a great opportunity in Palisade to float. We have the four mile palisade to Palisade section, which is beautiful. At the end of the day, the color is changing on the cliffs. As long as there’s enough water to get through the, grand valley, irrigators diversion what an incredible float you have through town and then all the way down to 32 road. So we do rent and provide shuttles with reservations to do the float. We were the first to offer that and really encourage people to do it wisely. When you rent from us, you get a life jacket, you get some instructions, what you’re using. and again, ask you to use common sense. And have a good safe time.

LM: do you have a favorite section of river around here or in the world that you’ve floated?

RB: I worked most of my career in the Grand Canyon, and then worked quite a bit up in the northwest. so I would say every river has its own personality. The grand is the grand canyon, so everybody should do that at least once in your life. But the other rivers we have locally, the Colorado through grand junction is a great float. You go up to Glenwood, you’ve got the roaring fork, which is like doing a home tour in a boat. You got all those big mansions all around you. other rivers that are really fun nearby. I love Lodore, Deso, so there’s a lot. And each of them has a personality. So I like each of them. But my favorite again was I was very fortunate to work in the Grand Canyon for this crazy guy, Martin Litton, and all the crazy people that worked for Dories for many, many years.

LM: Were you in an actual dory?

RB: Yeah, I have my own here. this summer. You can go float through town. You should read a book called the Emerald Mile. It’s about the high water of 1983, the politics of the high water, the dam and everything, and about three friends, Rudy, Wren and Kenton, who set the speed record in a dory on the grand Canyon. And just an incredible book by Kevin Fedarko.

LM: I’ll check that out

RB: yeah, it was a cool culture. It was just very unique.

LM: That’s exciting

RB: yeah. when the water is high. Here we go run, the little rapid above the freeway right there, the diversion there. And that’s really fun. you can put in at cameo and take out in town, so it adds, another dimension. If you want to go do that, call in the spring. I’ll be around. I’m retired from river running commercially, but I still kept my dory.

LM: I’m still trying to get over some of my fears of being on whitewater, so I’m working on it. I’ve done a few trips this last year.

RB: where did you go?

LM: desolation. Got stuck on a rock.
Pause for a fact check! It was actually Split Mountain Canyon – a different section of the Green River a bit farther north of Desolation Canyon. But my fear is accurate. OK, back to the conversation.

RB: what kind of boat were you? Were you in a ducky then?

LM: no, in a raft.

RB: Okay.

LM: Yeah. we did Ruby horsethief twice. The first time was at the peak.

RB: there’s so much fun when it’s high, though.

LM: It was my first time on, like, a moving river. I’ve done a lot of lakes, still water, like, in the northeast. It was terrifying. You know I made it through, but

RB: OK that would be intimidating. River people like the high water. We love high water. You don’t have to row as much. It’s more exciting. rapids are bigger.

LM: I’m working up to it. Yeah, but it’s fun. I mean, the culture and just the feeling of being on the river and especially being out overnight for a couple of nights. It’s so much fun.

RB: I like that. Most of the trips I did were 16 to 19 days. And I just love the camping part of it as much as the adventure of everything else and then the side hikes and all that. But, no, we have a great opportunity here, to float the river. You can learn how to kayak, learn how to paddleboard, and take the family out. It’s a great family river through town

LM: right because this stretch through town is pretty tame.

RB: Very tame through the whole grand valley. It’s great. It’s a float. And the whole county, all the towns are very into river access, so we’ve got quite a few boat ramps. The city is just finishing up a new one down by 24 road. They’re redoing one down there. so we have just a lot of access. Hopefully we get more down the road. Palisade is working on a beach and working on putting a new ramp there, in the next year or so. So again, it’s another reason we live here, for the outdoor opportunities that we can do after work. How many people can go float after work? How many people can go for a bike ride after work? How many people can get off work till noon, drive to powderhorn and ski the afternoon and then come back home? it’s, pretty cool. If you want to use it, there’s a lot to do here. Hiking, horseback riding, motorsports. It’s just a very cool spot.

LM: Yeah, I love it. Very happy to have found it. so is there anything else that, I didn’t already ask you about that you’d want to talk about?

RB: Mountain bikes. We do mountain bikes, so we do rent mountain bikes. We have a fleet of mountain bikes that we rent, for the plunge, for the rim, or we’re trying to position ourselves as the gateway to the grand valley. So say you’re coming in to ride in the grand valley for a few days, stay in Palisade. We’ve got the wine country inn and we’ve got the spoke and vine. We have b&b the wine Valley Inn homestead. we’ve got homestead, which is just a really cool property along the river. We have the base camp rv park. So to me, if you’re going to come to the grand valley, this is the spot you want to stay and base out of the gateway. And then you can do your little day excursions to Loma fruita, to Grand Junction,

LM: right it’s like 45 minutes to get there

RB: to the top of the grand mesa. you, can just do day excursions and stay in this town. Because again, you’ve got the wineries, you’ve got some nightlife with the distillery, the brewery, Clark’s, local places like three five seven and the livery. It’s just a fun area to stay at, and do things. So we rent mountain bikes to be used all over the valley. We’re seeing people do this trifecta where they’re coming in from around the country and they’re going like flying, into Denver. You could do it to junction, but getting a car, buzzing out, hitting the whole enchilada in moab, then hitting us for the plunge and hitting the monarch crest trail and then flying back home. So doing this epic shuttled ride road trip.

LM: wow

RB: and again, none of this would be here without the enthusiasm, knowledge, and hard work of my business partner, Scott Winans, who’s incredible. And the plunge wouldn’t be here again. He’s very instrumental in making the valley what it is as a riding community also. So we’ll always thank him and give him his credit that he’s earned.

LM: Definitely. Yeah. well, thank you and Scott, but thank you for everything you’ve done, too. I think you’re very modest. but I know you’re involved with a lot, too. So we appreciate that.

RB: Yeah, I’ve done a bunch. This has been pretty cool. It’s been a fun life to do all these different things. for a while, I was talking at schools about nontraditional lifestyles, and it starts with a very patient wife and then just doing all these different jobs. So, in the summer, I’m boating and I’m biking, then I’m skiing, and, there’s a lot of opportunity for young people that are looking for more of a lifestyle, that’s nontraditional. You can do it.

LM: I love that. Yeah. Right. Everyone should not want to go sit behind a desk every day.

RB: No. And I think it’s changing. The young people today are realizing they just don’t go work for a company for 30 years, get their retirement, and be done. You want to live your life, especially while you’re young, while you’re active, and you’ve got your health and your strength and everything. Go do all the wild stuff. And then when you get older, that’s kind of what I did. The reverse retirement. My, wife teases me, how can I retire when I’ve never really had a job? But I did all the stuff younger, and now I’m still doing it, but not nearly at the same level. But I’m okay with it because I’ve been at the forefront of all these I hate to say the word extreme sports, but adventuresome sports back in the day.

LM: so what’s the best way for other people to get involved? If somebody hears this and they’re like, you know, I’d love to get involved with helping build this trail or maintain this trail.

RB: A couple things. Number one, Copmoba is our local trail advocacy group. We need young people to get involved with that because biking is changing the type of bike trails people are looking to ride now versus what was popular when I was younger. It’s flow trails more, maybe extremish, but it’s different. So Copmoba is this great advocacy group that we need young people to get involved with. So the trails of the future are trails for future riders. riverfront commission with this vision of getting this trail through the valley and beyond. Once we get it through the valley, then we want to interconnect. You’ve got grand junction. They’ve got an urban trails group.

Get on a committee, one Riverfront is a good one. Palisade has some committees. We have our tourism advisory council and parks and rec. But get involved in your community and make your backyard cool. If everybody works to make their backyard cool. So everybody’s backyards are cool. It’s just this big playground, but it takes people to be involved. And I know looking at my kids, it’s harder now because parents, I think, are doing a lot for their kids that maybe they didn’t used to. So time is harder, but make time to get involved in your community. And when you read things out there, be a voice in it, because we can create this valley to be whatever we want, and it will change over then it changed in the time I’ve been here, and it will change in the next 40 years. I’m excited to see. Hopefully I’ll be around, maybe not 40, but for a while, just to see what the next group of people come in here to do with it.

LM: Yeah.

RB: And still keep its charm. And it’s fun and not overcrowded. And everybody gets along. And again, a lot of it’s like building these bike trails. It’s all these different user groups getting together and working together. So the bikers working with the horse people working with the motorized vehicle people working with the government entities and the communities and the people that have been here historically, that maybe change is scary and, not what they wanted, but it could maybe happen in a respectful way. So we build this really cool community while honoring the past and the people that are currently here.

LM: That’s a really good mission statement and a good thing to end on, I think.

RB: Thank you very much.

LM: Thank you so much for your time. I appreciate it.

RB: Yeah, nice to meet you. Nice to talk. Come back this summer, you guys. We open sometime in March.

LM: Sometime.

RB: Yeah. Well, depending upon the weather. First part of march.

LM: Okay.

RB: but it’s weather dependent.

LM: I’m ready for it to be nice so.

RB: Support us through bikes and boating.

LM: Yes. Support your local bike shop.

RB: Right? Yeah. And river

LM: and river shop

RB: and river rental shop

LM: What a fun conversation. I hope it inspires to get out on a trail or on the river, to pick up a shovel or do whatever you can to help, to work to make your own backyard cool.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E20: Growing Palisade with the Palisade Chamber of Commerce’s Jessica Burford

Jessica Burford, President & CEO of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, is one of the biggest boosters of Palisade businesses – and not just because it’s her job. In addition to running a few of the biggest events held in town (um, Peach Fest, anyone?!?), Jessica is working to make the Chamber the go-to place for local businesses and the Palisade community and to be the driver of thoughtful growth in our small town.

As the snow streamed down and my old heater clanked, Jessica and I chatted about the biggest challenges facing the Palisade business community, what types of businesses she’d love to see open up here, why the Chamber’s goals always tie back to the town’s heritage, what the Chamber is doing to help fill the town’s vacant properties with productive businesses, and why she will never not answer a question from a resident or visitor, no matter how wild those questions may bee…

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  

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Transcript:

Welcome to Postcards from Palisade, the podcast that brings you a snapshot of life in our slice of western Colorado. I’m Lisa McNamara.

Palisade in January is quiet. Restful, hibernating, as snowy and cold as it gets. Some local businesses shut down for a bit to enjoy some time off and prepare for the next busy season. Others take the opportunity to launch while it’s less busy – like the new Artful Cup coffee shop downtown or the Palisade Picnic cafe just west of downtown. But generally, things are pretty quiet around here in January as everyone prepares for the year to come.

One snowy winter morning last December, Jessica Burford, President & CEO of the Palisade Chamber of Commerce, strolled over to my office with a mug full of coffee. Jessica is one of the biggest boosters of Palisade businesses, and not just because it’s her job. In addition to running a few of the biggest events held in town (um, Peach Fest, anyone?!?), Jessica is working to make the Chamber the go-to place for local businesses and the Palisade community and to be the driver of thoughtful growth in our small town.

As the snow streamed down and my old heater clanked, Jessica and I chatted about the biggest challenges facing the Palisade business community, what types of businesses she’d love to see open up here, why the Chamber’s goals always tie back to the town’s heritage, what the Chamber is doing to help fill the town’s vacant properties with productive businesses, and why she will never not answer a question from a resident or visitor, no matter how wild those questions may bee.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade – Growing Palisade Sustainably.

JB: I’m Jessica Burford with the Palisade Chamber of Commerce president and CEO I joined um as the president and CEO in um June of 2022 so I’ve been there about a year and a half now and very excited to be here thank you for having me

LM: thanks for coming in so I’m catching you a week after the Palisade old-fashioned Christmas do you feel recovered from that at all

JB: we’re not quite a week out we are honestly we very much look forward to that event it’s kind of um a little bit of our redemption we like planning events and and hosting events events um Peach Fest is a lot though it’s a it’s a big animal and old-fashioned Christmas gives us the opportunity to really reconnect with our local community um and our local businesses and so we really love it um and I think it went really really well this year so we’re pretty excited about it

LM: yeah it was nice that it wasn’t actually freezing out it was kind of a reasonable temperature

JB: it was a beautiful day it had snowed in the morning um so it was a little sick out initially but then the sun came out and you could easily walk from space to space and without even a jacket

LM: so tell me how did you get into this career path or how did you get into this role

JB: um I sold heating and air conditioning for 13 years like that I kind of grew up in that industry I um started out at Hercules Industries when I was um I think 20 years old and um yeah worked for them for 11 years and then moved into some bid spec work with another company um and I had a wedding event planning certification I’ve got my nutrition certification and I had a a amazing boss an amazing Mentor retire and it gave me the opportunity to think about maybe what else I wanted to do so I went into Hospitality sales because I always thought I wanted to plan weddings and um quickly learned how rigorous Hospitality sales is but loved it I had it again a great boss a great mentor there um and she really challenged me to do more and then I um went went and did some heart work for a while left there to help Mosaic do fundraising for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and such a rewarding experience I was sitting on the board for the Pali chamber at that time and we just got our notice of our third um director turning in her notice in four years so um Julianne had been here for a long time and then we had another director um that was there for about two years and then another director that was there for only nine months um and I just couldn’t sleep at night so I said maybe maybe this is for me I am very passionate about helping businesses my husband and I have a business on Horizon Drive and I knew how much the Palisade chamber specifically in this community had rewarded us and I wanted to pass that on so I asked the board if I could put in my my hat and they said absolutely and trusted me enough to take on this role and it’s been very challenging and very rewarding all at the same time

LM: I know um it does have a reputation of being a really challenging role and you kind of referred to the history of the last few people who have not been here too long why do you think that is why do you think it’s so challenging

JB: um I think for for a while the chamber hasn’t had a really clear vision so there may have been a lot of like spinning wheels and all kinds of directions throwing things against the wall you know seeing what sticks um I feel like the board that we have now has been extremely supportive and we have very good strategic plan so that’s like my North Star it’s it’s easy when we have a plan easier anyway when we have a plan in place like that so I can constantly refer back to it I don’t know that we were super engaged in Palisade tourism before and that’s fun and rewarding and that’s really our Focus because that is a major driver in our economy um and just having the right team in place it’s really hard if you don’t have the right people with you to go along that Journey with you so I feel like right now we have a really amazing team as well

LM: nice yeah so you really kind of pull all the pieces together and um what is the Strategic Vision or what you know what do you see as the chamber’s role in Palisade

JB: um we want to remain really rooted to our heritage I I think we had we still very much value cross community collaboration but not at the risk of um neglecting our local businesses so we want that to be our first and foremost priority making sure we really understand the needs of our Growers um and then our downtown businesses um and our lodging partners helps us really move forward I feel like in a more sustainable Direction so we’re really excited about you know reconnecting with our roots and making that our constant of Are We being true to Palisade Heritage are we being true to what our Growers need from us are we being true to what our downtown businesses really need from us or are we just trying to grow and at what cost

LM: interesting yeah so kind of balanced growth or thoughtful growth almost

JB: for sure

LM: would you say

JB: I would say it it’s been a process and I do think that we have some work to do in our strategic plan but I think the work that we’ve done the last year and a half has helped us tremendously reconnect where where it matters

LM: yeah yeah I think um it’s you do a lot so not only the big events that everybody knows about but all of the individual member events and networking opportunities and classes and I mean there’s a lot that you organize and offer to members and also that members of the public can join too sometimes so it’s a lot

JB: yeah yeah we try to have a good mix of both we offer public events and then events that add value to our members um we’ve really grown our lunch and learn program that we have monthly um we had a great turnout this last week with um Ryan Robertson came from Palisade or from Powder Horn and um spoke about how we drive that winter business and we had a really it almost became um kind of a work session or um a round table discussion really of some brainstorming ideas of the ways that we can really thrive in the winter months as well so that was very rewarding and then um yeah we have all the community events and then we are also really um engaged again in initiatives that matter to the chamber to Economic Development and policy so we’re sitting on four workforce development committee or boards right now throughout the community um to try to streamline some of the systems and Not Duplicate so much make it easier for employers make it easier for students to get internships and apprenticeships and um make it easier for the community as a whole to really understand how that could work and how they could find Value in um the work that we do and find that develop I guess that homegrown Workforce

LM: yeah so I almost see it as like um to me like from my view as a chamber member um it’s almost like you’re a facilitator for conversations or you know bringing people together that wouldn’t otherwise have that person to do that or that kind of venue to do it like for example over the summer with the bike you know the bike grumbling the bike issues the complaints about uh drunk tourists on bikes that were maybe maybe here every year but maybe a little louder this year um you know I really uh appreciate the fact that you know you guys kind of sprang into action and said we’re going to host a a conversation on this a listening session for the community um to talk about ideas and solutions and what we can do to make it better and I don’t think that there are I can’t think of other than the town which isn’t quite the right venue there really isn’t another venue for that kind of conversation to happen which I appreciate

JB: I really think that’s the chambers role um you mentioned all the events that we do but we really want to move forward and be seen as the catalyst the convener and the champion for you for your business um so convener is one of our priorities how do we connect you with the resources that you need how do we connect you with the right people to have the right conversation so again there’s not that duplication of efforts and I do think that we have our hand on the pulse and we kind of know what’s going on in a really broad umbrella um so we’re able to jump in and be like hey that’s already happening let’s bring them to meet with you and we can figure out a really great solution for our community

LM: so how do you know when you’re successful

JB: oh well um honestly I me success by the people around me um I I like I said I’m very blessed with a a really amazing board who has my back they’re very supportive and I’m have a really great team I have a wonderful husband who is very patient with the fact that I’m gone so much um and I have two amazing children who I love to be around and um have seen I have a 10-year-old and 20-year-old so I’ve seen them kind of grow into their own and that’s really rewarding and I have a really close relationship with my family and friends here in the community very well rooted so really that’s how I measure successes like the the people I’m surrounded with and um how we care for one another

LM: what do you think is maybe from your perspective both either as a person or as the CEO of the Chamber of Commerce what do you think is the biggest challenge to businesses in Palisade or that they’re facing right now

JB: um I I do think that year round business or that winter lull is a major challenge right now um we are brainstorming some I like I said we’re brainstorming ideas of ways that we can make that as it’s snowing or you know dumping snow outside which is very magical in Palisade by the way

LM: yes it’s beautiful

JB: but we’re looking for ways that we can collaborate with other communities even like how do we get visitors to Moab who really have that have figured out that year round business um to come to Palisade how do we partner better with maybe Ouray and Montrose to send visitors here Glenwood so some of those surrounding areas where it’s an easy day trip from wherever they else they might be staying to Palisade and getting them to come here initially and then next time be like I want to oh I want to I’m staying in Palisade next time because then I can drink all the wine or I can hang out at The Distillery longer you know all of those things that we we really love and value here because they come and they see we’re hanging out there we’re having a good time we’re very hospitable and so I think that’s part of the solution is just sharing that culture of Palisade on a little bit broader scale I think there’s a lot of pressure in the community for our businesses and for the chamber um from residents um about what we should be doing and I think we can be better at educating like it’s a long process we can’t make these changes happen and overnight we really want to make sure that it’s a very great space to live and a great space to visit and I know there’s been some friction in the community with um it’s when we have those huge events come in it’s not feels like all of a sudden it’s not a great space to live and they want to leave town or they get frustrated because people are blocking their driveways things like that and we were very aware we we’re really focusing on how can we fix that how can we make it a better solution because we do want it to be a great space for every every one not just our visitors even though we talk a lot about that’s our Focus that’s not our sole Focus we want it to be a great space for our our business members and for our residents so with I think we get a lot of I think businesses hear it a lot from residents and we hear it a lot from residents that those times they’re not happy and that that hurts my heart you know that makes me sad because I want I we really do want a great space for everyone

LM: mhm that’s a tough thing to balance though because you have have thousands of people coming into a community of you know what less than 3,000 people so it’s it it’s going to be friction it’s going to be a balance um personally I love it I love the weekends that are really Lively and then I love how it just quiets down after so personally I like the mix the mix of the two

JB: I really love it too I um obviously I wouldn’t be working at the chamber if I didn’t like the push and the um kind of the constant feeling of what’s something exciting and what’s next um we have no monotony at the chamber that’s for sure it’s different every day um which I love that’s why I love my job so much um and that’s why my employees love their jobs so much too they love that every day is a new challenge um we we do too we love the hustle and bustle with the events we loved like I said this last weekend old fashioned Christmas and the way that we did the layout a little bit differently but the pleasant surprise happened that it did work out the way we kind of anticipated it would and we had tons of business downtown and tons of business at the market I think we have opportunity with other festivals to do kind of a similar thing where we kind of spread it out um to make it maybe a little bit um less of a Major Impact but overall better impact for everyone um but yeah we love the like the drive that comes with these events and then the calm down afterwards um so we can take a little break reset it’s very nice it’s very quiet in Palisade today

LM: yeah

JB: and we’re taking the opportunity to kind of clean up after last weekend um start doing thinking about inventory we did strategic planning with my staff for next year so that they can be on the same page with our board so it allows us to kind of reset and get ready for what’s next

LM: that’s so important and I that kind of leads into a little bit um what’s next so I know one of the things that you’ve been working on is um more of like  Downtown Development district and now I don’t know if and I’ll edit this out if it doesn’t relate but I suspect that it relates to the fact that there are um there’s some frustration with um businesses who want to come downtown being able to find the available space to come downtown and then spaces that are available not actually you know being available for use or being developed um it does it relate to that at all

JB: yeah absolutely 100% um we’re yeah we’re definitely I did a um tour with um GJ Grand Junction economic partnership um a few weeks ago and we just walked downtown and and went through all the vacant buildings and all of the businesses that are up for lease right now or for sale in our downtown area and then we also hit River Road um and looked at that property and um uh so that they could kind of help us come up with a plan but we’re also taking some rural Downtown Development courses so we can look at becoming like an official Main Street um within the state of Colorado we I think might be the only one in Mesa County if we can make it happen

LM: cool

JB: so that would be really exciting for us and then with that we get the tools and the resources available to us to come up with a really great comprehensive plan that helps us um really develop downtown that in a way that’s very sustainable and attractive as well

LM: interesting you know luckily the downtown itself is is pretty full but it’s like as soon as you start getting away a street or two away um there’s so much potential for what could go there

JB: so much potential yeah and I think that bringing all of our stakeholders in to have these constructive conversations several times so we really get an idea of what everyone is wanting what our businesses are wanting what our residents are wanting what the town of Palisade is expecting and needing and wanting um and then the building owners so that’s you know not always the business owner so we need to bring these building owners in as well to say this is our hope and we’re hoping that you’ll work with us on this and um I know over at 305 main we have amazing building owners who are always ready to help Palisade and help us with the next thing um we have a great really relationship with them and we call them often on can we do this what do you think about this they are just even with um holiday like this time of year they’re really committed to like decorating the whole building now and um because they want to brighten things up downtown and make it a very attractive space to come dine in the middle of winter you know it’s dark at 5 o’clock so let’s light it up down here downtown here so it’s more approachable and I like that they’re thinking about those things as well and they’ve given a lot of thought to how they um keep occupancy in that building so it’s half residential and half professional space and um I think it works really really well in that space and um kind of using the model that they have to fill up the rest of the spaces that might not be completely full

LM: interesting yeah so what what what is what would be your vision for a a main Street kind of it’s like a it’s not a certification or what what are they what is it like a designation

JB: yeah I guess yeah a designation would be a great thing to call it

LM: okay so say you get that we get that in town um what does that look like like what would the downtown look like then

JB: honestly it would look like accessibility for everyone um it’s very hard to do in a historical uh area such as ours but I think it’s very possible making sure that sidewalks are clean and level and easily accessible to all is one of my priorities and um I think many of our priorities is making it easy for everyone to come downtown and walk around or roll around whatever they they need to do and um I think that we also have a unique opportunity to really highlight all of our 100 plus year old buildings we just got our official historical plaque and I think we can work towards that for a lot of spaces down here the Packing Shed that sits on the railroad track is on our radar we talk to the Hies often about um like their Vision what what would they want to do with that space and you know it’s complicated it’s going to take a major major renovation to make that a workable space but they’re committed to figuring that out so I’m really happy about that

LM: you’re talking about the like the historic where it says the palisade building what people think was an old train station

JB: they think it’s an old train station and it wasn’t yes yep that’s the space

LM: I love that building I would absolutely love to see something go in there you know my worst nightmare would be that it gets torn down like that would be so sad

JB: no and I know the he don’t want that we certainly don’t want that um and I think we’re trying to take steps to make sure that doesn’t happen there are grant opportunities available for older buildings like that and so we’re looking GJEP is helping us also look at those opportunities so that we can make sure it do does stand and um it is a it’s a really cool unique space inside and we want to highlight that for Palisade it would be a a landmark building for sure

LM: absolutely uh do you have any hints about what they are thinking about doing there that you can share or

JB: no there’s no solid plans right now um it’s just finding the resources so that we can make anything happen

LM: okay okay all right

JB: and they’re I think we’re all open to ideas as long as it’s productive and sustainable

LM: mhm right that makes sense no that’s that’s a hard thing to figure out because it’s going to be a big investment in the building um to probably bring it up to code and put in any sort of you know if you do a restaurant it doesn’t have a kitchen like there’s going to be a lot of work that has to go into it

JB: Millions yeah so a lot of work uh and I think we’ll have to have the right investor or the right grant up for the challenge

LM: yeah yeah but it could be amazing so big part of your role I know is that uh visitors might walk into the chamber and you answer their questions so you probably field a wide range of questions or comments or things 

JB: yeah we joke that we need to start a journal and we joke with the other Chambers as as well that we need to start a journal or some sort of uh running document maybe its own Instagram page or something where we can just put up all these memes of the questions that we get asked it’s it can be quite comical at times

LM: I was going to ask what’s the funniest or most outrageous like complaint that you’ve received or question that you’ve received

JB: we’ve had a lot of questions about um like utilities we get a lot of utility questions um and we’re not we’re not the town we’re not a government entity um

LM: like how do I pay my power bill

JB: yeah how do I pay my power bill um the sidewalk in front of my house or the road in front of my house or the you know the park um things like that so those are fortunately we have a very close relationship with the town and it’s easy to say hey we got this we got this call today and I know you’re working on it but maybe call them back um but we’ve had some people be very insistent or one individual specifically be very insistent that we come remove the bees on their property so um so good thing that we have a great relationship with the insectary and they know who to call and um so again convener right like it’s good thing that we have great connections Community Wide that we can help um when we get some of those interesting phone calls we’ve I’ve also had someone um call or email me I can’t remember asking me to come remove a tree that was the roots were growing up in their Canal or in their pump house I can’t remember the situation for sure so yeah just a lot of questions that we’re like oh my gosh I I I wouldn’t even know how to begin helping you but we always want to help we want to be unreasonably eager to help our community so we always always always try to find the answer

LM: that’s really nice that you don’t just say like sorry that’s not my that’s not my department

JB: I I have a mentality that nothing is not my job and I expect my staff to never if they ever say that’s not my job they’re not in the right place

LM: yeah just just another piece of building that relationship in the community though so that’s really cool um how about like from a tourist is there anything that they’ve walked in and ask for that you’re just like do you know where you are right now

JB: um we actually were talking about this and I don’t think it’s weird at all I actually think it’s something that we as a community could really look at and I have honestly our interns really excited about looking at this right now but um creating kind of a road map of spaces that people can go that don’t include alcohol

LM: oh right

JB: um like I love wine I love The Distillery I love all of those things um but we need to be very conscientious of those that don’t drink and how do we design the perfect day for them as well and so our intern is working on some itineraries right now that are that don’t include liquor alcohol and so I’m really excited to see what he comes up with and I think it’s a very valid question and we get asked quite often um and also it’s often from um older people we have a we just know statistically we have older visitors that come to Palisade and so we see a lot of that foot traffic into the chamber because they are great conversationalists and they want that personal connection and we’re happy to welcome them in um so figuring out things that are not super outdoor recreation either not super active or figuring out Solutions where they can still participate in a lot of our outdoor recreation possibilities um in a way that works for them in their abilities

LM: yeah that makes sense so you’re not just sending everybody down the plunge yeah or anything like that right maybe go to the maybe go to River Bend and kind to bike on that nice paved Trail

JB: yeah

LM: um yeah cool makes sense um yeah so tell me about the other things you’re working on so it sounds like there’s a lot of other things kind of in progress like there’s an app there’s the radio show on um kafm like what other things are you doing JB: yeah we’re about to launch our Pali Community app so we’re pretty excited about that the um adventure Guide that we put out every year that goes to visitors centers all across the state and into um parts of Utah um will also now be digitally available on that app

LM: that makes so much sense

JB: yeah and it’ll be a great space to have a community calendar so people can submit to the chamber calendar will show up on that app it’s a free app nobody has to pay to download it um so we can put QR codes around town and guests can scan it and get the app on their phone and see what’s going on but more importantly our residents can also scan that app get it on their phone and see what’s going on and we’re really excited about that opportunity I think in the past we’ve offered deals and opportunities specifically targeted targeted at visitors and this is we’re hoping that this will be more targeted towards locals

LM: interesting

JB: so we’re excited about that what else did you asked about

LM: uh the radio show

JB: the radio show yeah so Jason Van Hooten with Grand Valley grapes and Grains and I have started a pali and Co um or pali and company radio show on kafm um during the community hour once a month second Wednesdays of the month and it’s going really well we kind of get the opportunity to do this but a little bit quicker 15 minute scale so it’s a quick listen um and we have a lot of fun Jason’s a blast to work with he’s got a great personality so I’m pretty excited that he was kind of his idea and um kafm had been asking me to start a radio show since even before I worked at the chamber and I was really resistant and then when I got to the chamber I certainly didn’t have time initially um so finally they they got me I like to say and it’s been a lot of fun and I’m learning a ton we have the the talbott brothers on our very first show and to see I love the way that they banter back and forth and to see just like their passion and knowledge for all the work that they’re doing was really exciting

LM: that’s cool

JB: I’m so excited to have it and have it running forward so that we can educate the community we are again trying to remain rooted so it’ll be pretty agriculture focused I think um but with that we know that our Growers been like contribute so much to the community so we like to hear how else like other than than growing and focusing on that year round production which it is a year round production people don’t realize it just because they’re not picking peaches right now doesn’t mean they’re not working very hard so helping people understand that and what they’re doing in quote unquote off season and then yeah how they give back to their Community is one of our biggest um focuses of this show

LM: long term like looking back 5 years 10 years from now what would make what would you see in palisade that would make you say okay I did my job I’m happy like I accomplished what I wanted to

JB: honestly we want the chamber to be the trusted resource we want you to come to us when you have a problem and we’ll help you find a solution we may not be able to do it for you but we will help connect you with the right people the right resources to make things happen and I think we talked a little bit about the turnover and the transitions um and it has um not built a strong Foundation of trust with the chamber in the last few years and I think that it’s really my dream and my hope for our community for the chamber to be the trusted resource

LM: just specifically to Palisade businesses what do you think is missing here what would you really like to see in town that we don’t have now

JB: the I kid you not the number one question we get and I know that La Plaza has a similar or some they have a thrift shop over there but we get questions all the time about an antique store or a thrift shop and I think it would like our town lends itself to that so much with all the rich history I would love to see that come in you I can’t even tell you how many times we get asked that throughout the summer

LM: that totally makes sense because when you go to an that’s probably going to pick that up but um yeah not a professional studio here but of course when you go out on a summer drive you’re going out to little towns small towns you want to see what what is they local antique store have yeah what are the interesting things I can find here I can see that

JB: yeah

LM: so all right I’ll go there

JB: I think it would be a great benefit to our to our community honestly and I would also love to see um a space where I’m like I’m sorry I can’t think the heater was a little distracting but I would love to see a um I don’t know how to explain explain this very well um because I only have like examples of names of other businesses like it but um in Cabo Jeff and jody um with spoke and Vine motel and Fidel’s told us to go visit this um working farm there that has a restaurant right in the middle of it and then also has all these boutique stores that kind of line up around it and fresh fried donuts in one little area and you can walk around the gardens and walk around where the where they grow things and you can see where they’re picking your veggies and making your lunch and I would love to see us have a little space like that I think it would be a huge draw to our community and so I’ve been picking on some of our some of our investors some of our Growers to create that space and I’ve even told them where they can do that so

LM: yeah that would be amazing and there’s so many different places that would lend themselves to that sort of function so

JB: I know Talbotts does great job of catering to visitors um they and they have their unique thing with the live music and um football nights and all the things they have going on there Clarkes does an amazing job of that as well with their carriage rides and just their their level of hospitality for both both families is really Beyond none they’re the example we use often but this would be kind of a not a One-Stop shop but a a place where people can see kind of everything that Palisade has to offer in one little space and they can get an amazing meal so that’s the dream right

LM: that sounds lovely that sounds lovely okay so give me the pitch on why a local business should join the chamber

JB: um again we are that convener so the resources that you think you might be lacking maybe we have the way for you to find those and get and get you the information that you need we offer a lot of continuing education monthly as we mentioned we offer great opportunities for you to network and networking in Palisade is the best way to network you cannot beat it we

LM: it’s fun

JB: yeah it’s fun

LM: and productive

JB: we’re the fun one right um we have we have the best people here and I encourage you to join and come out and meet meet our community meet our people because they will help you grow your business I guarantee it if you know them and trust them and vice versa they will help you grow and Thrive so I really encourage you to join the chamber and engage because if you’re not engaging you’re not going to get the benefit for sure

LM: yeah yeah cool okay what else didn’t I ask you that you want to share with people if anything

JB: um I don’t know we talked a lot about tourism and I think we’re very committed and I think I would just mention that I’m taking the Colorado Tourism leadership Journey course right now I sit on our tourism Advisory board so I can be your liaison um I can I can be the voice of local business if you’re ah have an opinion have a a comment have a solution motion um I would love to take it to tab for you um but we also encourage you to come they’re open meetings they are they are part of the town of Palisade so it’s a government meeting they’re open for anyone and anyone can come make public comment so I also encourage you to engage in your community that way um I think that’s what I would say overall is if you are struggling and you have really great ideas and strong feelings about things engage and come see what people what we are working on already um and then maybe it might change your mind about some things I think education is always key like come come engage come see what we’re doing and then please offer your advice because we need we need your we need your input we need your help we need your support so I would just say that I I encourage everyone to get to know their neighbor and engage

LM: that’s a really good point and thank you so much for bringing up tab because it is when I first moved here you know being able to listen in on these things was a really great way to understand what are people working on in the community what what do they care about you know what are their passions and kind of who’s doing what and the great thing about tab I mean the hours are tough I think um but you can always connect by zoom and so you know you can you can be multitasking and working and still listening in if you just want to catch up on what’s Happening like as a resident you can view the meeting on zoom and kind of be doing other things at the same time

JB: I completely agree it’s the only um I think government or town ran meeting that is still available on zoom and I think we um I I didn’t have any say in this but I think that others did kind of push to make that available still on Zoom for that exact reason it is a little bit weird timing weird day of the week um but we want anybody to be able to engage if they they can so we’ve been able to offer that on zoom and you can even do public comment via Zoom

LM: yeah yeah which was different than uh the town meetings you actually would have to go in which makes sense but no I think that flexibility is great because it’s just an acknowledgment that no maybe the time isn’t the best but there still is a way for people to participate and then to make time in the future if you really feel passionately about something you can always go in person but no I’m I’m really glad that you brought up the the tab meetings because um if anybody is wondering what’s happening in town you can find out you know you can call in and find out what are the priorities what are people working on it’s all open for everybody

JB: yeah absolutely and the Chamber we again we’re a nonprofit we’re not a government ran organization but we are a board board ran organization and the same is true there if you have something to say or just want to see what we talk about in our board meetings you’re are welcome to come and observe um and you’re welcome to submit a comment as well so we and honestly I encourage that because we don’t know um unless you tell us

LM: right yeah

JB: we can’t make a change unless we know

LM: right y makes sense well thank you so much for your time I just really appreciate you coming in and chatting with me and I feel like I learned a few things and a couple good reminders too so

JB: I’m geeking out I listen to your podcast all the time so I was really honored that you invited me on thank you so much

LM: aww thanks

JB: to be um sitting here knowing all the guests that you’ve had on so far it’s really humbling so thank you all the Palisade celebrities right

LM: yeah we’re working on it I just unfortunately I don’t have enough time to focus on this like this is all I want to do but

JB: you I can tell you you’re very passionate about it so I’m excited for you and um I think that the work that you’re doing helps the chamber as well because we are the people that you’re interviewing I think are all chamber members we I mean we have a pretty engaged Palisade business community so a lot of our Palisade businesses are members of the chamber and so it helps us kind of educate our community on what our businesses are doing by sharing your podcast so thank you

LM: awesome thank you so much — Jessica has been leading the Chamber for a little over a year and a half, but she has already done so much to grow the local community. What do you think about the Chamber’s goals? What else do you want to see happening in Palisade? Let me know at lisa(at)postcardsfrompalisade.com – we might dive into this more on an upcoming episode. Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.  

E19: Road Trip! Dolores River Canyon Country with Bella Harris of Colorado Wildlands Project

We already have one national monument nearby…what if we had another? Bella Harris of the Colorado Wildlands Project explains why her organization is advocating for the creation of a National Monument for the Dolores River Canyon Country, not only to protect the natural environment, but also to preserve and honor the layers of human history of the area.

Bella explains why land protections for the Dolores have bipartisan support when so little does today. We chat about the most effective ways to change bad outdoors behavior, why no one with water allotments needs to be worried about losing water, and why she’s not concerned about a monument designation “ruining” the area.

Also – listen closely to find out which local winery is extra invested in the effort to protect the Dolores, how you can help, and lots more!

For more about the Colorado Wildlands Project: cowildlands.org

Petition link: protectthedolores.org

Bella’s email: bella@cowildlands.org

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.    

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Transcript:

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

So we already have one national monument nearby…what if we had another? Today I’m talking with Bella Harris of the Colorado Wildlands Project. The Colorado Wildlands Project works to protect wild public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. One of their major goals is creating a National Monument in the Dolores River Canyon Country, south of Gateway. Bella, based in Palisade, is a Wildlands Campaigner.

Bella explains to me why a National Monument is so important, not only to protect the natural environment, but to preserve and honor the layers of human history of the area, from the ancestral homeland of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe to the more recent work sites of the miners whose sacrifices contributed to the Manhattan project. Yes, that Manhattan project!

Bella explains the difference between the proposed National Conservation Area currently moving through the bureaucracy of DC and the National Monument that her organization is advocating, and why these ideas actually have bipartisan support, when so little does today. We chat about the most effective ways to change bad outdoors behavior, why no one with water allotments needs to be worried about losing water – at least, not because of the monument, and why she’s not concerned about a monument designation “ruining” the area.

Also – listen closely to find out which local winery is extra invested in the effort to protect the Dolores, how you can help, and lots more. Let’s take a late fall road trip to the Dolores River Canyon Country on today’s Postcard from Palisade. 

LM: thank you so much for coming in

BH: thank you for having me I’m really happy to be here

LM: I am really I was really excited to talk to you and this is well let’s talk about who you are first so if you could introduce yourself

BH: so my name is Bella Harris my role is the wildlands campaigner at the Colorado wildlands project we’re a very small nonprofit here at based in Grand Junction it’s me and two other employees and overall our organization works to advocate for and protect Wilderness quality and wild public lands that are based in western Colorado

LM: how did you get into doing this

BH: I’m actually really happy that’s your first question I was in college back in Fort Collins I was actually getting my PhD in environmental Communications and science Communications I decided that I didn’t want to be going down the academic route anymore and so I dropped out of school and I quit my job and I moved back home

I’m from Grand Junction originally and so I moved back home here and started working at a local children’s museum here in town just kind of doing front desk management stuff and one day my high school social studies teacher came in and we recognized each other and I told them I said you know this this museum is great but I I would really prefer to be using my Master’s Degree in a job that’s a little bit more fulfilling than this and he said well I don’t know what you’ve seen but my best friend from like back in my 20s is hiring for a community organizer in environmental advocacy you may want to look into it

LM: that is so funny

BH: and I looked it up and that day that he told me was the day that the application for the job closed and so I took the rest of the day to write up an application and I got it

LM: that is wow

BH: and so I I I bring him lots of treats for his family as often as I can because I’m very thankful to him for getting me set up with this job but that’s how I found it

LM: that is so awesome I I mean because there aren’t probably a ton of jobs in that field here in this area it’s not a huge area and then

BH: yeah you know Grand Junction’s really been changing at least from when I went to when I graduated high school here back in 2014 back then there really there was nothing it was a lot of oil and gas jobs around just the economy was a lot more towards that spectrum and honestly since I left and came back it’s incredible how fast the Grand Junction slash Palisade Fruita just the Grand Valley Community has changed as a whole

it is much more environmentally focused now at at least from what I see from where it used to be I mean I go by Trail life brewing in Grand Junction or the Palisade Brewing here in town and I see so many people that are mountain bikers climbers skiers there people that are recreating in the outdoors all the time and so I think there are a lot of opportunities for environmental jobs here I think it when I had first come back a lot of these jobs ebb and flow with the season

LM: yeah

BH: there’s definitely more available at warmer times of the year than there are colder times of the year and that’s just the nature of we’re outside a lot of the time

LM: right

BH: so I think that was my biggest issue there but there’s there’s a lot of incredible organizations here in town that are doing really similar work to us

LM: so the Colorado wildlands project what are are your main goals or what are the kind of main priorities that you’re working on

BH: so our mission really is to protect wild we say wild public lands managed by the BLM in western Colorado so that’s you know Wilderness quality public lands that are protected by Wilderness designations or Wilderness study areas or not protected there’s many many acres of land that are wilderness quality that are not protected

we use a couple different ways to define that there really isn’t a clear definition of wilderness lands but an absence of like a certain percentage of roads like below a certain percentage of roads not a lot of housing development difficult to get to maybe having to backpack into some of these lands it’s just a you know having really really rich ecosystems for rare plants and wildlife all of these are things that can conglomerate together to define wilderness so that’s what we focus on on those lands that are managed by the BLM we work in a couple different ways we work in political advocacy for these lands as well as getting new protections long-term permanent protections designated on these lands

LM: because for somebody who isn’t really familiar with the the many complicated years of land management and land protection I think for just the person on the street they might say oh well it’s Bureau of Land Management land it’s protected already

BH: yeah

LM: but if you have ever been to some blm land you know that basically anything goes

BH: yes yeah

LM: so it is it’s set aside in a like how would you describe like the level of protection it has compared to what you would want it to have

BH: and so I’ll just bring up for for example because this is what I’m hoping to talk about the most is the Dolores River Canyon Country that is surrounding the Dolores River so I’ll I’ll just bring up that area of BLM land for example there are small designated Wilderness study areas throughout the Dolores landscape they sort of go along the river but they’re sporadic they’re not connected and they only again protect little segments along the river not really doing a lot to protect the the river and the surrounding desert landscape as a whole

and so yes those are great they keep future oil and gas leasing from being able to be developed on those lands as well as keeping more aggressive forms of maybe off-road recreation off those lands and it’s some really good longer term protections but on the other parts of that landscape in the Dolores there is active mining operations oil and gas leasing and if you drive through through it you will see a a lot of disruption on the landscape from those operations

and so that is something one of our other employees his name is Soren Jasperson he lives in Steamboat Springs he’s our field director and his main goal is to actually be physically getting through this landscape and documenting some of this damage on some of these lands that don’t have protection yet so that we use real evidence you know and pictures and testimonies to be able to advocate for them and I think that’s a really special difficult job that he has but he does a great job at it

LM: sounds awesome I’ve been over in that area and just exploring that area and it’s so it is kind of it’s hard to get to it’s incredibly beautiful uh it’s disconnected from a lot of major cities it’s mostly off dirt roads and things like that so I think that it’s easy to it’s easy for people not to ever have known that it’s there or to forget about it

BH: exactly

LM: and one of the things that I was really surprised to see in that area is that there’s a lot of like uranium mines and things like that which is interesting

BH: what I think is something really special about the Dolores is not I mean not only is it an incredibly rich landscape and biodiversity but there’s a whole other value to the Dolores and that’s its different layers of history it is the ancestral land of the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and so that’s a huge part of that history there you can go through if you know where to look you can find petroglyphs hieroglyphs throughout the whole area

it’s really really rich in in that in that indigenous history but there’s also a very rich and important history in uranium mining in that area and I think that’s something that you know in addition to all the other values of the Dolores needs to be protected there are many families and bloodlines of people in Naturita near Gateway Nucla that have a very important history where their you know great grandparents great grandparents helped move the US forward in our history and you know whether you want to look at this as a good thing or a bad thing but in our efforts in the cold war and World War II the Manhattan Project was almost solely supplied by uranium that came from the Dolores

I think that that’s one of the biggest I don’t want to say complaints but questions that I get when I talk about our efforts to create a new National monument in this area is people are automatically assuming that we want to erase that history and try to say no we don’t want mining here at all we just want it to have this natural beauty and that’s not the case we do have plans put in place to have interpretive messaging highlighting this history again the you know there’s there’s the scenic beauty but then these different types of human history that are present in the area we really want to preserve that and honor that

LM: yeah that makes sense I saw last spring I think it was last spring there is actually a bill introduced it was bipartisan support from our Colorado lawmakers to create is it a national or natural Conservation Area

BH: National Conservation Area

LM: okay so how is that different from a national monument and what would the path be to create something like a National Monument instead of a National Conservation Area

BH: yeah so what we say is that we love the idea of this NCA being being produced and this and so this NCA is proposed on the area of the dolores is actually more so near the town of Dolores near like Montezuma County actually Dolores County

LM: that’s only a little piece of the river

BH: exactly so and that’s what’s been proposed as the National Conservation area right now

LM: interesting

BH: and that is again a National Conservation Area is a very long-term very durable protection plan for that area but as you just stated it only looks at a very small portion of the river and again what we’re proposing is that we want more of the river to be protected than than just that small area

Overall the Colorado wildlands project as well as our coalition of other conservationists organizations and stakeholders are coming together and asking for solutions that protect the entirety of the lower Dolores River Canyon Country from the McPhee Dam in Southwest Colorado to the Utah state line and that includes lands in Montrose and Mesa counties so that’s all the land of the Dolores that’s near us such as slick Rock Canyon and the hanging Flume Confluence area and all the areas near gateway

so that’s why we wanted to propose a National Monument because really the main reason is that a National Monument is able to encompass more acreage than other protection plans would and we hope to get as much of the canyon land surrounding the river I like to say that because it really kind of is a buffer around the river as as much as possible

LM: even just for the NCA I was really surprised to see that it had bipartisan support because almost nothing does now so why why do you think that is

BH: I think that protecting land surrounding the Dolores River checks off a lot of boxes for a lot of peoples and a lot of political interests so a lot of individual interests a lot of political interests it helps recreators be able to protect the land that they want to recreate on it ensures that you know like us as environmental groups that we have protected wildlands we have protected habitat but a lot of times it also makes sure that water is staying in the area and that it can benefit agricultural landscapes and there’s when you are protecting a river system like that it it really benefits a lot of different stakeholder interests and I was really happy to see that you know several people including Bennett and Hickenlooper both are very supportive of that National Conservation Area that’s really great to hear

LM: yeah one of the articles that I read in the Colorado Sun from last spring also talked about a survey that had been done of voters in the area where over 75% of the people they surveyed were supportive of a national monument in the area which again if you were to ask me just kind of my gut feel I never would have guessed that so it’s really interesting to see that this does seem to be something that everybody kind of can come around and support

BH: and something too I just want to say about that survey 90% of people in that survey said that they wanted some form of permanent protection on the Dolores so even a higher percent were in support of something of a protective effort

LM: that’s amazing and so you know it’s like okay everybody’s behind it the local people want it why can’t what does it take to just make it happen

BH: a lot of these designations that are put in by the BLM Wilderness study areas or the National Conservation Area are done through the Senate however when you’re looking at a National Monument a National Monument can only be designated presidentially it takes whoever is president at the time to sign off and say that they declare an area a national monument

and so what our goal is and I say us and I’m referring to the wildlands project but I’m also referring to the coalition as a whole we are in a coalition of several other nonprofits across Colorado working together towards this effort and we want to create a sense of political inevitability where if it’s President Biden whoever is president after him feels like it’s the obvious choice to do this because they’re they’re hearing about it over and over and over again and because so many people are saying we need this land to be protected that it’s just at the forefront of their mind

so again it’s that it’s that inevitability that we’re hoping to be creating

LM: so how do you do that how do you keep that in front of people and like make them not forget about it other than going on a local podcast

BH: I think that there’s two separate parts to that right there’s grassroots organizing which is a lot of what I do and that’s educating the public on and I don’t like to say educating the public on like the Dolores and why it’s important I I more so like to frame it as though I like to encourage people to see how their own lives and their own livelihoods are connected to this landscape and help them discover that for themselves

it you know it doesn’t work if I if I just go up to you and say you should like blah blah blah River because it’s important and then I say okay sign this that’s not I wouldn’t want that you know and so something that I’ve learned over the years is I think that I’ve succeeded in my goal of organizing in grassroots communities by again helping people develop that personal relationship and even if that takes time sometimes that’s not done in one visit that they have with me at a tabling event it’s it’s them thinking okay well this is my job in this valley how is that connected to what’s going on there this is my family history in this area how is that connected to these efforts that are going on there and if they can think about that more I I have had success you know

and and luckily I am able to show many many people across the Grand Valley pretty quickly how their lives are connected to the Dolores but I think a bigger part of that too is trying to help people families find accessible ways to get out there a lot of people think that you can only get on the Dolores by boating it and that’s not true there’s a lot of easy hikes there’s a lot of difficult hikes there are incredible views you can get by stepping 50 feet out of your car and it’s an hour away from Grand Junction

I say it I’m mainly referring to Gateway that’s a really good kind of starting point to get to a lot of areas great accessible camping and I want people to know that they don’t have to be a world-class rafter to be able to get out there or an intense backpacker to be able to get out there so but then the other part of that where my boss our director Scott Braden what he focuses on more is the the opposite of that grassroots effort which is the grasstops efforts

so a lot more of his work is talking to very influential people in our community whether that’s politicians influential business owners or leaders of other groups organizations coalitions that have a lot of say within the Grand Valley and working with them to try to gain support and if the support is not there to try to find some middle ground so you know he’s the one that’s going out to Denver to talk to our elected officials out there and over to DC to talk to our elected officials out there

and it’s two very different types of organizing and I feel like I always like to say that Scott and I really compliment each other well we have very different skill sets that complement each other but that work really well in those two separate areas of organizing and there’s definitely overlap there

we just had a screening last night of our there was a film that was made sort of talking about this effort to to create permanent protections on the Dolores its called the river of Sorrows and we did have a like a touring of the film a couple months ago but this this one was a little bit later in the season

we had it at the University at Colorado Mesa University and I thought that was a really cool sort of overlap between our efforts to try to gain public support because from my end I had several students and teachers there who I’ve been working with for the students to like problem solve and create their own solutions for challenges in the area and I was so happy that they a ton of them came but at the same time time we had the mayor of Grand Junction there to speak Anna Stout was there and it was a very good mingling of grassroots and grasstops efforts of a bunch of people that have fallen in love with this landscape

LM: there there’s an older movie River of Sorrow that’s out that’s kind of similar but maybe like 8-10 years old or so

BH: I think made back in 2016

LM: 16 okay

BH: they were both made by the same company by Cody Perry he is an incredible charismatic fun-loving advocate for the Dolores he’s an he’s an amazing filmmaker just being able to talk to him is a treat really he’s so passionate and he’s so I’m just going to repeat it again he is the definition of charisma

LM: that’s awesome

BH: and is a really great honestly like spokesperson for for our efforts and so he’s the filmmaker for both of those incredibly kind person he and his wife his wife works at the Dolores River boating Advocates and who is another very big player in our coalition efforts and they both live down in Dolores

you know the film is incredible the river of Sorrows it’s it’s it’s made me cry time and time again especially like the interviews he’s able to get and some of the people that he has speaking in it come with the most incredible stories and the most amazing backgrounds

but at the same time I really want people to remember that you know the film follows two pack rafters people that are trying to boat the Dolores when it is its seven single digit seven CFS and that there is a whole canyon country surrounding that river to explore and that even if the river is not flowing there’s there is so much beauty beyond the river and I hope that people take the time to go out there even if they can’t access the river or if they or if it’s or if it’s not flowing

LM: that’s a really good point yeah that you don’t want people to get too focused on on just the river to the exclusion of everything else that there is around there yeah good point

it’s really hard not to talk about water though and like water in the west and water rights and everything and I think a lot of people when they hear about preserving an area they worry about what they’re going to lose so in this situation though it it seems like well and now correct me if I’m wrong but based on what I’ve read it seems like the water kind of allotments and allocations that are already in place like those can’t be touched those aren’t going anywhere so

BH: you’re completely right it doesn’t matter what kind of protections we get put on this if we got a National Monument to go on the upper and lower Dolores it wouldn’t be changing the flow of the McPhee Dam it wouldn’t be changing the priority that this landscape gets of water coming from the McPhee Dam which in itself is a very complicated issue

a lot of that water you know yes a lot of it is going to large scale agriculture there is also a huge promised allotment that is supposed to be going to the Ute Mountain Ute tribe and their efforts to have clean drinking water and agricultural efforts are they really getting that allotted amount of water not always you know

but it’s not as easy as just oh if we took out the dam everything would be okay you know that would put a lot of communities in jeopardy so it’s a it’s a very complicated issue and that’s why for myself and my organizing efforts I’ve really been just trying to encourage people to find beauty and find positivity and find potential and opportunity in the canyon country and really focus on the canyon country

LM: the other negative and again this is not my personal opinion but just other things that that people say or other concerns that they express when they hear about designating an area as a monument or national park or something like that is like oh there’s going to be tons of tourists they’re going to overrun the place and it’s just going to become another Moab you know like everything everything that I hear is like oh it’s just gonna be another Moab um so how do you like are you concerned about that and then how do you counter that kind of objection

BH: yeah so I’m very happy you brought this up because it’s one of my favorite things to talk about with people when they bring it up to me I want to first say that I completely understand that there are a lot of landscapes across the US in Moab even here in Colorado if we look at Hanging Lake if we look at Maroon Bells you know when I was in college and I was studying in Environmental Conservation we would refer to this as an area being loved to death and that they’re overrun with people

And a lot of people are choosing to make decisions in recreation on that landscape that are not beneficial to the integrity of the landscape or future people wanting to get out and enjoy it this might be my own just blind optimism into the future but I am very I strongly believe that when you have a landscape like this and if we got a National Monument designated let’s just say it happened tomorrow there would be a lot more resources available to create better more effective interpretation in the area that would encourage safe recreation and recreation for the purpose of conservation

and I really I I encourage anybody listening to this to instead of thinking that human impact on a landscape is initially going to be bad and that it is in opposition to environmental protection and to landscape conservation let’s think of it as an influencing factor to conservation human humans belong in nature nature belongs in us

and we if we look at recreation and human impact on these landscapes as something that can be used to benefit conservation and I don’t mean that it’s always going to benefit but at least that it’s an influencing factor and not an opposing factor I think that that could really shift conversations around how we try to guide recreation in a way that it does reach that goal

a lot of my background in my professional background is in Environmental Education and we a lot of times focus on instead of if we see somebody not picking up after their dog if we see somebody with a motorized vehicle in a natural area area instead of just saying oh I’m going to call the ranger on you you’re going to get a fine and get in trouble I’m going to go up and say hey it seems like you’re really enjoying what you’re doing but did you know that you know this is how dog poop being left out could affect the landscape and if you’re coming back here next week like how often do you come out here if you come back here do you want to see that same pile of poop here or a different pile of poop and if your friends are coming out here with you do you think they’re going to want to see that

and I try to encourage people to gain a sense of personal responsibility and and and it doesn’t always work out and I understand that but I really believe heavily in the power of personal responsibility when it comes to sustainable recreation

LM: and I can see how that approach and that attitude would be would still have a lot more success than just yelling at somebody making them feel defensive and angry and like just uh that seems like it would actually get through to more people like you’re not going to get through to everybody but more people than the other approach

BH: and I think the same goes for the Dolores I it makes me really sad actually when I hear people say oh but we don’t want that area to be taken away from us like that’s our special I hear a lot of recreators or just users of the Dolores say oh but that’s like my playground you know where they kind of see it as though they’re like this is an area that not that many people know of and we want to keep it that way you know what are your kids going to say to that I mean like maybe your children you’ll be able to show them cool places but what about their friends what about their future classmates you know don’t you want them to be able to get out there too

and that’s what I like to bring up to people is you know the more people that we can get out on a landscape to recreate sustainably and responsibly and and again a National Monument designation would be able to get more resources into the area to be able to do that better and guide that better I think that’s the best future we could we could possibly want and so that these areas don’t just get ignored and then engulfed in ulterior uses like oil and gas drilling because nobody’s out there nobody sees it happening

LM: good point like share your toys right

BH: yeah

LM: so how can people get involved if they want to help

BH: yes so we do have a public petition that we have available it is you can find it at the official protectthedolores.org

LM: okay

BH: it’s a very easy just online petition you can also put a little blurb about why you love the Dolores and public lands in general that’s a great first step a big part of us being able to succeed in this work is getting enough people publicly voicing their support and that’s a hard thing to do for a lot of people I understand that and so that’s a really great first step

for anybody that wants to go beyond that we are always looking for people who are open to and excited to write letters to the editor to local newspapers like the Daily Sentinel or opinion editorials especially when it comes to LTEs or letters the editor we have drafted ones that we can give you and that you can change up the way that you you want it to reflect your voice and that’s of course just if you don’t think you have the time to write one you know and then we make it super easy just give you the the link that you can submit it to

and that is incredibly helpful because that’s showing a grasstops section of our community which is local news and local you know communications like that showing them that people want this to happen so that’s an incredibly beneficial way that people can help out you can reach out to me and and I can get you set up with that

we you know and if you want to take the time on your own you know write a letter to Senator Bennett or Senator Hickenlooper you know Senator Bennett especially is very very interested in this work we recently did get him out on the landscape in a field trip and he was excited to public to publicly state that he wanted permanent protections on the Dolores and so I think writing to him or to Hickenlooper

I was talking about some of these fifth grade students that I worked with a couple months ago I believe they’re writing a letter to Biden to ask for these permanent protections which I think is incredibly special so those are ways

and then you know if you sign up for like the Colorado Wildland project mailing list we don’t send out a lot but we do send out invitations to any Dolores related events that are going on we try to be involved in every one that’s going on within anywhere near the Grand Valley we can help you get there you know attending those events is a huge way to support us

soon and I’m very happy to actually talk about this this kind of to the public now we are working with a local winery here in Palisade called Sauvage Spectrum to get a custom wine label for the Dolores put on on some bottles and so once that comes out purchasing those 10% of the profits are going to be going to the wildlands project directly that benefits our work into the future

and you know if there’s ways that you you can that you think you can support us in a way that I haven’t mentioned again reach out to me I’ll stay I’ll I’ll stay in contact you can call me you can email me I love to talk with people in our community

I would love to be getting some new pictures from people of the Dolores that we can post on our social media that we can post on our website that we can make fliers out of obviously we’ll credit anybody who sends them to us but I would love to have those or if you you have a unique perspective on the landscape we’re always looking for speakers at different events you can have the chance to speak at some sort of like a storytelling event about your your unique experiences on the landscape so there’s a lot of different ways that you can help

LM: that’s awesome so how can people reach you what’s your I’ll put the link in there in the notes

BH: so you can um email me Bella(at)cowildlands.org I’m not going to put my phone number out there and also just if you look up the Colorado wildlands project website again we’re a very small group of people you’ll pretty quickly find me in the staff page and you can email me through there as well

LM: alright well it’s awesome to talk to you I can tell that you are just so passionate about this and you can tell it really inspires you and excites you to work in this industry

BH: it does you know something that I think inspires me that I’ve gained inspiration for the most since getting this job and being in this land landscape is looking at the issues of access in the Dolores because it just made me really sad to see so many people feeling like they couldn’t really get out onto the landscape because they weren’t able to raft they weren’t able to boat or spend multiple days out on the landscape camping

I mean if you can camp out there oh my god the stars will blow your mind but not everybody has that option not everybody has that ability to access the area in that way I I’ve never boated the Dolores and sometimes you know people are a little shocked by that I work in this coalition and I have never had the opportunity to be able to afford or have the gear to boat the Dolores the only

and I love the area I’ve spent days and days out there but it’s just been through driving around it hiking it seeing the incredible geology of the area the plants and the wildlife of the area seeing some of the very unique ecosystems out there if you all want to look up a really cool thing look up the Unaweep seep so in unaweep Canyon there is a very unique ecosystem called the seep where it’s basically a riparian ecosystem on the side of a hill

LM: cool

BH: and because of water that’s seeping out of the mountain it’s beautiful you know go find those areas

and that’s I think that’s where my passion really comes from is I want people to know that even if getting a National Monument out there takes a long time even if it doesn’t happen we have our own slice of Utah super close to us right there and then we can be supporting local Colorado economies by going there going to the general store in Gateway and I just hope that any of you out there choose to take a day trip out there

LM: yeah yeah perfect fall drive winter drive I mean anytime drive awesome well thank you so much it’s great to talk to you I can’t wait to go back now to go back and just visit again but thank you so much for your time

BH: thank you

LM: When we moved to Palisade, one of the first things I did was pore over the maps of the surrounding area, taking in all the nearby adventures. The Dolores, squiggling through a section of land south of Gateway, tucked behind the La Sals, immediately caught my attention.

Soon after, on a weekend adventure, Paul and I headed that way via Unaweep canyon, through Gateway and what my friend LisaMarie laughed at me for calling Naturita, on our way to some of our favorite mountain biking trails by Norwood.

Have you been over that way? You know when you think an area’s going to be great, but then it’s so much more? Like, how are people not just constantly gushing about this place?

Go check it out, then sign that petition to make the area a national monument. There’s a link to it in the show notes. Write a letter to the president with your kids, with your friends. Wouldn’t it be cool to help make something big happen in our lifetimes?

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E18: Hillary Eales, the Mafia Princess of Western Colorado Wine

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business.

Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own, alongside her husband, Casey. And Mafia Princess Wines was born.

Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a cat that remained unseen, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau-style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family.

And of course, we got into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

For more about Mafia Princess Wines: mafiaprincesswines.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  

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Transcript:

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

What’s a mafia princess doing running a winery in Western Colorado? The name might have started as an inside joke between friends, but the wine is serious business. Hillary Eales spent six years at Meadery of the Rockies, Talon Winery, and St. Katherine’s Cellars before taking the leap and buying a winery and vineyard that she could make her own alongside her husband, Casey. Casey takes care of the grapes while working full time, Hillary takes care of the winemaking and tasting room, and they both take care of a couple sweet kids, an adorable dog, a few sheep, and a bunch of chickens.

Hillary and I tasted some of their Beaujolais Nouveau style Colorado Nuovo in their cozy tasting room while we chatted about her path to the Grand Valley, how she went from EMT to winemaker, the wines she’s most excited about making, why biodynamic principles are a no-brainer when it comes to vineyard management, and about building an intentional community – making your own family away from family. And of course, we get into some of those stories that led to her nickname.

All that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

Also, I had the cutest sound checkers on this episode:

Kids: I love everybody and I love Lucy
LM: you’re silly
Kids: you Lucy
LM: no I’m Lisa
Kids: Lisa Lucy Tucy

(baaaaa)

LM: oh my god

HE: that’s our sheep they’re in the yard right now because we need to move their fence we have like so they we usually run them in the vineyard but we need to move the fence out there so we usually move them up here and then move the fence and then move them back

LM: cool well thank you so much for taking the time to meet with me um I love to just start by having people introduce themselves and what you do and um just like any little bit of background you want to share about yourself

HE: ok so I’m Hillary Eales I’m part owner and wine maker for Mafia Princess Wines um my husband Casey is my partner and he’s still nursing full time but he also manages the vineyard full time so life is a little hectic and then add in two kids that are four and six and that adds to that but it’s great

LM: and some sheep looks like

HE: and some sheep and some chickens and of course a dog and a cat and a whole bunch of vines

LM: so how did you get into owning a winery and making wine

HE: uh so I got into wine via Craigslist so we moved here um in 2014 so it’s been nine years and I was a EMT before so we moved up here and I was going to try to get a job on the ambulance again and then there wasn’t anything available so applied for 911 dispatch went through the whole like hiring process which was like 5 hours of testing a panel interview and an interview with a psychiatrist and then didn’t get the job and by that point they had uh a position on the ambulance open and so I was like oh can I just transfer my application and they’re like no you can’t apply for another public service position for a year

LM: what

HE: and I guess it’s just like government because it’s all a city run and so I was like okay so I’ll just find something for a year and then go back to working on the ambulance and so applied for a bunch of stuff and then saw a position for cellar and grounds like entry level at Meadery of the Rockies in Palisade and I was like oh that’d be kind of cool like we had we kept bees back in Texas before we moved planned on keeping bees again here so I was like well I’ll work there for a while I’ll learn a little bit maybe I’ll learn enough to be able to make my my own honey wine someday and like that’ll be that

and then started working there and pretty soon realized like there’s opportunity to move up into wine making without having to go back to school which was a big deal for me because I’m not super good at school I’m very good at hands-on stuff and and to be able to make as much if not more than you do on an ambulance because with you’re an EMT you make like squat on an ambulance and decided since Casey’s a nurse that it would be nice to not both be in stressful jobs with crazy schedules and so decided to stay there and just kind of see what happened

and so it was really a good experience because Meadery of the Rockies is part of Talon and St Katherine Cellars and so I made the wine for all three and I worked up to head wine maker position and like so in 6 years I think I figured cuz we could ferment all year round because of doing the honey and the fruit so in the six years I think I did about 150 fermentations

LM: wow

HE: which is a lot

LM: that’s a lot

HE: and um and then doing honey wines and fruit wines they both do weird things that grape wines don’t and no one has put a a whole lot of money into like research or anything because there’s just not a lot of it out there and so it was a lot of problem solving and like talking to the lab and being like hey this weird thing happened and what do you think it is and trying to figure out solutions uh which was really fun and but then after like six years my husband he had planned on going back to school to be a nurse anesthetist and so we were going through the pro like he was putting in applications had an interview um the school that he really wanted to go to was in uh Portland and this was like 2020 that he really started doing applications and stuff 2019 2020 and so of course Portland was like burning itself to the ground at that time so he’s like well there goes the top school that I really wanted to go to and then we just started talking you know especially as like covid hit and work became even more and life and everything just became more stressful and he was second guessing staying in medicine anyways and so it’s like all right like if you’re not going to go back to school for this like we got to figure out something else cuz he’s just ready for something different

and uh instead of you know we can either invest in schooling of a different kind or we could find something else to invest in and but the idea was when he went to school I would quit and be home with the kids and so it’s like all right like I still want to make that transition and figure out how to make it work

so I ended up quitting in January of 21 to be home with the kids and so I had about a year and we still hadn’t decided what we were doing with ourselves and and I was doing consulting started a consulting business and so because of that I was at VinCo the wine and grape symposium that Grand Junction does every year in January and I had a booth there and I ran in to Brett Neil who used to own this place and he owns Stony Mesa Winery in Cedaredge and so I was chatting with him because I’ve known him for years and just asked you know how things were going what was new cuz I hadn’t seen him since I had quit the winery and so he told me that he was thinking about selling his place in Grand Junction and I was like huh I was like I didn’t know you had a place in Grand Junction so tell me about it

so he tells me it’s 7 and a half acres has tasting room production area a two-bedroom apartment and I was like huh if you’re thinking about selling we’re thinking about buying and then I went home to Casey and I was like so I told someone we were going to buy their vineyard and we’re going to go look at it tomorrow hope that’s cool with you and you know it was like hindsight like months later that I was telling someone this story and I was like he could have just said I was being crazy and not gone like I’m really kind of lucky that he was game to like even come and look at the place

but we came and we looked at it and just fell in love with it I feel like it’s kind of this like hidden gem of a location like it’s off the beaten path but you can see Mount Garfield the Monument the Mesa I mean it’s just so peaceful and and so we’re like well let’s let’s just see if we can figure out how to make it work cuz if we can figure out the finances on a nursing salary then like we should do it and so it took us about five months to figure out financing it was definitely a struggle and it was there was times that I was like I are we making the right choice like this is this is a huge leap you know what if we try it and totally fail like all all those what ifs you know

and then Casey came home from work one day and he came in and it was like a really bad day at work and he’s like you know what I’m just so tired of being cussed at and yelled at and pissed on and shit on and thrown up on he’s like I’m just ready to work with vines that just sit there and are vines it’s like okay we’re making the right decision like just keep pressing forward through like all the mess

and like even the week of close in was probably the most stressful week of my life like as we like tied up lose ends made sure we had like the cash for the down payment and even like our we worked with an insurance broker to get insurance for the place they were rejected from like 15 different places because we were a new business and new farmers and no one wanted to take a chance and so we got insurance like 30 minutes before our closing time and it’s like

LM: my God

HE: it’s like so crazy

LM: down to the wire

HE: yeah and then of course like you’ve probably bought a house right you know it’s so weird you like go and you sign your name a million times and then it’s like all right you own a home

LM: here you go

HE: really

LM: this is yours now

HE: are you sure and then nowadays like half the time you don’t even get keys when you close like it’s just this whole weird thing but but yeah so we closed and then we came out with with the Neils to the property and opened someone the patio it was this like really surreal like feeling

LM: oh that’s sweet though so sort of like a hand over almost like yeah

HE: yeah and the the Neils were really great like they they included almost all the farm equipment we needed basically all of it a lot of wine equipment that he wasn’t using anymore and so it made it that much more feasible that we were able to roll those equipment costs into the purchase price and um so yeah so it was it was really great

LM: well so what do we have in our glass here like what what kind of wines do you grow what kind of grapes do you grow I mean what kind of grapes do you grow what kind of wines are you making what do we have here

HE: uh so this wine since you said you like red it’s the only red I have right now released this is our Colorado Nuovo

LM: oop

HE: so so we did this in a Beaujolais Nouveau style

LM: that was a very aggressive swirl for people listening

HE: yes these glasses I love them but they’re not the easiest to swirl it does

LM: I am an aggressive swirler oo that’s awesome

HE: yeah so we did this in a Beaujolais style because I I just love the tradition around Beaujolais um you know Beaujolais is a region in France where we named ours Colorado and then Nuovo means new in Italian

LM: mhm

HE: and so the tradition though for the French is that you harvest ferment bottle and release by the third Thursday of November which happens to be Thanksgiving for us is kind of awesome they do a whole race from the wineries to the stores which I think is cool and then it’s supposed to be like a celebration of end of harvest beginning of a new year and so I just love like that whole concept and just the whole concept of having like an easy drinking fun red wine it’s like red wines can take themselves too seriously sometimes and so having something a little lighter and just fun and then this one is a blend of Crimson Cabernet and Merlot

LM: I’ll just slowly swirl it yeah that’s awesome I love Beaujolais Nouveau is so much fun and that would be if we could get more producers around here or more wine stores to actually like stock more varieties that would be really fun because it’s always really fun to just get different you know more than just the George Debouf or you know the one that you can get everywhere like get a bunch of different ones to try side by side and see the variations and

HE: yeah well

LM and actually add this into it

HE: I’m excited cuz um the full monty liquors that used to be College liquors like they’re going to do a Beaujolais release this year and they’re going to feature this our new wine that we just started we started fermentation on September 30th which was actually the same time we started it last year which is kind of fun I thought it would be later this year cuz harvest started later this year it’s a weird year so but he he said the same thing he’s like more people should be doing Beaujolais I’m going to try to like promote it more

and then I had a customer who was talking about how like France has the whole race or I was telling him about that and he’s like oh you guys should get other wineries to do Beaujolais and then do like a bike race I was like that’d be so much fun I was like but

LM: that’d be so cool

HE: it’s November like it could be gorgeous or it could be like

LM: it could be terrible

HE: terrible yeah it would always be an adventure

LM: either mountain bikes or road bikes then

HE: yeah that’s true I’m totally in I love well maybe I should talk to some wi sounds amazing try to get it rolling for next year l this year

LM: oh my gosh yeah if I could oh that sounds amazing totally in

HE: all right well maybe we should make it happen yeah okay I got I wuss when it comes to weather and like biking in the cold like my rule of thumb is it has to be at least 45 and sunny so

LM: 45 is kind of our cut off too yeah sunny you know either way but definitely warmer than 45 cuz below that your hands get too cold no matter how many gloves you’re wearing

HE: I agree yeah I’m I’m solar powered so it has to be if it’s going to be cold

LM: awesome I love it okay I got sidetracked though so like what other kind of grapes do you grow and what wines are you going to make this year

LM: yeah so we have a muscat canelli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot a little bit of Gewurztraminer and Riesling I think that’s all of it and then we we planted Crimson Cabernet and Cab Franc this year and we’ll do some more planting next year but I’m super excited this year because we have more than double the crop than we had last year and a lot of that is like last year the vines were still recovering from the freeze in 2020 we just had we had more time to tend to the vineyard than Brett did cuz this was like low on his priority list cuz he has like 30 acres up in Cedaredge like he was already spread real thin and and so we we do we’ve got more than double the crop which is awesome am uh I’m not sure where I’m going to put everything like if I have tank space but we’re going to make it work but it’s cool because so this year the majority of our vineyard is our Riesling or the largest percentage is in Riesling um and our Riesling was actually planted in 1982 so it’s one of the oldest vineyards still in production in Colorado which I think is really cool

LM: oh wow that is really cool

HE: um I mean the vines are starting to show their age a little bit we we have like a 10 year replanting plan but um but because the majority of it is Riesling then I’m going to split the Riesling this year and I’m going to make a sparkling Riesling which I’m super excited about

LM: awesome

HE: and I still haven’t figured out exactly what method I would love to actually take the sparkly I would love to take half of it and do a pet nat and then take the other half and do like a traditional so you could like have side by side like from the same tank and everything so I think that’d be super cool

LM: that would be really cool

HE: that really depends on my glass company getting me glass on time cuz they’ve not emailed me back

LM: so you bottle age it then or ferment it

HE: so for pet nats the difference between like pet nats and Champagnes is um for a pet nat you towards the end of primary fermentation you go ahead and bottle it and let it finish in bottle and then for champagne you finish primary and then you bottle it and you dose it with more yeast and sugar and then most time with champagne you also age it for 1 to three years I don’t know that I’m patient enough for that or have enough room but um we’ll see

LM: later vintages

HE: yeah like first is just making the wine and then I’ll figure it out

LM: that’s cool so it sounds like you’re doing some more experimental stuff and like some interesting things that other people aren’t necessarily doing doing here

HE: yeah yeah the other thing um that we have we have we did actually just bottle our um our other 2022 red which we’re calling the Tommy Gunner I just haven’t I don’t have labels yet so I haven’t released it but I’m excited like this one we it’s a blend of Suzau and Cabernet Sauvignon and then I have these Flex Cube tanks that they’re a poly tank but the company that makes them patented this polymer that breathes like a barrel so you can mimic like aging in

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah and it’s super cool especially for the Grand Valley it is so freaking dry here that you can’t store barrels dry you can’t like there’s just so many issues you get so much evaporation and so I I think it’s a really like smart way to go you save a lot of water and space and um less chance of bacteria growing in it than you do it with wood and so what I did with this blend is I actually fermented in the tank with oak staves so I could like mimic a barrel fermentation but with a red wine which you actually can’t barrel ferment a red wine because of the skins and seeds like you would never get it out but since it’s a tank I mean it was a pain to get it out but I was able to do it and so and we also left it on the skins we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: wow

HE: so normally you press like at the end of fermentation or maybe two weeks afterwards uh we didn’t press for 10 months

LM: oh wow

HE: and and so like I found doing that like just gives this like really big mouth feel without like being super harsh tannic a lot of Colorado wines do tend to be like really acidic up front especially if they’re young really acidic up front kind of a mid palette gap and then a lot of tannin on the finish and I found during this method like really fills in a lot of that mid palette and kind of rounds out the tannins and stuff so it’s it’s really cool so I think we’ll probably do that with of our reds and this year we actually have enough Merlot to do a straight red Merlot which is exciting last year we just did a dry rosé of Merlot because that was and then the Colorado Nuovo but we have way more this year and it’s like almost like I don’t know what to do with all my Merlot right now

LM: awesome I love Merlot um but yeah it sounds like you’re just you’re kind of flexible based on what you have and that’s interesting just to kind of say like okay here’s what I have what am I going to do with it and just always kind of of coming up with new new solutions or new ideas for what you have

HE: yeah and I I think it’s fun too because we’re we’re small enough and we’re not distributing I mean we’ll probably eventually distribute and have like a few main stays like we’ll always do a Nuovo we’ll probably always do like a dry Rose of Merlot and um a Rielsing but then like I just want to kind of do whatever you know depending on growing season what we what we have in stock what we I don’t know get a wild hair and decide to do something crazy I don’t know we’ll see

LM: well okay so I know when you’re naming your business there’s so much thought that goes into it like I’ve named a lot of things and you just like think and think and think about like what’s the best name so I I’m just so curious about you know I’m sure everybody asks but what’s a mafia princess doing in the Grand Valley you know so much of the Wild West is like cowboys and Native Americans and prospectors and miners and like probably people running away from the mafia like honestly there are probably a lot of people who were just like I got to go west to escape what’s happening in my life but so yeah so how did you come up with a name and uh why did you decide to kind of bring that um that like different lore to the West

HE: yeah so we um my great-grandparents immigrated from Italy and every time we go back to New York to visit you always hear all these crazy Mafia stories and like one time I was driving around with my aunt and my grandma who still lived there and they were talking about how like the Russian mafia had moved in and how terrible it was because they didn’t have the same ethics as the Italian mafia and it was causing all kinds of problems and I was like 16ish at this point so really understood all the ramifications of those other stories I’d heard over the years and so I was like wait like those stories were true my grandma’s like oh yeah then I heard more stories

and so I told a friend and she nicknamed me Mafia princess and so just and it kind of stuck and so when we were um starting the winery and even before that we kicked around like if we ever started a winery like what would we name it we kicked around some ideas and it was actually Casey who was like well it’s obvious you just name it Mafia princess like I was like really like are you sure and then as we actually started a winery it’s like all right I guess like we’ll go with that and then it’s actually been really fun cuz as I share stories um I get other people’s stories

so like our Merlot Rose that we have I named it wedding day Rose and I named her that to share the story of how my grandparents great- grandparents got married cuz they actually had an arranged marriage after immigrating so 1920s New York they had an arranged marriage and supposedly like how it happened is the families arranged it and my Grandma Rose got all dressed up and my uh grandfather Joseph had the chance to look at her and decide if he really wanted to marry her

LM: like just look at her

HE: yes

LM: don’t talk to her just look at her

HE: and so I guess he liked what he saw and they they got married and had five kids and stayed married for 60 some years til he passed away so it worked um I mean it’s a family tradition I’m glad to not carry on like I can’t imagine but um but yeah and then I I’ve so I’ve told customers that and then I’ve had lots of them be like oh yeah like my grandparents or great-grandparents immigrated and several of them have had arranged marriages either before immigrating or like after immigrating and like one one customer was telling me that that was really common then around immigration just because of financial reasons and making sure if you pool your money together you’re more likely to succeed and be able to make it and so it just kind of interesting

and then hearing you know other people’s stories been really fun um and also just digging into my own family history and you know like I actually knew both my great-grandparents which I feel very fortunate because most people didn’t but like digging into and really thinking about the timeline of everything of all those stories I heard you know because it’s like if I I’m pretty sure my grandma said that my great-grandmother Rose was like 16 when she got married which isn’t an uncommon for that time frame

LM: yeah back then

HE: but then the the other story that I love is that before she got married um she had a mafia Don who was interested in marrying her and her family didn’t want her to marry him and so they hid her in the mountains of New York for like 9 months

LM: oh my gosh

HE: and so then I’m doing math and I’m like wait like if she got married at 16 and she had a mafia Don interested for at least 9 months before that she was probably like 14 15

LM: oh gosh

HE: and then I’m like well maybe that’s why they actually did the arranged marriage just to make sure like she’s off the market

LM: let’s get her married wow yeah that’s fascinating man and so one of the things you say on your website is that you want to like reclaim the idea of family and loyalty and excellence and you know all those kind of things that were maybe like a little twisted by that concept of family so I thought that was really interesting

HE: yeah that was one of the things when we we bought this place and we were um really talking about it and my husband and I are both Christians and so we were praying about it and praying about like whether we should do this and what this would look like and decided you know it wasn’t just about building a business and a winery and you know those things are great but it’s like building community and providing a place that people can go and like have some peace and like just a little haven from the craziness of the world and and building that sense of community in family and I think especially after covid I I am an introvert by nature and was going crazy during covid like and realized how important community is

LM: same

HE: and how little community people have these days especially when you take work away a lot of times that’s the only community people have is at work and so it’s like we really want to build that community that family you know that that family that’s not blood and neither of us have family here like nowhere close to here and so we’ve really had to build that community and it’s not easy to do and so being able to provide a space for people to do that I think is also important

it’s actually really cool like we did for Wine Fest we did this big Italian family style dinner and we set up on our patio just like one long table and we had 28 people and I made like a bunch of family recipes and like it was super fun and there like so many people afterwards are like we either said like they never experienced something like that or like there was a lady who she told me after for the dinner she’s like you know I come from a Mexican family and this is what Thanksgiving looked like every year and just brought back memories from that or like one guy that said he was stationed in Russia and they would always do like a big meal for Thanksgiving with all the other guys and that sense of camraderie and family like away from family and he said like he hadn’t experienced anything like that since being in Russia

LM: oh wow

HE: and I was like that’s so I mean it’s so sad on one hand and then I’m like like I’m so glad you could find that here you you know

LM: you can provide that same feeling that’s really cool

HE: yeah and it’s just it’s so I think it’s just so necessary a lot of people don’t get that from their own family

LM: yeah absolutely no and you know I had a very similar experience during covid I always thought I was an introvert and you know didn’t wasn’t really was way really totally too focused on my job and to the exclusion of anything else and yeah that made me just realize that that was not important at all and the most important thing was having a community that made me feel happy and like I could give back to other people and help people and you know just have fun together so I totally feel you um that was a lot of the reason I want to start the podcast is like well let’s get people meeting their neighbors and hearing from other people in the community that they haven’t maybe heard from finding out what’s going on and then finding about these places that there are that that they might you know like fit with like this might be exactly what they’re looking for so I totally hear you there and that’s that’s really cool to have that opportunity and then to get that feedback from people that it’s like you’re having the impact that you wanted to have

HE: yeah

LM: that’s cool

HE: yeah it was it was a really cool experience I like one point while we were serving the dinner I was like paused for a second while I’m like going crazy in the kitchen and it’s like hearing people just constant chatter and laughter and it’s like okay this is much like well worth the effort and you know and it was stressful cuz it was the first one but it was it was so rewarding

LM: are you doing any kind of regular events or anything like throughout the season I know we’re at the end of the season here but

HE: yeah so during the season we did sunset sips where we stayed open until a little after sunset cuz the sunsets from our patio are just amazing and we’d get a food truck out and we did so we do that the last Friday of every month and we’ll do that again next year and then we might try to do it twice a month like we’ll see it’s so it’s so hard when you’re starting a business to be like what works what do people want like we found out July is a terrible month to do something outside like no one came cuz it was so blazing hot

LM: right yeah and sometimes there’s just so much going on that it is it’s hard to yeah it’s hard to kind of compete with everybody

HE: yeah

LM: too um well that’s cool though I’m I’m excited for that I’ll look forward to that next year um are you going to do any more dinners like that or you think maybe just around winefest

HE: we’re actually thinking about doing one in the spring as well and then so we’ll do the annual around Wine Fest and then do one in the spring um probably in May I don’t really know I got to figure that out and then we we did our grand opening let me think when it was it was um May 22nd and so so we’ll probably do like an anniversary thing then and it’s actually kind of cool cuz we closed May 25th so it’s almost like a year from the date that we closed we we were able to do our grand opening and

LM: wow

HE: yeah and then it’s also like crazy when it’s like we do our grand opening it’s like oh my gosh I can’t believe we’ve had this place a year already you know that we’re already in our second harvest is just insane but you know time flies when you’re having fun

LM: yeah right now the tourist season is kind of winding down a little bit but you are I mean when you own and run and a winery and a vineyard you are just shifting into like your most busy wine making time right now right so do you think like through the next few like months and winter and everything you’re just going to be focused on like making wine and working on getting all of that stuff into whatever it needs to get into

HE: yeah the the goal for us is to have the bulk of wine making done by Thanksgiving and then and some of that is like getting the Nuovo done and in bottle um we last year we bottled uh November 22nd and released it the 23rd which was the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I mean like we just got it done in time I would like to maybe have a little bit more leeway this year but we’ll see how it goes but then we can hopefully take some time off in December you know I also though probably what’ll happen is I’ll do most of my wine making get the bulk of it done like I said by Thanksgiving and then December is going to be like catching up on computer work I have like this whole list of like okay I need to deep clean the house the house is a disaster um make sure everyone’s got clothes for winter like I’m realizing as it gets colder I was like my kids don’t have any warm clothes

LM: just life maintenance

HE: yeah life stuff it’s like the other day cuz this last week was like we harvested all of our Merlot and it ended up being like 5 days straight of harvesting and then processing some of well processing all of it so it ended up being like 5 days straight harvest and then the nights we were processing usually what happens is we pick all day and then we like have dinner and hang out with the kids put them to bed and then we process our grapes after we put them to bed and then we’re up till like 1:00 at night and then get up the next day and harvest again we were able to like break up to where we were processing grapes every other day so there was only like three nights that we were up till midnight 1:00

LM: oh my gosh

HE: um and then when we hit Sunday we like like we’re going to sleep in and then we’ll just finish it we were picking till 7:00 at night like but we finished but yeah by like Sunday I was like I have no food in the house like nothing I was like I need to at least go to the grocery store and get something I bought pizza that’s what we had so

LM: hey that works

HE: that works

LM: totally so you don’t have anybody who works for you at all

HE: no it’s just us yeah and it’s it’s worked out okay um last year was a lot more manageable with just the two of us and and we were able to get a lot of like friends and stuff that came out and helped and um this year we have more than twice as many grapes which adds you know more than

LM: twice as much work

HE: and then um Casey’s schedules really sucked at the hospital cuz we could we’d only pick around the days he was off and last year he was off a lot more weekends and then of course it’s easier to get help on the weekends and so it’s it’s been really challenging and then we’ve had the tasting room open too

LM: right

HE: and so that so whenever we’re open in the tasting room that pulls me away from helping pick um and so actually starting last week what we did on Wednesdays because we’re only open Wednesday through Saturday we just decided like to try to keep our family life work balance like we had we could not be open seven days a week there’s just no way especially with Casey working a whole another job

LM: yeah makes sense

HE: um and so Wednesdays and Thursdays are pretty slow and so we put a sign on the door saying we’re out harvesting like I’ve got a cooler of wine out in the vineyard you’re welcome to come out and have a tasting among the vines

LM: that sounds amazing like that sounds really fun

HE: yeah I was like and it was like this last minute thing that I was like we’re just going to do this and then it was like this super like sunny hot day and so and we had people that came and there was two ladies that braved the heat and they’re like no we want to stay in the vineyard this is super cool we’ve never been this close to vines and to grapes like and they were like all into it and then other people were like no I want air conditioning which I totally get like totally again so we we’re like okay we’ll do a little bit better this is a good idea for the week we’ll get like one of those canopy tents bring a table out you know have some shade it’ll be fine like

LM: I love the idea

HE: we’re building yeah

LM: no I mean what a good way to balance because like that was going to be one of my questions for you right you have to figure out how to balance everything like when I got here you’re in there like you’re punching on the grapes they like I’m going to take these five minutes to just do this so you have to be creative too with your time and and how you are balancing everything right

HE: yes and it’s hard and it’s I remember last winter cuz winter is slow and especially last winter like we you know no one really knew about us we did go ahead and starting in December cuz we had we had one wine and then I just did two like guest wines from other Colorado wineries which I I would like to always have a guest wine because there’s so many other great wineries and I’ve received so much support support from the industry over the years it’s like I want to give back

so we did we opened up on Saturdays last year because we’re like we’re here anyways cuz we live here and so we might as well like try to be open and make some money but then it’s like this year we’re like we don’t know what to do and then figuring out that balance you know we go through harvest and harvest is this like super intense time of work for us and it’s super hard on our kids you know we we try really hard to involve them as much as possible but I mean last week was kind of like they they we all hit a wall let’s just be honest we all hit a wall last week by the end of it

and so then in the winter months though it’s like all right things have slowed down especially for a Casey since the the deal is is like I do the wine making and run the tasting room and he does the vineyard work which is great cuz like I said I’m a wuss when it comes to weather so he’s perfectly happy going out when it’s like freezing and doing whatever he wants to do like that’s good but the winter we try to like spend more time as a family and go do stuff and and even like my son had a really hard day the other day with how busy we were and I was like remember though like winter is coming you know things will slow down it’ll be okay

and I remember last winter like having all this time and I was like I feel like I should be doing something like we just started this business but we’re only open one day a week and we have a good friend who owns a construction company like a very successful one in town and he’s I don’t even know how long he’s had it like a long time and so I told him I was like you know all these people say when you start a business you’re working like 15 hours a day 7 days days a week for the first like five years and just like all this stuff and he’s like those people are just full of BS he’s like it might feel like that sometimes but it’s not you’ll just burn out if you do that he’s like there’s seasonality to your industry enjoy the downtime and then when harvest comes around again remind your kids that downtime is coming and take the time to spend with your family and enjoy it and he’s like don’t worry like the busyness is coming I was like okay

LM: that’s really good advice

HE: it was really good I was feeling anxious it’s like everyone is telling you like it’s so much work and it is but it is seasonal and when you can take the breaks you got to take the breaks

LM: yeah recharge definitely prioritizing yourself too because like you said you’ll just burn out because there’s so much to do sometimes that yeah yeah that’s really good advice awesome well I’m glad winter’s coming

HE: yeah I know so as much like harvesting is a lot of fun even though it’s a lot of work it’s also really exciting exciting and of course it’s you know it’s seeing the fruit of your labor labor like really

LM: literally

HE: literally and you know like getting I was even joking with my husband I was like oh yeah we we turn water into wine just like Jesus we just have a lot more steps than he had like um but it is it’s like super fulfilling so as hard as it is like physically it’s like all right go to bed at the end of the day try not to think about all the things I didn’t get done

LM: yeah

HE: and just be like all right just chill and it all it all gets done somehow

LM: yeah

HE: like it always does

LM: if is important

HE: yeah

LM: it does so technically we’re outside Palisade here and this is you know Palisade podcast but I feel like if anybody who’s on you know the fruit and wine byway or part of the wine country it’s it’s all part of Palisade really it’s part of the Palisade vibe so one of the questions that I ask everybody on the podcast is what’s your favorite thing about Palisade or what’s your favorite part of Palisade so I have to ask you that too because uh I really like to see everybody’s responses and how they’re similar or different so what’s your favorite thing about Palisade

HE: so you know cuz I worked at Meadery of the Rockies for six years and one of the things that I loved about working there is we didn’t grow any of our own grapes we worked with several farmers like Talbott’s and bookCliff and Plum Creek sometimes too and so I I loved I love the community and I still do like the people the farmers they’re there’s just this whole like culture around agriculture that I just think is amazing and it’s so fascinating to me having grown up in Texas and in Amarillo where it’s a lot of agriculture and then we actually lived in Dalhart for a little bit which is this tiny town just Northwest of Amarillo where like there’s three industries it’s farming the hospital and the school like everyone works at those three places and agricultural people no matter what they’re growing the culture is still the same and so coming here and like being you know part of this like farming community just like it was like instantly like home you know and um and I love that and I love like the cooperation between you know the majority of wineries want to help each other and are you know into that that whole idea of like the ship rises with the tide you know all ships rise with the tide and like helping out everyone and you know there’s there’s some outliers but of course that’s in any industry you know

but it’s like I bought some fruit this year from Whitewater Hill we got some muscat um because our Muscat like we already sold out of it because it was so popular and we don’t grow very much of it so they had some extra I was like yeah I’ll take it and then Chloe their wine maker a day after we got the fruit she called or texted and she was like oh she called and she’s like hey like just want to make sure everything like went well you know the Talbott’s got you the fruit okay cuz they were the ones delivering it um and processing and everything went good I was like well actually like we blew the bladder in our press while we were processing

and she was like oh she’s like well just bring the fruit over here we’re going to finish up pressing our Moscato um in you know a couple hours just bring the fruit over here and we’ll help you press it and I was like oh my gosh yes please like thank you you know and went over she I mean it was her equipment so she had to but she helped press it helped clean everything you know it was just like stayed late I’m sure to help me out and then even the next week she like checked in and she was like hey were you able to get a replacement for your bladder for your press you know it’s just just like that that community

and even like we we still needed to bottle the last of our red and again like having issues getting glass and so I was like hey you guys have some extra bottles and they’re like oh yeah just like when you get your glass in replace it and picked up 60 cases of glass so I could bottle glass you know it’s it’s that kind of like like neighbor teamwork you know thing it’s like yeah and in one sense we’re competition um but I always view it as like a friendly competition you know it’s like they send people my way all the time I tell people to go over there all the time

LM: absolutely

HE: you know and especially for the the wineries that are on this side of the valley like we kind of got to help each other out you know cuz we’re kind of isolated from relative I mean I always think it’s silly when we live in Grand Junction and I’m like hey like talking to some friends like hey we want to go to Peach Street Distillery and they’re like oh it’s all the way in Palisade it’s so far away

LM: oh my God I do that I do that though already with like Grand Junction and Fruita so I know it’s really silly but yeah I was like

HE: it’s like 10 minutes like you can drive that far it’s okay

LM: I was thinking oh this is going to be a half an hour away it took me 10 minutes to get here it’s just like mentally far but it’s not far

HE: no

LM: at all

HE: no it’s not and then um and I guess some of it’s just perspective like growing up in Amarillo we lived outside of town and so it was like 20 minutes to town and when you’re used to that like driving from Fruita to Palisade it’s like eh no big deal like right I’ll do it I’ll go bike in Fruita and then have a drink in Palisade totally fine

LM: so is there anything else that you want people to know about you or your family or the winery that we didn’t already touch on

HE: I think I guess the other thing that we’re doing that I’m really excited about is having our chickens and our sheep and adding some like biodiversity to the land I was actually I was listening to your podcast with Scott over at field of fork and explaining like the whole biodiversity and um biodynamic farming and and I love Scott like listening to him is great he’s such a great guy I was like huh I learned a lot listening to it too

it’s like but for us so we started we wanted to get the chickens just cuz my husband I don’t know he’s got a thing for birds like I’m not a bird fan but he likes birds um and the sheep I really wanted and because I think it’s just cool that you can run sheep in your vineyard and they help with weeds so you don’t have to spray for weeds

LM: that’s awesome

HE: and they even help if you train your vines at the right height they’ll like trim off the leaves but they don’t eat the grapes at least so far I mean we pulled them we pulled them out before the grapes were ripe

LM: like just in case

HE: yeah just to make sure and so they they actually save us a lot of work and I just I think that’s really cool and so like when we had um bees back in Texas we learned a lot about about bees and my husband’s the type when he gets into something like he like researches and does all the studying which is great then I don’t have to so when we got bees like he was like learning about like how terrible monocrop is for bees and how bees really reflect the health of the land and how biodiversity for a land is really important and so when we started the vineyard we’re like okay how can we add biodiversity we can’t rotate crops so having animals helps and then doing cover crops so we planted clover in the vineyard and we’re trying to get that to take off and you know things like that it’s like I don’t know that we’ll ever like actually go for a biodynamic certification like right now we just need to learn how to grow things

I just think that the whole concept behind it makes a lot of sense just like on a I don’t know intuition level you know like I don’t know all the ins and outs like Scott does it’s like that’s why listening to that was like fascinating

LM: yeah

HE: and there’s so much to learn about it but it’s like well if it makes sense then we should just do it and then we’ll figure out the details later so

LM: totally and something like having sheep like prevent you from having to spray pesticides and things like that like that is amazing that’s a no-brainer

HE: yeah

LM: good all around saves money like saves time saves spraying pesticides everywhere um that’s really cool yeah he was fascinating to talk to you he just like you know he’s like and another principle rule blah blah blah

HE: yeah

LM: founded by blah blah blah I’m like okay I don’t know how you remember all this stuff right okay

HE: yes no and I think especially like you know my my husband was was researching about spraying and like all that kind of stuff and about how Roundup is used everywhere and it is very bad for

LM: I’ll move over so he doesn’t to get in here he’s a very sweet dog he is a very sweet dog he came out to me when oh my gosh look at those eyeballs

HE: yes if you look at our reviews they talk more about him than our wine

LM: I noticed that they’re like whiskey the dog is amazing and the stories are amazing and the wine’s amazing and it’s like great family friendly or family atmosphere

HE: yeah but

LM: but anyways sorry

HE: so um so he was he was researching about Roundup and how they’ve like they’ve already outlawed it in Europe and he’s like you know it’s just a matter of time before they do that here like we already didn’t want to spray it it’s very like vines are very sensitive to it anyways

LM: yeah

HE: and we also have kids and we have animals and so it’s like it’s eventually probably going to be outlawed here you know banned here we might as well start practicing

LM: yeah

HE: and making like just good good practices start out that way right

LM: so you’re not dependent on it yeah

HE: you can find find us on Instagram and Facebook Mafia princess wines and our website is Mafia princess wines.com so it’s consistent across the board that name was not taken by anything and so it worked out well and um and yeah and like I said the tasting room is open Wednesday through Saturday that may change with winter we still have not figured out what we’re doing this winter um we are kicking around the idea of doing like a cigar and wine night

LM: awesome

HE: I don’t maybe like Thursday or Friday evenings like sit out on the patio have a cigar with your wine

LM: I’m looking forward to hearing about the events and just seeing how you guys grow and I’m really excited to taste the new wine that you the new red you have coming out so yeah um we’ll definitely come back and check that out cool thank you so much for your time yeah thank you too this was awesome it’s really cool hearing your story and just everything you’re doing it’s exciting

HE: thanks I appreciate it yes it’s been it’s been quite the journey

LM: Check out Mafia Princess Wines at 221 31 3/10 RD, GRAND JUNCTION, CO

And before we go, how about a little more from those adorable sound checkers?

(kids)

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E17: Art and Real Estate in Palisade with Tammy Craig of Fruit & Wine Real Estate and The Craig Gallery

If you live in the Palisade area, Tammy Craig probably knows what the inside of your house looks like. Twenty years of helping people sell and buy houses will do that to you!

An entrepreneur at heart, when the space next to her brokerage, Fruit & Wine Real Estate, became available, Tammy also added gallery owner to her resume. The Craig Galley recently had their grand re-opening, with a new format, new artists, and new hours.

I caught up with Tammy in her office in downtown Palisade to hear more about her art and the artists who are showing at The Craig Gallery. We also talked about her path back to Palisade, why Palisade is such an unusual place to buy and sell real estate, and the surprising reasons that she, as a seller of real estate, isn’t very into subdivisions, Airbnbs, and VRBOs.

We also touched on the tensions that long time residents have felt as so-called city people (like yours truly!) have moved into Palisade over the past few years. But not in a Facebook-comment kind of way – in a thought-provoking way that should make us newbies pause and realize that, if we’re very lucky, we’ll be saying the same things twenty or thirty years from now.

For more info on Fruit & Wine Real Estate: fruitandwine.net or The Craig Gallery: craiggallerypalisade.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.

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Transcript:

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

If you live in the Palisade area, Tammy Craig probably knows what the inside of your house looks like. Twenty years of helping people sell and buy houses will do that to you.

An entrepreneur at heart, when the space next to her brokerage, Fruit & Wine Real Estate, became available, Tammy also added gallery owner to her resume. The Craig Galley recently had their grand re-opening, with a new format, new artists, and new hours.

I caught up with Tammy in her office in downtown Palisade to hear more about her art and the artists who are showing at The Craig Gallery. We also talked about her path back to Palisade, why Palisade is such an unusual place to buy and sell real estate, and the surprising reasons that she, as a seller of real estate, isn’t very into subdivisions, Airbnbs, and VRBOs.

We also touched on the tensions that long time residents have felt as so-called city people (like yours truly!) have moved into Palisade over the past few years. But not in a Facebook-comment kind of way – in a thought-provoking way that should make us newbies pause and realize that, if we’re very lucky, we’ll be saying the same things twenty or thirty years from now.

Keep listening to hear all that and more, on today’s Postcard from Palisade.

TC: I’m Tammy Craig that’s it that’s how I would introduce myself I don’t usually lead with what I do okay I usually just lead with me so

LM: always have the train in the background so what do you do

TC: I’m a Realtor first I’ve been a fruit and wine real estate opened in 2004 in the part-time chamber of commerce building that was over in the old bank building and my broker came from ReMax Two Rivers and she wanted to open out here so her and I opened the office and then I bought it from her in 2007. and I’ve been doing that ever since we were over by the distillery in the old train depot over there

LM: that would be a cool office location I love that building

TC: it’s a cool building so the the guy who bought it was run down and he redid it and he was a builder and so we worked for him for a while but it was a real fun place to be and then the distillery came in shortly after that and grew their business right there and the worst part about it was the train because you get fight or flight right there so the door my door was right there and I think I’m okay I’m okay but you’re right in that pattern

LM: oh yeah T

C: and I would have to fight the urge to go I need to run now so we did that for a long time and then it was two thousand ten nine um Diana Fritzler and Mary Mansfield who are friends of mine had the Twisted Brick Art Studio here Dave and Mel Treadway own the building and they bought it he put his workshop in the back and the artist came here my lease was up over by the distillery so um they asked me if I would put my office here so we were up front where it is now and then when they left there was a Etsy shop over there

LM: okay

TC: for a couple years very busy Etsy shop but it wasn’t open to the public it was all mail order stuff and then when they left I talked with David and Mel they said we don’t care what you do you just do it and so I thought okay I’ll put it put a gallery over there and so we opened as an exhibition space in 2016 on that side so real estate comes first it’s the one that supports and sponsors the art gallery and um and then I’m an artist so I we just did that and we did exhibitions and anybody could enter and we had themed shows so um I think it’s still going to be on our website when we revamp if people want to look at past exhibitions they’re very cool and um so we were doing that

LM: okay so how did you decide to open a gallery like how how was that something you always wanted to do or what

TC: I’m an entrepreneur first I thought you know as I I was a librarian in the past in a past life and I when that you don’t make much money doing what I was doing which was in a small town in Grand Lake and then I was librarian in Granby and um the opportunity to be a computer consultant came up because there wasn’t anybody to do it so we had to take our library computers and haul them all the way to Denver haul them back and I was like well that doesn’t work so I just started kind of teaching myself how to how to work on what we had then I had people start asking me to go home with them and help them and so I started doing that at night and then I switched over to doing that I did that for about three years IT stuff

LM: okay

TC: in Grand County and then I bought a restaurant

LM: oh my gosh

TC: I just and that’s when I went I think I’m an entrepreneur because you know opportunities arise and you go hmm I think I could do that I I fully understand when I can’t

LM: yeah

TC: an opportunity arrives and I go yeah that’s a good idea but it’s not for me but I Mary and Diana encouraged me I’ve been painting and drawing since I was little but um so I talked to Diana and she said well you can’t you’re not a serious artist until you have at least 15 uh pieces so I set about doing 15 pieces once I did that I went okay all right so I was actually in the Blue Pig Gallery for a while I did that for a year okay but it kind of interfered with my real estate practice which is where I make money so I when this came open I was like okay I’ll just invite people to come here so I can do my real estate practice and play art for a little bit

LM: yeah right next door that’s really nice that’s convenient

TC: it’s really nice yeah

LM: and I did see all the past shows on still on the website

TC: did you see the fear one

LM: I didn’t look through the I didn’t look through that one should I check that out

TC: yes it was on the first one so the first one we did was flowers and then mud and then I did a fear show in in October I’ve had two of those but the first one was the best one for sure we had a when you do it that way it’s younger artists who are poorer so they just can pay the entry fee for three months and do it you know this is a different type of gallery operation the format is different but so I had young so I had machetes not machetes um what you cut chicken up with

LM: oh like a oh gosh

TC: what are they called

LM: I want to say hatchet but that’s not right either like a cleaver

TC: cleaver

LM: okay

TC: and uh some young artist did like tattoo work on cleavers and they were in a box that was beautiful and I had some gourd work and Jasmine Maples is one of the first ones that came with me and Sandy McCabe she was a client of mine from real estate and when I sold their house I was kind of helping them move a little bit and because she’s a friend and I was like why aren’t you showing this stuff so she came in with us and there were some people who who you know on and off there’s about three or four of them that are in there now have shown with us on and off over time so it was fun

LM: yeah and I love an idea of just here’s a topic and seeing how everybody interprets it

TC: so normally I did this um cars and stuff but then when I started doing themes like one of them Jim Cox he’s lived here for a while and he’s a photographer he’s I think he’s retired now but he used to do all our real estate uh work and took our office photos and a lot of other photos so we did a five five photos so the artist had five photos as reference of Jim’s and then everybody did something and so that’s one of those I had just come from Washington DC and the Hirschhorn Museum of Contemporary Art uh Smithsonian Museum I was inspired so that’s uh bubble wrap and uh he had a photo that had it was winter photo and it was leaves that were crystallized over rocks at like a dry stream bed and so I fussed about and fussed about and I went oh bubble wrap that’ll do it and so anyway that this one is we had had two Masters shows and so that is in the style of Lautrec Toulouse-Lautrec he painted on cardboard very loose and did oil color almost like watercolor so it’s very thin lots of layers and so that was fun I would have never done that if we weren’t doing themes so we’ve had cubism a bunch of different stuff so it was fun um but then when I was thinking okay it’s a lot of retail space and it’s needed to make more money per square foot so came back from somewhere and I heard Kay was on the loose and so and so we talked and she said she’d be interested and I said why not

LM: yeah

TC: I have the space so um this is where we are

LM: yeah so you recently closed and remodeled or spent a month remodeling and just reopened today

TC: yeah do you want to see or do you want me to tell you about it

LM: tell me about it and then I definitely do want to see it but yeah tell me about it for the people who are just gonna listen to it

TC: sorry I’m crunching ice

LM: that’s ok, it’s hot

TC: um so I had for people who have been here a long time artists are for the most part older because that’s when you have the time to practice so the so for artists who were practicing in Grand Junction a long time ago the art on the corner in Grand Junction was started by a group of sculptors when they were young things and they put it all together and Dave Davis was one of those and he did a thing called paint the piece so I felt oh scared oh no so I got a hold of him through Facebook and I said can I come and he said well sure so we formed a relationship that way and he had the the walls that I have in there and he knew I was doing the exhibition space and so he asked me if I wanted to use them so I got those so I’ve had those so those those are from Dave and I have three of his pieces up front that his daughter just lets me leave here because he was going to enter them in the black and white show and they’re my favorites of his or I call him the white girls I don’t know what he called them they’re they’re drywall spackle on canvas and they’re beautiful

LM: oh cool

TC: so there in there I’ll show you those those right there that you’re touching that is Mary Mansfield and Tish Collins have did a collaboration those are prints that they did but the the originals are huge and uh they did a a process epoxy resin and and graffiti paint and they dry it and then they sanded sanded sanded and uh I’ve had a couple of the originals in here for shows but they are beautiful but they’re large and so anyway those are some of Mary’s prints right there

LM: so is the idea to make it more uh less of a monthly exhibition and more of like a permanent gallery space

TC: yes

LM: where you have permanent artists

TC: yes

LM: okay

TC: so we were we did three months quarterly exhibitions they changed and this is uh it is permanent so we’re more like traditional gallery gift shop now so hopefully we’ll get some of that traffic we’re down here across the alley on the wrong side of the tracks yeah um hopefully with your help and some help word of mouth help people will get down here

LM: so you’re going to do a grand old a grand reopening in a couple of weeks um are you gonna do you ever see in the future doing like you know I don’t know Fruita has like third Friday third Friday or some places do first Friday or things like that do you think you’ll ever do anything like that

TC: they it that’s been uh talked about quite a bit it’s there’s more traffic at night here but as you probably see we don’t have traffic at night the streets roll up so uh there’s been events and Kay was one of the ones who helped uh push art and chocolate walk and so and the blue pig birthday and and so when they had things there would be things at night with art and food and but um it Palisade has changed some so the it’s changing but they’re still not you know heavy traffic heavy foot traffic here so you have to kind of weigh that a bit when you’re a business owner and figure out what makes most financial sense

LM: yeah

TC: there’s a there’s a balance between you know you have to be open but you also have to make enough money to be open

LM: right

TC: so there’s um there’s um a balance there that it’s it’s changing but I still don’t see a whole lot back to the question some of the artists here have talked about what they call it third Thursdays or something and I think the artists that are participating are going to be doing working while they’re here especially Sunday markets because the Sunday market the town it has an emergency exit down the alley so the Sunday market blocks right there and so it’s kind of like okay don’t go past here so we’re working on that but in the meantime if people can work outside and you know just draw or whatever outside it it attracts people and then maybe we can get more in plus um we have no probably probably 20 plus artists but we would have those for our exhibitions too but these are more serious artists so um I see a lot more participation in helping get the word out

LM: okay sure so like they’re motivated to draw people in here because they’re here full time

TC: oh yeah very excited very enthusiastic and

LM: that makes sense

TC: when people uh when artists that you have have had a lot of life experience they aren’t shy about jumping right in there and getting things done and they don’t worry about much and they know what works and so we have a ton of experience over there to help with things and I’ll need it because it’s a much bigger operation than I had before

LM: and you’ve referred to Kay a couple of times so who’s Kay I mean for anybody who doesn’t know

TC: Kay Crane is uh she started with the blue pig when it was at the library um it was there and that’s when a lot of artists started there and uh much younger than all of us but uh they were there and then when the building on the corner sold that buyer bought the blue Pig business as well so it moved over so Kay was the director there for a long time and so she has a huge contact list and a lot of experience so yeah when she said she’d come here I was like I think I need you because I’m spread too thin so she could come help

LM: nice that makes sense um I noticed the mural outside is that a new mural

TC: no that’s been there for a long time

LM: okay I saw the picture of Kay with it and I was like is that a new mural?

TC: isn’t it cool

LM: it is really cool

TC: I love that

LM: what’s the story behind that

TC: the story um because we are on the wrong side of the alley I since I came here trying to track people down this way so when I opened the gallery in ‘16 I thought okay we need to do something so I was looking for a muralist that’s Matt Goss did that for me from uncanny valley he owns that gallery I think still I think he does and he came out at night and did that mural so I was in uh Savannah and there we were taking a tour and I went past this building that had protesters and it was prohibition and it was old looking and I was just attracted to that and so Matt and I collaborated I wanted more funny stuff he wanted you know we want art so we kind of compromised so I have some funny stuff up there too on the sign so it’s supposed to make you look so we did that and if you look outside it’s got Matt’s signature and I think the year he did it on it and then Rondo needed more stuff so he put up storage sheds so my great idea of having something you can’t see it but you know we try we all try we do we do what we can

LM: gotta get a mural on the sheds now like and make it extend down

TC: just keep it going

LM: yeah

TC: um but you know he needed the space and it’s fine it’s not a big deal but it did block my mural also you have to kind of know somebody who knows somebody to notice it

LM: so it’s sort of a vintage look ladies protesting they say we want art

TC: there’s men protesting too you have to look

LM: I need to look more closely

TC: yeah and some of them say I want beer there’s the old lady that the sign sideways it says my arms are tired and I think we have one reference to Napoleon Dynamite clear in the back like vote what was it vote for Pedro or something like that so there’s little nuggets in there you have to look for

LM: awesome I’m going to look for it on the way back one of the things I noticed that you do is an art drawing which I think is pretty cool is that something you’re going to keep doing going forward

TC: thank you for noticing that yes um I have uh a highly experienced professional agents and so we have past clients and most a lot a lot of my business is repeat or past and so in 20 years it’s a lot of people so we put put I think we have maybe the last eight years names in a bucket and once every quarter we draw a name so if you look back through there you see these different people holding you know they won so that’s fun and the real estate office uh buys them

LM: that’s so they get to pick whatever they want within reason

TC: yeah within reason so it’s a $300

LM: okay got it alright I could see like hmm

TC: yeah in the beginning I picked I I would pick um what I was offering as a as a prize and then I art’s very uh subjective so I thought it’s better if they just can pick so they do so you see Beck Bracken did you see the one he has the vase

LM: the vase yeah

TC: yeah so um I’ve known back a long time he’s an old farmer and I sold his property sold his home here in town helped him out quite a bit so he’s a friend and uh he won and so he came in and we didn’t have things that he liked and I was like well you got to pick something that vase uh was one of the first pieces that we bought for the office in 2004 so it has been riding around with me forever and because I needed space I started just hauling things out of here because I needed to make room and he’s like I really like that I think and I was like okay then there you go

LM: that works

TC: just come just come take anything

LM: I like the idea though it’s fun and it also it’s just another way to give the artists some more publicity and it’s kind of fun to see what people pick

TC: well it’s a nice thank you to people who use us on the other side too so

LM: yeah yeah so tell me about real estate so you said you’ve been working real estate here for 20 years in the Grand Valley not just Palisade right

TC: no it’s always been Palisade always

LM: just Palisade

TC: so when I moved here I was 44 and I thought I had skills because I was an IT person I was a had been a librarian I ran a restaurant a successful restaurant so I was like I have something to offer nobody else thought I had anything to offer so my real estate agent was taking me around and I was like I don’t know what to do you know could I make this much money x amount of dollars and she said oh yeah so I talked to my husband he’s always like you need to and he’s like you should sell real estate and I didn’t know what else to do a lot of Realtors end up in the profession that way they hit and they’re like I don’t know what to do I can’t you know and so you figure it out so that’s how I came to real estate plus the entrepreneurial thing you know kind of works so

LM: yeah so in that time um you’ve definitely seen a lot of change here you’ve probably worked with a huge majority of the people who have sold their houses here or bought houses

TC: I was like we were thinking about a marketing campaign for us and we were laughing because it’s like you know me peeking around the corner going I know your house yeah right I’ve been in your house

LM: yeah you probably have been right

TC: but it’s true it’s true I mean you know some people have lived here forever and I have not but a majority yeah we have a lot I’ve I’ve been in a lot of the homes so

LM: yeah how have you seen things change over those years

TC: uh the general population were um last five six years maybe more you interviewed Laura so about the time that Laura and Brandon came here there was kind of an influx of city people for lack of a better word and so I had three agents here that had moved here from somewhere else and since that time they’ve all brought their friends and you know word has gotten out the marketing is is a huge part and that’s been going on for 20 years there’s been CAVE has promoted the area the Chamber of Commerce we had a chamber director who was huge on relationships and pushing and the tourism board but you know it takes a while and I saw the tip about six years ago so our our population is different it was hobby farmers usually either double income no kids or people whose kids had just left home so they were retiring here and just and farming a lot of farming and the people I see now is just not it’s not the same you know they’re people who are doing what you’re doing or you know like um Laura or you know the it’s just a different dynamic plus there’s however I think they’re seventy rooftops in Cresthaven which is you know 70 homes with people and cars and and it happened it took a while for that to get going but I always knew if we had something to sell because out here people move here when they’re retired and they fix the house up and then they die there and so what I have to sell is a house that needs some work and we didn’t have anything really you know

LM: that was new like that yeah

TC: right yeah yeah so fruit and wine did Palisade Vineyard subdivision so the one by the high school we did that one an agent in my office did Blue Sage so that one and we did Montclair and those were new and now when I go in they go this needs updating you know

LM: so fast it happens

TC: yeah so the Cresthaven uh just having more homes new homes because the biggest market is for homes like that

LM: sure

TC: you know where you can go to work you come home there’s not a lot of yard and they don’t need a lot of upkeep so there was a big market for it and I knew there would be and there they are

LM: yeah

TC: so it’s changed

LM: right right and then after that they put the hold the moratorium on subdivision development and so that must have changed what you do a lot too um but

TC: it’s fine with me

LM: yeah

TC: Palisade is one square mile so you know there’s still property that can be that can be subdivided um but that push we need to absorb that in everything roads traffic school infrastructure all of that needs to absorb that and so I’m okay with it it’s never been you know my my drive I work here because that’s not my drive so my broker said she worked with conservation easement and she did a big sale 200 acres up on the hill that’s what the money she used to come here and and the land trust was out here and so when she was talking like that I thought I could do that you know the the big stuff you know the subdivision push that kind of thing it just really isn’t my style I don’t mind that they’re doing it thoughtfully and not you know just going yeah yeah you know let’s get everybody in here and do everything because what has happened in the last five years is a lot for the people who’ve lived here for a long time

LM: oh I’m sure

TC: so a little a little pause to let people adjust is a good thing so but a lot of changes you know the wineries and things they they made wine and sold it they weren’t event centers and now that’s what you have to do to make money I understand that

LM: yes

TC: but um you know everybody’s there’s music everywhere there’s food everywhere there’s and that’s all new they even like the Clarks I know them and you know respect them and they uh putting the distillery and the wedding venue and stuff out there it’s just kind of what where the market was and smart farmers like the Talbotts and you know they go where the market is and that’s where the market is now it wasn’t before but it is nice

LM: interesting yeah yeah that makes sense um what’s the who’s or what’s your favorite property that you’ve ever worked with or favorite person you’ve ever worked with in real estate

TC: I can’t tell you

LM: ahh it’s a secret

TC: no it’s just you know real estate is a I didn’t get a chance to sell it but my um my favorite property is one I can’t tell you about but it’s fabulous so behind that um yeah

LM: second favorite

TC: second took out behind Clarks there’s a contemporary house out there and it was uh Rancho Durazno uh they’re an organic farmer out that way and him and his wife built it and then they sold it and these people that came from Craig very homey comfort you know but they bought it and it is outstanding

LM: is it right on the river

TC: it’s right on the canal so if you go well there’s a couple back there actually but the how would I tell you uh we’re the Clarks Fruit Stand is at if you go just due East there’s a rocket in the yard so it’s across a canal so it’s not a traveled road but if you walk on the canal or go up behind Clarks you’ll see this big rocket and it’s on their property so they have bikes that have rabbits on them and she just has a great aesthetic and so they’ve taken this contemporary house and it has the warmth of a old Victorian but it’s totally contemporary and it is really something and then there’s one right back behind them that is uh it was built we sold the land to the people years back and they built a nice home and it’s it’s um really pretty there’s there’s some things tucked away that are surprising and I have always thought just like rooftops if we had new things to sell people would come and the I never worry when people put a lot of money into their home if you’re in the right location because there’s always there’s a a reservoir of high-end buyers that haven’t had anything to buy here and so when those come up they sell pretty strong and and well

LM: yeah that’s interesting it’s and it’s really cool to see what people do with their places I think one of the things so I just published Laura’s episode today um so you haven’t had a chance to listen to that but one of the things that she mentioned that she found so interesting here compared to where she’s worked before is how there aren’t comparable houses like

TC: none

LM: there’s no comparable there’s no comps

TC: so when I go in I go well um my gut says and and it’s after this amount of time it’s usually right but um and then you have one where there just happened that reservoir of buyers you know that have money uh occasionally drop in and over overpay for something and when you have this small of a market it really messes with your with your averages yeah so it that makes it hard too but yeah there’s no comps and Laura did subdivisions in Denver and was very good at it and you know she’s like what oh you’ll get it you’ll be fine but

LM: but it makes it really challenging for appraising and

TC: yeah

LM: yeah making sure everything holds up um and I thought that was interesting when she said that and as soon as she said that and now what you’re talking about with the different properties you really start to see that like it is every property is pretty unique

TC: the largest buyer pool is for subdivision homes that’s that’s where the main is at and we don’t have that and older subdivisions is next we have a little bit of that but not really so you know

LM: yeah well and what I think is really fun so my husband and I managed to get an older house built in 1909

TC: where did you buy is it blue

LM: it was blue we painted it

TC: okay

LM: yeah it was blue and silver checkerboard

TC: is it real pretty inside oh no blue and silver checkerboard I’m thinking of the one right

LM: you’re thinking about oh you’re thinking

TC: the really cute one

LM: yes ours was a little rough

TC: oh you got the checkerboard yeah

LM: yeah we got one that was a little rough around the edges

TC: yeah good

LM: but well what I think is so cool though is like everybody in downtown everybody you meet who has bought one of these really old houses downtown you just have all the same problems

TC: oh yeah

LM: it’s so fun it’s like oh yeah my wiring was also a disaster

TC: and maybe your foundation’s messed up it goes and you know maybe you have knob and tube and then maybe it’s all right it’s to be all right but any homes that are that old all have the same thing

LM: yeah and it’s kind of fun though because we do have this stock of really old homes downtown and people want to live here so you buy what you have and then yeah

TC: and when they’re fixed up they are really cute and very unique very very unique yeah so and everybody’s tastes are different so even within the same structure it’s they’re not subdivision homes they’re all they have personalities

LM: yeah I love it personally for future the future real estate market or the future of Palisade like how how do you see things changing like in the next five years or so

TC: well uh historically we’re due for correction but I’ve been thinking that was gonna happen for five years now and so it’s hard to tell you know interest rates being high and the prices are still holding high it’s really it’s really putting a pressure on on uh people who aren’t well moneyed can’t get homes and the people who have money are buying investment homes which brings me to VRBO thank you town for or we would be one big motel room no lie one square mile of Motel

LM: right

TC: right and so I’m happy that they did that

LM: me too, yeah because you completely lose the character of our town and yeah I’ve been places where they never had a cap on vrbos and it just completely changes the feel and you can’t buy it people can’t buy entry level houses oh no it’s even hard here as it is so yes

TC: when the market turned last time the highest priced old house in town was 200. and I thought what and the last one I remember the last one that sold at that price and I went oh no you know that hurts ouch but and then it took it took eight years nine years for it to come back to 200 and then uh in 2020 everybody lost their mind and were it was like what you know locational cures you know if I run over here I run over there or whatever then life will be better yeah everybody lost their mind and so what would have been maybe time for a natural correction turned into this big bump instead and I don’t know if it’s gonna hold or not I really don’t it’s like I was saying the new uh the newer people just have a different sensibility and it’s a different it’s a it’s a new generation and so um we’ll see what that does but I know you have to make so much money to do a four thousand dollar a month house payment come on who can do that who

LM: I don’t know everywhere

TC: like I can’t I can’t

LM: I mean that’s a question anywhere like who is affording these house yeah um so just for you personally like what is the what do you feel like is missing in Palisade that you would really love to see here

TC: nothing and it was fine with me 10 years ago so I’m really excited that I can like go get like a taco somewhere you know we had a great little Palisade Cafe it was open in the morning farmers you know where Peche is at was a tea house when I they did uh you know English style teas and then she wasn’t there and then Anaris bought it and they were great I loved them that was like woo this is great and so I’m good you know

LM: yeah

TC: I we lived in Grand Lake for a long time and so you had to buy two or you had to drive two hours to buy underwear you know and so I went to town once a month and we power shopped we called it power shopping and loaded the car to the gills and the kids squished in and that’s what we did and I’m good with that

LM: yeah well and there too you could always have a chance of getting snowed in in the winter and maybe in the pass is closed or something

TC: babies

LM: oh you get through it

TC: oh yeah I had little kids at home and I had a rear rear wheel drive station wagon

LM: oh my gosh

TC: and it was old it was fine babies

LM: it’s all about knowing how to drive

TC: yeah I don’t know I couldn’t do it now I was young and stupid but then it was like whatever we got to get where we’re going load up let’s go it was good I loved it so

LM: it’s a beautiful place to be so this is completely different though Grand Lake cold kind of high elevation Mountain climate to the desert

TC: I was born here so I came back when my parents got you know my dad got sick and I came back and my mom just died in March so I just um you know it’s they stayed here so I went to school here I graduated from Central High School

LM: it was a homecoming

TC: it’s my home I’m Colorado native a fourth generation I was figuring the other day the other day no lie I lie my grandson is fourth generation I am second generation

LM: okay

TC: so edit that because I don’t want to lie I’ve been here since the beginning of time

LM: well I don’t know who’s gonna fact check you it would have to be a family member or something

TC: yeah that’s true, big liar yeah but no I’m second generation I just did a trip with my grandkids and we were talking about it and I was like you’re fourth generation so

LM: what do you have like a favorite Palisade story or a piece of Palisade history that you’ve heard along the way

TC: hmm there’s a lot

LM: working here

TC: let me think hmm my mother so there used to be packing sheds all along the railroad tracks did you know that

LM: yeah like where well I think the only one left probably is the ordinary fellow took over

TC: yeah the the building on the other side of the street was a peach co-op and where my first office was was the peach co-op so all the farmers came down brought their peaches and there were I think Lois Clark told me she was um so they had sales people so farmers bring them down the sales people would go all over the United States and sell these peaches and ice you know put them in the cars and have ice and cars while my grandmother worked in a packing shed there and my mom was very puritan and she was telling me a story about her being there being under the table and uh stealing cigarettes from the migrant workers and I went what what I just learned this like last year and so yeah just the idea of you know that um I packed peaches yeah I worked at a flower nursery where they pollinated off of G Road I rode my bike there and it was huge greenhouse all these flowers need to have a hose and suck the pollen out

LM: oh my gosh

TC: it was horrible I didn’t last long

LM: that sounds like really hard work

TC: it was hot yeah so yeah but yeah that’s probably my favorite is my grandma worked in those packing sheds and my mom was not a good girl

LM: that’s really cute

TC: I though you could have told me that a long time ago mom

LM: yeah

TC: saved her a lot of grief

LM: you could have teased her about that for years

TC: well I she’s gone but I did though I just tucked it in like I am I know you so

LM: that’s really cute well is there anything that I missed about you or your business that you want to share with anybody listening

TC: I know your house

LM: and the look you gave me was

TC: nobody knows it better but yeah there’s really not you know there’s Realtors last about three years five years and so there’s about a 70 percent attrition when people get their license so when you’ve worked with people a long time agents in the business across the valley that started before me or around the same time I don’t know Patty may know as much as me but probably not she might know your house too

LM: yeah

TC: there’s two of us old ladies

LM: you know where things are stored yeah oh man and you do you work with buyers and sellers

TC: yeah

LM: okay just to make sure

TC: everything we do ranch farm commercial residential so since I’ve been here I just do whatever business comes do what I need to do to be able to represent it so we’ve been lucky enough to do so Grand River Resort tournament for it we’ve sold a lot of nice homes long you know along the way and finally finally after 20 years I feel it takes a long time to get trust in a small town and maybe the new influx it won’t be as bad because there’s a lot of people so you can kind of you know mix together but when you’re one of the few that come it takes a long time so I feel like we’ve earned the trust and so I know your house I’ve earned your trust please use us

LM: that’s the new tagline

TC: it’s unique right would it get your attention

LM: oh yeah definitely

TC: might be scary no we laugh about that a lot yeah

LM: yeah well thank you so much for your time

TC: I’m scared

LM: why

TC: because I never know how it’s gonna be but I know you’ll be fine

LM: yeah

TC: so and thank you for allowing me to do this with you when I first saw your stuff I thought she’s doing it right and so when Laura said she interviewed she goes just ask her and I thought good because of all the things that I see going on I like what you’re doing

LM: awesome

TC: yeah it is may I show you around the gallery

LM: I’d love to yeah so let me stop this and then…

LM: …and then we went next door into the gallery and ran into Lisa Moose Kral of Dancing in my Head Photography. This is one of the big reasons why I love Palisade.

But back to the gallery – it’s a large, open room filled with art from over 20 artists on freshly painted walls with great light filtering in from the windows that open onto 3rd Street. Go check it out for yourself at 128 E 3rd Street in downtown Palisade.

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, on Instagram or on Facebook at Postcards From Palisade, the podcast.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.

E16: Tales From the Tasting Room With Palisade’s Wine-Pouring A-Team: Amy DiMarzio and Michael Martin

Two of Palisade’s top wine pourers share what really happens behind the scenes at your favorite tasting rooms. Amy DiMarzio and Michael Martin – currently pouring wine at Blue Beryl Winery, formerly at Mesa Park Vineyards – join me over a couple bottles of local red to share their favorite stores and lots of laughs.

Hear all about how Amy and Michael got into the wine industry, their funniest horror stories (Merlot man, anyone?), the best tips they’ve ever gotten, why they absolutely love working in the industry, what the best $13 Amy ever spent in her entire life was spent on, and how a gravel patio almost ended them both.

We also get into how Mesa Park’s closing broke their hearts, how friendly the Palisade wine industry is, who the most pretentious person in the valley is, the only French word Michael knows, used oak, and how they deal with unwanted advances from behind the tasting bar.

Go see Amy and Michael at Blue Beryl Winery: theblueberylwinery.com  

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.  

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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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Transcript:

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.

E14: How Mesa Park Vineyards Evolved into Mesa Park Fruit Company with Laura Black

Laura and Brandon Black were happily settling into life in Denver when they took a trip to Palisade that ended up changing their lives forever. In 2018, after that fateful trip, Laura and Brandon bought a vineyard and winery and moved to Palisade. They had never made wine or grown grapes before, but they were confident they could figure it out. And they did! Very quickly, their Mesa Park Vineyards was producing award winning-wines and attracting a loyal following.

Then, in March 2023, they announced that they were going to shut down the winery to focus on fruit farming. After a collective gasp, followed by an outpouring of support and local panic-buying, Mesa Park Vineyards shut its doors and Mesa Park Fruit Company opened this season. Why did they decide to make this big change and what are they planning to do now? I talked with Laura to find out.

Find out where Mesa Park Fruit Company’s fruit is available at mesaparkfruit.com, instagram.com/mesaparkfruit, and facebook.com/mesaparkfruit.    

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.

 

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Transcript:

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

A few years ago, Laura and Brandon Black were happily settling into their lives in Denver when they took a trip to Palisade. On that trip, a seed was planted that grew into a tree that ended up changing the path they had thought their lives would follow. Wait, is that too corny? Yeah, probably.

In 2018, after that fateful trip, Laura and Brandon bought a vineyard and winery and moved to Palisade. They had never made wine or grown grapes before, but they were confident they could figure it out. And they did! Very quickly, their Mesa Park Vineyards was producing award winning wines and attracting a loyal following. Then, in March 2023, they announced that they were going to shut down the winery to focus on fruit farming. After a collective gasp, followed by an outpouring of support and local panic-buying, Mesa Park Vineyards shut its doors and Mesa Park Fruit Company opened this season. Why did they decide to make this big change and what are they planning to do now? I talked with Laura to find out.

LB: but you’re not there’s no video right this is just like audio

LM: no I can’t I can’t do videos

LB: I don’t blame you

LM: I’m like I can’t do it

LB: I think it’s for me like we’ve done we were on KAFM or whatever

LM: yeah I listened to a couple of yours

LB: and then we’ve done we did the happy hours during covid but the video is like a whole nother like layer of like nervousness for me and then you’re like what am I doing with my hands you know

LM: I know, I don’t want to have to worry about how my face looks yeah and like when I’m editing I don’t want to have to try to edit the video smoothly so I’m just like I’m not doing it

LM: Laura and I also talked about working in real estate in the Grand Valley, how her thoughts about short term rentals changed after living in Palisade for a few years, how the farming and wine-making communities come together to support each other when times get tough, and more – on today’s Postcard From Palisade.

LM: but anyway before we get too far can you introduce yourself just your name how you introduce yourself to somebody that you’re meeting for the first time

LB: sure uh I’m Laura Black I am the owner of Mesa Park Fruit Company formerly known as Mesa Park Vineyards

LM: and who else is here with us right now

LB: Daryl our little French Bulldog who is probably uh the most popular winery dog in Palisade yeah he’s here you might hear a snort or a grunt from him in the background

LM: I think he’s sleeping right now at my feet. It’s really cute.

LB: you’ll hear some snores for sure so yeah he’s hanging out

LM: so I definitely want to talk about the winery even though it is no more so I definitely do want to talk about that and then about going forward what you’re doing going forward but before we get into all that can you just talk a little bit about how you came to Palisade and kind of your path here

LB: sure yeah so uh Brandon my husband and I um we came to Palisade like a year into our relationship I had been here several times with girlfriends and I was like hey um there’s this little gem out in western Colorado let’s go spend a weekend out there and so we came out and had a weekend full of wine tasting and we were actually sitting on the patio at Red Fox Cellars having a wine cocktail and um looking at real estate and we did that often I was a real estate agent in Denver and Brandon was a general contractor and so everywhere we traveled we we always did the like how much does it cost to live here this would be a cool place to own a second home and so on and so forth

so we were just like scrolling through listings in Palisade sitting on the patio and we came across Mesa Park Vineyards and um we were like oh well let’s just go up there we’ve never heard of that place we’ve never been there uh and so it was later in the day on Saturday so we’re like we’ll get up Sunday morning and just take a drive up and so we did and even though the hours posted said they should be open they were closed and so we I actually called the listing agent after Brandon just like wouldn’t drop it and I was like as a Realtor myself I was like totally honest with her I’m like we are lookie-loos we are not gonna buy this place but we’re here and we want to take a look and she’s like just go up the driveway they’re home Chuck’s there he’s a cowboy he’ll let you in whatever

and so we’re like okay so we pulled up and met Chuck he like pulled around the barn in a golf cart and he was like come on in and this was in October so harvest was happening and so he took us into the barn and he had all this fermentations going and all this stuff and he was like dropping pH and titratable acidity numbers and all the stuff at us and we’re like it was just flying over our heads we were like this is super cool um so we we did the tour and actually we were here for probably like two to three hours with him and we didn’t even drink any wine we just sort of toured around and then we were like we gotta go because we had to get back to Denver so we hopped in the car and that’s really what started the conversation it’s like three and a half hours four hours in the car and we’re like could we do this should we do this and we actually um had a trip planned in December of that same year so that was October and we were going to South America for six weeks and we’re like we can’t buy this place and then leave for six weeks that doesn’t work so we’re like we’re just gonna table it and if it’s still around when we get back we’ll look into it further

so we went to South America did Wine Country there looked at like should we buy land here the language barrier is real um so we came back and we’re like Palisade it’s still it’s still there let’s try so we wrote up an offer and after many months of back and forth and trying to figure out financing and all that sort of stuff we put it under contract and we closed on it so that was in January of the following year so it was over a year

LM: oh so over a year, not just a few months, a year and a few months

LB: not even the following year like the following following year yeah so it was a long process and so Chuck and Patty who owned the place the sellers that we bought it from they were super patient with us we had because we had no intention of doing this we had a house under construction in Denver that we were about to move into we had we just we were getting married like we had no we weren’t ready for it right

LM: you were on a different track

LB: yeah totally so they just we were like we can’t do this unless you can give us a little bit of time to deal with all this stuff that we’ve got going in Denver and so and they did and they were so great to work with so we um Brandon actually came out here in September of the the year before we closed and helped with the tail end of harvest and just worked with Chuck in the vineyard a little bit just to try to so we could figure out a little bit about what we were doing um and then I had to stay in Denver and finish up working and uh we closed in January and then I moved out here I was kind of back and forth quite a bit and then was here in March um and then we reopened the tasting room and everything after a remodel in April of 2018.

LM: 2018 okay

LB: yes so it’s been a little over five years and it’s been awesome

LM: and so the former owners were they retiring are they still around in the area

LB: yes so they were retiring they had Mesa Park for 10 years um they bought it with their daughter and son-in-law and um their daughter and son-in-law moved back to Denver about halfway through their ownership and so Chuck and Patty were running it and they were ready to retire it’s this place is it’s endless amounts of work um and it was sort of their second career if you will so they retired into it and then they were they were really ready to retire they’re still in uh Grand Junction they’re in the Redlands and we’re still very close to them part of our contract was that Chuck would stick around for the first year and help us oh Daryl

LM: it’s like thunder rumbling

LB: so so we’ve stayed really close with them and yeah as time went on Chuck sort of transitioned you know less and less from like helping us out and more into just coming and hanging out on the customer side of the bar and chit chatting with you know our visitors and he had he had so many friends and and um people who loved him and so whenever he was here he always found somebody to have a glass of wine with and yeah and hang out so that that was a really good transition and a really it just worked out really well for everybody I always say I think as much as we needed him that first year it was like he needed that to sort of let go a little bit too you know yeah if you ask like Chuck loves this place so it’s his baby so

LM: uh that’s such a cool experience though just to have that and not because you hadn’t had experience working at a winery or a vineyard or in a farm or anything like that before

LB: no no experience at all I hadn’t had anything um Brandon is from Montana and he his family had a farm growing up and he would spend summers there so he had worked on farms before and then he actually lived in Australia before we met and he farmed out there different kind of farming broad acre farming like huge tractors and so this fruit farming is is all by hand and you know a lot of like farmers from the Midwest would come into the tasting room and and they’re like how many acres do you have and we’re like eight and they’re like 80 and it’s like no eight because you do everything by hand you know right so just totally different yeah um so that was his experience farming but it was it was super valuable even so because like he could get on the tractor and he knew how to drive it where I was like right I have no idea what to do you know that first year was such a huge learning curve for both of us we had equipment in the winery that we didn’t even know what it did until we got to harvest you know we were like yeah we have that thing and we know we need to use it but we don’t know what it does

LM: oh wow right that’s amazing I mean what a huge project to take on and so of course like everybody probably in Palisade listening to this knows that you recently decided to shut down the winery piece of things are you ready to talk about that like yeah why you decided to do that and kind of the thought that went into that decision

LB: sure yeah we’ve been I at least I think we’ve been like fairly open about our reasoning behind it so we a year and a half ago we had a baby and anyone who’s had a baby knows that that changes your life in a significant way and so it was one of those things that the the conversation started well I mean even back further than that there were things happening that at the time that they were happening we didn’t really know what you know what they were leading us to but looking back it was like sort of these like sequence of events that led us to this decision

the first one being that we had that really hard freeze in October of 2020 and so we did not have a crop in 2021 at all so we didn’t make any wine and a lot of people brought grapes in or brought juice in from elsewhere and and made wine anyway that year but Maya our little one was born in October of 2021 and so that would have been right in the middle of harvest and wine making and so we just decided we’ll figure it out afterwards

so we had the baby didn’t make any wine that year and then we got to this past year harvest so like September October of 22 and we were really low on wine and we’re like okay we are gonna have to make a significant investment and bring some wine in from elsewhere make as much wine as we possibly can or do we shift our focus to one of the I would say the winery has like three businesses there’s the retail side which is you’re selling the wine there’s a manufacturing side you’re making the wine and then there’s the farming right so do we shift our focus to like one or two of those three things instead of trying to do them all raise this little one I do real estate we just had a lot of balls in the air right

and Brandon is our farmer and was our wine maker too and so his season just it never ended because he was like rushing to get the wine done so he could get back into the field and then rushing to get harvested so we could get to the wine making and it just never stopped for him and so that was another thing that led us to this decision it was like you have to pick right and then the other thing is is that we’re sitting here you can see that’s our tasting room right there it’s right across it’s basically in our backyard and so as much as it was tons of fun most of the time to have friends and family and things like that here there were days where we were like we just wish we could have our house or our backyard to ourselves you know

and so um it was just sort of like like all big decisions it wasn’t one thing in particular it was just like a lot of things you know got to a point where we’re like we need to make this decision and we went as far as to say like should we buy a piece of land and build another building and grow our production and then we can afford to hire a full-time wine maker and do and then we’re like do we want to do that we’re trying to get stuff off of our plate instead of add more stuff to our plate and so it was just like I mean it was months and months of conversation and back and forth and it it came as a shock to people when we announced this spring but we had sort of decided at harvest last year right because we didn’t make any wine again so we were like if we sell our grapes that’s it like we’re done and so while it was a shock for a lot of people this spring it was like sort of we had time to process it all so so that’s just sort of like a long answer to your short question

LM: no it’s but it’s really interesting and just I think a lot of people you know are like why you know wouldn’t you think of this what do you think of that but when you think about all those pieces and then the fact that you don’t ever have down time I mean like people would be here in your yard

LB: right now

LM: even when you’re not working right when you’re not working quote unquote you would never have any down time so I can see how it would be a challenge

LB: yeah the summer season is it wears on you when it’s it’s because it’s seven days a week right and it was just like if if we even had that’s why we were like well maybe we could move the tasting room you know and then it wouldn’t be um but it’s just one of those things that we were like we’re really good at adding stuff we are that’s what we do and so we’re like let’s stop that for a second and think about this logically and honestly Brandon needed needed this too like he couldn’t keep going how he was it was just he was gonna totally burn out

LM: oh yeah

LB: so yeah it was but it was a tough decision because it was there were so many parts of it that were so much fun and like creating this product and we could share it with friends and family and we had we had like some of our customers have become really good friends and the amount of support that people showed us it was it made it tough to make the decision like those were the reasons it was hard you know

LM: yeah I’m sure I saw on when you did announce it on social media there was a huge outpouring of support and

LB: yeah

LM: I mean sadness but also understanding and I’m sure people stopping by to say goodbye I mean you had months of that people coming in

LB: yeah

LM: giving you their stories and I’m sure that was really hard but

LB: yeah it was it was a lot but it was it’s funny because I was when we made the decision decision I was like almost worried that we were letting people down or something like that and the amount of support like you just said that we got instead of like oh that sucks they’re up you know yeah it was I was like oh and people were like I understand

LM: right

LB: I’m like huh you know I was like a huge weight off my shoulders yeah

LM: yeah well what are some of the stories that are going to stick with you that people told you or anything stick in your mind

LB: I think it’s more the people right that we met along the way um and then we I mean we have some incredible views of the Grand Mesa out there and we had some wine club pickup parties that were just super special that like we had a couple weddings where we had just amazing sunsets for these these couples just and then like the people that we met along the way a lot of which hopefully will will be friends in the future the support that we were shown from people near and far was unbelievable

so before we started recording we were talking about our covid happy hours and this this woman named Deb Deb the pirate was her Instagram handle and she and her husband Norm lived in Puerto Rico and they would tune in we never had met them and they would tune in every Friday to these covid happy hours that we did and then she came here and so and she’s like I’m Deb the pirate and we’re like oh my God so just like stuff like that is so crazy right um so that was really cool yeah we just we the outpouring of of like support that we received uh was was amazing yeah so that’s yeah that’s like the part that makes me that’s like the the you know you say it’s bittersweet and that’s like the sweet part that you’re like it’s it’s yeah yeah I guess the bitter part right but yeah

LM: both

LB: yeah yeah

LM: and you were able to go out with a bang at sip in the spring and just sell out the rest of the wine and how did it feel when you were done with that event

LB: that was crazy because I really as as odd as it sounds throughout the whole process like when we announced and I I had like crazy amounts of emails and I was trying to respond to everyone and then we went to sip into spring and we brought all the wine that we had left I’m like we’re just gonna bring it all and if we sell it great and if we don’t then we’ll figure out what to do with the rest of it and we got it was in the second session and we got to the last bottle and I like it hit me right I’m like this is it oh my gosh you know and it was like excitement but it was also like I was just like a little bit sad I’m like it’s over you know um

and our good friends who we met um through some other friends at the winery uh Kelly and JT came up and they bought the last bottle of wine and we have like documentation of that so that was cool but it was like it was it was just again it’s just like so bittersweet right like so much excitement but also you’re like that is a chapter in our lives that was like very significant one and one that we will never forget for so many reasons like highs and lows and goods and bads and it’s over you know and there’s clean up stuff to do you know like bookkeeping and record keeping and all that sort of stuff but like that’s it we sold our last bottle of wine so so yeah that was kind of crazy I was like I didn’t I didn’t expect to like have the feeling that I did you know but it was a it was the perfect way to like end it because it was a beautiful day that festival is so amazing and so it was just like a good we got to see so many friends and wine club members and things like that at the festival so it was a good way to call it

LM: but so obviously you both are amazing winemakers because your wine

LB: not me

LM: oh okay Brandon is an amazing winemaker um you know y’all won in the most recent Governor’s Cup 2022 a double gold which is huge I mean one of only seven wines to win that and I think you had seven wines that won different honors that’s huge

LB: yeah yeah we medalled in everything we submitted so that was really exciting

LM: right so clearly are awesome at it do you think you would ever get back into it or is it or do you need time to even entertain that idea

LB: so it’s a question that we’ve we’ve been asked a lot

LM: I’m sure

LB: and Brandon so Brandon is our winemaker I don’t take credit for any of our wine I you know I like dump the grapes in the crusher but when it comes to actually making it taste good and and the like late nights doing pump overs and punch downs and all that I don’t that’s not me so it’s all Brandon and um he as of right now he says no I don’t know if that will change in the future but yeah as of right now he he he’s very he’s shifted his focus to like solely farming he’s very focused on that at this point so maybe once he gets sort of all of that under control in a few years or something maybe he does like a couple batches as hobbies as a hobby wine maker I don’t know

LM: yeah

LB: I would love for him to experiment with sparkling wine just because it would be something fun and different um but he says no right now

LM: yeah that makes sense and that’s a good point to transition and just you know no more looking back looking forward so looking forward what are you focusing on

LB: so we that was so that’s when we made the decision it was to shift our focus to farming solely and then and then like all things you can farm as much fruit as you want but you have to sell it too right so so we shifted gears and um Mesa Park Vineyards is slowly transitioning to Mesa Park Fruit Company and we still have our vineyards so we’ll still grow wine grapes here and then sell them to the other wineries um Maison and Corey Norsworthy the winemaker there they’ve been buying our grapes for a couple years Qutori down in Paonia has bought some of our grapes in the past so we will keep people informed on where they go because people have asked that too like hey where are your grapes gonna go

LM: right still keeping a little piece of connection

LB: yeah so and we’re hoping that we can get some sort of like vineyard designation on the bottle or something like that so we’ll see we’ll see how that goes and then in addition to our vineyard our neighbor above us to the south of us her name is Laurie and she purchased I should know this I think it’s 19 acres total in 2020. and it was a dilapidated vineyard and we at leased it from her with the intent to just sort of rehab it and then we were going to keep the grapes and she had Syrah and Cab Franc and Merlot up there I think or Cab Sauv

anyway that freeze happened in October and her vines were in such bad shape that they did not rebound like most of the vines in the valley and so when that happened we sat down with her had a big conversation and she was like I don’t want to grow grapes I want to grow peaches and cherries and we had a lease on the place so Brandon’s like okay I’m gonna learn how to grow peaches and cherries so like another thing that happened at the time we didn’t think anything of it but it like led us to this decision right so um she put in four acres of cherries and then we just planted six acres of peaches on her property she’s doing her cherries on a trellis system so it looks it almost looks like a hops field with like the big posts and then there’s a wire running across the post and these cherries when you buy them they’re like made for this trellis system so they’re these long spurs and you basically plant them and then you bend the trunk along the wire and then the shoots come up vertical so you’re basically when it’s mature it’ll look like a wall of cherries and so you can plant more trees per acre and the labor per acre is supposed to be lower because you’re not on ladders in each tree picking you can literally just like stand on a flatbed trailer and drive along and pick off the the wall of cherries so we’ll see um this is she’s got four acres of it and it’s one of the larger systems in this valley as far as the trellising cherries goes and so we’ll see how it goes

LM: yeah first year

LB: and then we planted an acre of peaches behind the barn behind our tasting room that was Cab Sauv that also didn’t really come back all that well after that freeze and then a few months ago my dad and stepmom were in town and I thought they were playing lookie-loo and they ended up buying an orchard right next to Palisade Pies

LM: oh wow

LB: and so we have peaches plums and pluots in that orchard and so Brandon’s farming that too yeah so um so there you go so he’s busy

LM: a lot of fruit

LB: yeah a lot of fruit so we had I did the social media post a couple weeks ago we had this semi-truck pull-up with 4,000 trees in it and I’m like here we go oh you know

LM: yeah how does that go what was it like to plant that many trees how long did it take

LB: so it they go they plant them really quickly actually so Kenny Sal he’s a big um peach farmer and he’s across the road from us so him and his guys helped us plant we don’t have the appropriate equipment to plant peach trees like that but it was amazing there were I don’t know 10 or 12 guys out there and they just drive the tractor along and like plop a tree in and then a guy throws water in and then a guy throws dirt on top and then a guy comes and stomps around the tree and then our guys were following with the irrigation systems they were like pulling the hoses and putting the sprinkler heads in and so it’s really like it’s tons of manual labor but it goes pretty quickly like I think they planted the six or seven acres of peaches in a day

LM: wow

LB: yeah

LM: that’s amazing

LB: and then they did the other two acres of cherries that was another day yeah they’re long days

LM: yeah but still that’s wow one day that’s amazing

LB: yeah so um so yeah so now the trees won’t produce for a few years so you’re just growing them and then I think that the cherry trees that we planted last year will flower they’ll they’ll have fruit next year but we’ll pull it all off because we want the energy to grow go towards getting the tree strong versus growing cherries when they’re so young so and even like all the peach trees and you just pull off all the blossoms and let the energy go back to the tree it’s just to establish a good foundation for the tree so that it can withstand these crazy weather events that we have here in Colorado

LM: sometimes yeah so you’re still a couple years out from producing fruit that you’re selling

LB: well my parents orchard is fifth year so we’ll have fruit

LM: okay that’s good yeah

LB: yeah exactly

LM: so so are you planning to sell it at farmers markets or wholesale or

LB: so we are in the process of figuring all of that out right now we will probably we will have peaches and then the plums and pluots that freeze got them pretty good so we won’t have a ton of those but I you know we’re talking to some people around town about just doing like pop-ups and so we’ll obviously post about those and then we are going to Laurie our neighbor so she’s a she’s a partner in Mesa Park Fruit Company and she sort of splits time between her house here and then she’s in Louisville or Superior on the Front Range and so she’s working with um Sweet Cow and Lucky Pie and in Louisville downtown Louisville and we’ll have a tent there with peaches on Friday evenings they have their big like market down there and so we’ll be in their parking lot with Palisade peaches once it’s peach season so

LM: awesome

LB: yeah so that’s what we know so far we uh we’re still working through the detail it feels like we’re in our first year of of the winery ownership again where we’re like we don’t know we you know we’re just sort of figuring it out as we go but without Chuck this time so but we’ll figure it out

LM: yeah

LB: we will be direct to consumer with some of our fruit this summer we just need to figure out where and how that looks

LM: sure yeah so like a pop-up at a winery or something like that

LB: yeah exactly yeah Jeff and Jody don’t know this yet but I’m gonna ask them if we can pop up at the Spoke and Vine

LM: that would be awesome

LB: or over at Restoration

LM: Monday

LB: yeah yeah exactly it would be a great time today so um so yeah you’ll see us around town um and we’ll get once we have details we’ll we’ll get them out there yeah it’ll be fun to to not have to do it seven days a week right and we can just pop up and see some people and it’s cool it’s one of it’s like sharing our wine was where you’re like we worked so hard at this and here it is and we hope you like it it’s like it’s sort of the same thing with the fruit right um so it’s cool

LM: absolutely

LB: it’s fun

LM: you spent a whole season growing this yeah well I can’t wait um

LB: thanks yeah

LM: so on the real estate side of things I think most visibly you are are in the process of selling Debeque Canyon Winery and that is seems like such a great fusion of your skills in both wine you know winery operation and real estate and things like that so that’s a cool opportunity

LB: yeah it’s been it’s been good the real estate so when we when we came from Denver I had been in real estate for I don’t know 12 or 15 years something like that and I was like I’m gonna table real estate I’m just gonna focus on the winery and I did for a couple years but real estate’s just sort of in my blood I love it it’s it’s fun and I’ve been doing it for so long I just I really enjoy it and so I ended up transferring my license over to Fruit and Wine Real Estate in in Palisade and Tammy Craig is the managing broker over there and she was super welcoming and like come on board because I was a little nervous you know I’m like from Denver and and I don’t know it’s it’s just it’s smaller over here and yeah so but she was super welcoming and she’s been she’s been awesome so yeah so it’s been really fun because I had done real estate in Denver for so long and then I came here and it was like learning the the business all over again water rights and just crop

LM: oh my gosh mill tailings reports

LB: mill tailings reports yeah all this stuff right that Denver doesn’t have

LM: uranium

LB: there was a house in downtown Palisade that I sold and during the inspection report the inspector found a 500 gallon oil tank in the front yard buried and like that wouldn’t that doesn’t happen I never had anything like that happen in Denver and so it was just there it’s just this whole different ball game here but it’s been really fun and I think I add a lot of value when it’s farmland or winery type of stuff because I I own operate you know I I just can speak to it because I’ve lived it and so um so selling to back Bennett and Davey who owned Debeque Canyon everybody knows Bennett and Davey if you’ve been around Palisade at all and so it’s it’s definitely kind of sad to see them go but I think it’s time you know

LM: also bittersweet

LB: I think they’re ready yeah yeah and so um when they called me I was like yes you know of course I’d be honored and we have it under contract and it closes at the end of July and I don’t know exactly what’s going to go in there yet but it’s gonna be cool

LM: yes something cool

LB: yeah and it is it’s a great I mean that space is just the house is so cute and then you’ve got the warehouse for production or whatever you want to use it for I’ve heard brewery and then wine bar in the house tossed around which would be super cool anything that brings more food into Palisade would be great

LM: I know that’s what we’re looking forward to

LB: yeah exactly so so that part of it’s been really fun and the real estate yeah it’s just there’s so many different facets to it out here and there I was actually on the phone with an appraiser the other day on another property and we were we were just sort of talking about like pricing and then appraising property in Palisade because it in a subdivision it’s easy like well that house sold for that and that one sold for that so this is worth this and in Palisade you’re like okay well that’s peaches and this is grapes and that one has water and this one has a micro jet sprinkler and this one has a fan and this one has a house and you know this one has an outbuilding that could be migrant house I mean it’s just like it’s all crazy

LM: right what’s comparable it’s unique

LB: yeah yeah so it’s um it’s fun it’s interesting it like has expanded my skill set a lot which I like I said at the beginning we’re good at like piling stuff on but I like to learn and like do new things it keeps life interesting you know and so selling real estate out here has been something that I’ve really enjoyed more so than I thought and I was like like I said I was trying to stay away but here I am so yeah

LM: since you started and kind of looking forward the next few years like how have things changed and how do you see them changing in the future like just in terms of real estate in Palisade

LB: wow well I mean even going back to when we purchased to now it’s gone crazy right Palisade is on the map now there’s no like oh what’s this little hidden gem anymore it is it is out there and people are aware of it which brings good and bad things the town needs the the tourism in order for the businesses to thrive and um and for the town to thrive in general you know and so but along with that comes you know some expensive real estate prices especially when you’re it’s all a matter of perspective when you’re coming to look at Palisade real estate you get people from the west coast and they come in here and they’re like this is cheap or people from the mountain towns you know but people who have been here for a long time they’re like hey these are these prices are out of control you know we’re gonna lose what made Palisade the reason people love it

and so that is a really it’s a balance and it’s a fine line that we’re walking and so the you know I have I can’t I can’t even tell you how many people have called me since I started doing real estate here and they’re like I want to buy a house in downtown Palisade and I want to do a short-term rental and you can’t right there’s a there’s a moratorium or not a moratorium but there’s a wait list for it

LM: there’s a limit a cap

LB: and when I first got there’s a cap and so when I first got here the wait list was like 12 names or something like that I think and it’s over 60 now and so obviously that has become a very popular thing to do and I used to I used to think like oh the town needs to increase the number that they’ll allow and now I am so glad that whoever put that into place did

LM: me too

LB: right and because otherwise if you think about it downtown like the housing stock would be a motel all summer long right and you need motels you need places for people to stay but you also need full-time residents that support the restaurants in the winter and

LM: yeah it would empty out in the winter in that case

LB: it would and so and Palisade gets very quiet in the winter as it is so I’m just I’m so glad that that’s in place and I think a lot of people from the outside myself included when I got here don’t understand it and like why would you do that you know you’re you’re losing revenue and this and that but you’re also like there has to be some sort of way to keep the town a community

LM: right

LB: right and that helps a lot yeah so as far as where I see real estate going I I mean I just it’s going to continue to get more expensive here it just is there’s so much demand and there’s so little inventory it’s supply and demand

LM: absolutely

LB: you know that’s all that it is so um but I do think it’s great up on East Orchard Mesa the agricultural zoning is in place it’s subdividing you know you can take 20 acres and go down to two 10 acre parcels or or whatever um and that’s no issue but I highly doubt you’re going to see a subdivision up here like of homes you know on quarter acre lots it’s just not going to happen and I think that’s great

LM: right

LB: you know there’s only so much of this land that you can grow peaches and cherries and grapes on and it needs to be available for people to do that so yeah I mean I used to say it with the winery all the time because the winery life seems so glamorous and wineries just seem like these like it’s like a dream to own one and and whether that’s true or not at the root of all of it you’re farming grapes right and if you can’t farm grapes you can’t make wine and so I just think it’s important and I think I think there’s a lot of people around here and you know the the Land Conservancy and all that sort of stuff is just so important to keep the root of what makes Palisade so special here

LM: right

LB: so so yeah well I think well I think we’re going to continue to see the influx of people from out of state and from the mountain towns like our their mud season it’s it’s like you couldn’t pick a better time in Palisade right in the spring in the fall yeah people come here and they’re like I want to move here and then it and then it’s August 10th and it’s 105 and it’s a little hot you know um we’re all like longing for late September when it cools down to like 95 and we’re like oh this is so nice but um it’s hard to beat it’s hard to beat it out here you know yeah and so um so yeah I do think that we’ll just continue to see that influx of people but hopefully it drives more businesses to the town and the town can continue to grow and flourish in a responsible way you know it’s it’s really a tough balance because we get such a huge influx of people during tourist season and then in the winter they all go away and these businesses have to pay rent year round

LM: right

LB: you know so it’s um but it’s like all the farms and everything else you you make all your money during tourist season and then you have to sort of like ration it so you can get through the winter so so yeah it’s just an interesting um I’ve never lived in a tourist town until now and I would I would say Palisade is a tourist town you know whether some of the people that have been here for a while want to hear that or not it is so so anyway

LM: yeah no that’s interesting yeah yeah I definitely think that the the Planning Commission and just kind of zoning in general they’ve done a lot of really uh it’s a tough balance to strike but they’ve made a lot of really good forward-looking decisions that not everybody is happy about I don’t think any I mean sometimes nobody’s happy about that but it’s at least thoughtfully done you know

LB: I think so and I think them trying to when they when they put that moratorium in place for new subdivisions to decide you know basically redo the zoning for the town I think the reason that went into place that it was a little like oh hindsight’s 2020 we should have done this a while ago but here we are but hopefully it it like you said it is like a thoughtful process and they’re looking at what Palisade is right now and where it’s going and and I think it probably was an appropriate time to do it right so yeah yeah

LM: makes sense well so just with you and Brandon what’s your favorite part about the Palisade community

LB: the community yeah yeah um you’ve probably heard that a lot right but it’s special it really is

LM: it is special

LB: one of the things that we were I don’t want to say we were surprised but we were it was just sort of like a welcome thing that happened when we got here the wine community just like they were like hey we’re here to help you you know whatever you need we’re here for you and we had so many wineries that were just so supportive and again just like when I was talking about joining Fruit and Wine Real Estate I thought the wine community might be like oh there’s these two young kids from Denver they don’t know what they’re doing and and it was quite the opposite and so by by joining Palisade kind of through the wine community we met a lot of people really quickly and it’s and and it’s just grown and the community here I mean it’s the reason you’re here right

LM: yeah

LB: it’s it’s just um it’s special and there’s like a camaraderie of with the local residents that is it’s just something cool and and I think when you’re farming I read this quote a while ago and it was something to the effect of like like a small town a small farming town like rides these these waves together right the highs and the lows because it’s very rare that like we’ll freeze and our neighbor doesn’t right so like we we’re all in this together to some extent it was actually it was really crazy earlier this year it was April end of April 25th 26 27th something like that when we had those freezes and and we have a wind machine over at my um dad’s property and so Brandon was up like running that and then the sprinklers were going in the cherry orchard and and I promise you C Road right there was busier at 3am and then it is during the day and it was even though no one was happy about being up doing what they were doing it was sort of like Brandon was like it was like this cool thing like we are all in this together we’re all out here like trying to do everything that we can to save our crop this year and that’s like cool I don’t know so I’m like

LM: no it is really special it’s like not competitive and yeah it’s really unique

LB: yeah so that’s that’s what I think our favorite thing about Palisade for sure is the community and we found a great group of friends like that was another thing that I was like oh we’re moving to this town and we’re not going to meet anyone our own age and it’s been totally the opposite so um

LM: yeah people are so friendly and that was something that right like you heard I mean we didn’t even I thought oh it’s a small town like how many people are there even gonna be and then how many of those people can be your friends and it’s like I have more friends here than I’ve ever had in my life

LB: I know it’s crazy and everyone’s so welcoming right

LM: yeah never would have thought that would happen

LB: yeah we just found I thought it would be hard to meet people and we found it to be the complete opposite yeah you know

LM: everyone’s socially starved yeah they just want to hang out

LB: yeah totally so and like yeah they’re Spoke and Vine on Monday night you go on the bike rides right

LM: yeah

LB: we used to before we had the baby but it’s just fun to go down there and I’ve I’ve taken Maya down there like by myself and I have no idea if anyone’s and you always run into somebody and you can sit and chat and so it’s awesome

LM: cool well as soon as she’s big enough to be in a carrier or something you should join again

LB: we have one yeah we should put her out we should just go down and do it yeah

LM: yeah you should

LB: yeah she’s not a fan of the helmet oh gotta wear it yeah

LM: she’ll get used to it awesome well um is there anything else that you wanted to just share with people that I didn’t touch on or maybe like any links to your social or anything like that

LB: um yeah so well I’ll just talk right now you’re probably gonna have to like edit this back into the farming part but I just want to mention that the h2a visa program that we use for our migrant workers that come up from Mexico so we started doing that last year and we go through a process with the Department of Labor Kim Noland over at Noland Orchards actually is our h2a agent and she does a lot of the farms here in the valley um but we we decided that after covid it was like so hard to find labor in the vineyards and people would show up and work for two hours and then say oh this is too hard or it’s too hot or one guy was like I forgot my inhaler at home I’ll be right back and never came back and so we were just like all right we gotta we gotta figure something else out right and so a lot of the larger farmers use these h2a guys that come up um and so we’re like we’re gonna go through the process and so we did that last year and we partnered with Richard and Carol at Z’s Orchard and so we bought a manufactured home and put it on their land and we share our workers with them and these guys we have most of them three of them we had three last year and we have five this year and three of the five our three last year are back this year with two additional guys and these guys I I didn’t know what to expect but these guys come up and they well there is a language barrier for sure but they just want to work they want to work so hard and they will work as many hours as you will let them

and it’s really cool because at the end of the year last year we learned that one of the guys while he was here his wife had a baby and he was able to send money back to her to get her into a hospital that she wanted to have the baby at versus where she had to go I know it’s it’s life-changing for these guys um and then and then he told us when he was leaving that the rest of the money that he made he used to buy a piece of land for his family and he wants to come back this year so he can save up that money and build a house for his family and so it was it was crazy because he had the baby and she was four months old before he even got to meet her because he was here

but these guys when you think about the sacrifice that they make so that they can take care of their family I mean they’re here from March until October so yeah it’s just it’s super cool right and so it’s been a really good experience and it’s great to have for Brandon it’s incredible to have these guys they’re young and they’re full of energy and they are just like ready to get to work so so that’s been a a really cool experience and our hope is that they continue to come back and then they sort of know the program and hopefully the language barrier becomes less and less

we have made a pact that this winter we’re gonna learn some Spanish because we like they know enough and then Google translate

LM: right oh my gosh it’s so useful

LB: you literally like lose stuff in translation but you can get by you know

LM: right you get the basics

LB: exactly um and then we have another a lady that helps us in the vineyard and she is bilingual she um she’s from Mexico and just got her citizenship a few years ago but she’s been working at our vineyard since even the owners before Chuck and Patty she worked for so like 15 years probably 18 years I don’t know but anyway she she translates a lot for us but she helps us with everything she’s great her name is Maria and I don’t know that Brandon would have survived the last five years without Maria so yeah so just a plug for La Plaza because

LM: it’s amazing

LB: yeah yeah we this valley wouldn’t exist without these guys that come up and work so it’s awesome

LM: absolutely and it’s super cool to be able to provide that opportunity for people too to be able to do something that changes their lives

LB: yeah it’s it’s amazing like when you hear what what they’re doing with the money you’re like wow you know so

LM: that’s really cool

LB: so yeah and then back to your questions social media tag so um Instagram is at Mesa park fruit and then on Facebook we’re Mesa park fruit company and we’ll keep those pages up to date like I said with where you can find us this summer once we have fruit to sell and where our grapes are going and just sort of like what’s happening on the farm yeah that’s that’s the gist of it I think yeah

LM: thank you so much for your time

LB: yeah thank you for having me and I appreciate it yeah it’s it’s good to get the story out and hopefully this will answer a lot of people’s questions about like what’s happening next you know I like put that new logo up on social media and everyone’s like cool where can we find your fruit I’m like I don’t know yet we’re gonna figure it out

LM: this is where you can find out

LB: right exactly exactly awesome

LM: well thank you so much

LB: yeah thank you again for having me

LM: If you’re one of those lucky people with a bottle or two of Mesa Park Vineyards wine in storage, savor it! But you know, if Laura and Brandon were that great at growing grapes and making wine – the rest of their fruit is going to be amazing.

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.

E13: Poetry and Art on the Western Slope with Wendy Videlock, Western Colorado’s Newest Poet Laureate

What’s it like to be a poet and visual artist in Western Colorado? Wendy Videlock takes us through the rhythms of her life and work in the Grand Valley. Wendy was just named the Western Slope Poet Laureate by the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program. She’s also a widely published and awarded poet, visual artist, teacher, a longtime Grand Valley resident, and the impish poem supplier for Palisade’s street poetry boxes.

Wendy and I chatted about why she doesn’t like to tell people she’s a poet when she first meets them, her goals for her time as the Western Slope’s top poet, why ranchers and barbers have a lot in common with poets, what in the world ekphrasis is, and why poets don’t just “say what they mean” but why you still shouldn’t be intimidated by poetry. We also chat about how East Coast and Western poets are different in ways you might not expect, the place that drew her back to Palisade, and what her biggest goal is as a poet – and why it’s so related to where we live.

Wendy also brought along a stack of her favorite poems and treated us to a few. Live poems today!

To contact Wendy to arrange a reading, you can email her at coloradawendy@gmail.com. To find some of Wendy’s poems, check out the Poetry Foundation: poetryfoundation.org/poets/wendy-videlock and Wendy’s website: wendy-videlock.constantcontactsites.com

Music by Romarecord1973 from Pixabay.

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Transcript:

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

I’m talking today with Wendy Videlock. Wendy is a widely published and awarded poet, visual artist, teacher, a longtime Grand Valley resident, and the impish poem supplier for Palisade’s street poetry boxes.

Wendy was also recently named Western Slope Poet Laureate by the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program. This program honors an outstanding poet or performer who has helped promote the practice of poetry on the Western Slope of Colorado. Its purpose is to support the Laureate in continuing the work of poetry in and of the Western Slope, teaching, reading, writing, and building literary community across the region. She’ll serve in this role for the next two years.

Wendy and I chatted about why she doesn’t like to tell people she’s a poet when she first meets them, her goals for her time as the Western Slope’s top poet, why ranchers and barbers have a lot in common with poets, what in the world ekphrasis is, why poets don’t just “say what they mean” but why you still shouldn’t be intimidated by poetry, how east coast and western poets are different, the place that drew her back to Palisade, and what her biggest goal is as a poet.

And, get this, we have poems for you today too! Wendy brought along a stack of her favorite poems and treated us to a few. I’m not sure why I was surprised, but Wendy treating us to a private poetry reading was a bonus that I was not expecting.

As we chatted, the new sound-absorbing panels that I had just installed on the walls of my little office started to fall down at random intervals. It felt kind of poetic.

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

WV: I’m Wendy Videlock. sometimes when we say hi I’m a poet it kind of turns the conversation downwards spiraling so I tend not to say that right away when I meet somebody I tend to say I’m an artist which I am I’m also a visual artist and people don’t have the same response in the general public when you say that you’re an artist so I show work at the galleries here in town here at the blue Pig and working artist Gallery in downtown Junction, Willow Creek herbs and teas Lithic bookstore and then if if I’m feeling fairly good about the conversation I might mention that I’m a writer

LM: Oh, not even a poet yet

WV: again you’re sort of moving into that area because the poet has a reputation of you know being a naval gazing sort of boring individual and it’s kind of my job to change that reputation a lot of people put their poetry anti-poetry deflector shields up back in high school too much Robert Frost at the age of 14. Robert Frost is great when you’re 45 not great when you’re 14. so I’ve always felt it was sort of part of my responsibility to turn people on to the joy of poetry and you know we’ve got a lot of people who say they don’t like poetry but they turn to poetry when faced with grief great loss also great celebration graduations departings. you know when things really matter we turn to poetry when they don’t matter we hate it

LM: I was thinking the way that a lot of people have probably interacted with you around Palisade is the poetry box which you brought in

WV: because it fell I was walking down the sidewalk and I was gonna fill it up and I saw it was somebody had set it on the bench because they knew that I’d be back to fill her up and it does empty out like nobody’s business I fill it I mean it’s like you know probably 75 to 100 poems each time and a week later it’s empty

LM: wow

WV: and I actually have another one over by the little library

LM: yeah so when did you start that

WV: uh it’s been a couple years um and it empties even when we’re not in our tourist season which is what is really cool uh is that locals are walking by and saying I think I’ll take a poem it’s good medicine

LM: yeah I’ve taken one

WV: what’d you get

LM: um I think I you know what I don’t remember because it was a while ago and I was trying to find it before I came over here and we moved and I’m not sure where I put it so I got it okay put in somewhere but yeah very anticlimactic response but I love the idea and so I think a lot of people you know obviously like you said you fill it up it empties regularly so I think a lot of people have seen you that way but it looks like you don’t just put your poems in there you you also put in other people’s poems

WV: oh no I I don’t I put a few of mine in I um I do and I put a few other regional poets in but what mostly what I do is I put in the kind of poem that if somebody because there’s this little note on the poetry box that says for best results close your eyes while choosing because people think you know you open up a book of poems and you start from page one and you go and that’s just really not how poetry works it’s very much more intuitional and so you open up a book and there might be a poem in the middle of a collection and if you start to read and you don’t like it guess what turn the page and then then you get to try another one so it’s sort of like a box of chocolates you get to you know there’s just something for everybody’s taste

so the kind of poems that I like to put in the poetry box and I’d like to do this in Junction in Fruita too but it turns out it’s very expensive printing poems on paper all the time um but uh I select the kind of poems that will surprise people it won’t it won’t be what they expect to find and it might have a you know some kind of a meaning you’re just kind of like screeing which is you know you take something at random a tarot card or a I ching or something like that and it has meaning simply because you chose it at random

LM: absolutely yeah the one on top I really like that poem

WV: Oh you know that the Mary Oliver

LM: it’s a great one yeah that’s interesting yeah so I was curious if there was any particular type of poem so if it was your type of or your poem or anybody else’s poem if there’s a particular type

WV: sometimes I want to go for something funny because people don’t necessarily you know poetry can be very baudy and raunchy I try not to put two raunchy but a little baudy because I don’t want anybody to get you know upset of course it doesn’t have my name on the box so um but something that’s gonna you know like this Mary Oliver you know you sort of go through this little litany of who made this who who made this I don’t know I don’t know and then she says tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life I mean who’s not going to get goosebumps from that that’s going to have meaning if you uh if you select it and it’s a contemporary she died maybe five or ten years ago but it’s a contemporary piece and then I also put poems that are you know from the classic periods and older periods and then anything that’s going to get your attention

LM: I love it I love it because it’s just this it’s like no pressure to somebody walking by yeah you’re not saying you know if you if if you said come up to me and let me give you a poem it’ll be totally different then you approach this box and you take a poem yeah it’s a little it’s really cool very cool do you ever hear from people who take poems out of the box

WV: yes yeah yeah I do all the time people assume that it’s me because I’m there aren’t a lot of poets in Palisade there are unexplored poets um when we moved here 30 years ago so but then we moved to Junction and Fruitvale and moved all over the valley and came back to Palisade about eight or nine years ago and when we first moved in the barber shop which was right along here next to the blue Pig was closing down he’d been here for a while and I sat on the bench and spoke with him and he was a poet he was a barber he grew peaches but what he said was beautiful so I had to write a sonnet about him the lost poet at the barber shop and he was closing down his barber shop that day so he was feeling philosophical anyway but I find that ranchers and growers their relationship with the land gives them a lot in common with the poet they use idioms they use particular um frames of speech that have to do with the land they tell the story of the land that’s really what the poet does

LM: so you’ve obviously done a lot. Widely published and awarded and but the big thing that just happened was being named The Poet Laureate for the Western Slope which is huge yeah what does that mean to you to have the honor

WV: it’s pretty awesome I mean it’s interesting they do the state Laureate every four years and twice I was the finalist for that and and it was um it was daunting you know because they tell you you’ve been shortlisted so you’ve got weeks where you’re waiting and uh it’s very difficult and I would have really liked to have represented the Western Slope for the whole state but when this thing came along I said you know what even better because I get to work where I live and I get to you know try to make a difference here and also I know so many poets and writers over on the East slope that a lot of the programs that I want to implement here hopefully I can you know kind of deputize some of my friends and uh colleagues over on the east slope and get them to put some of these programs in place too

LM: nice yeah so is it something that you apply to are you nominated for or how does that work

WV: it was a nomination this year and then it was voted uh so it’s done by the Telluride Institute the talking gourds program which has been around for decades and Art Goodtimes  who was the county commissioner of San Miguel County for many many years the grand poobah of the Mushroom Festival he’s kind of well really well known about over in these parts I think he was the first one I think 12 years ago um and it was a nomination process and then up up until that point and then for this one they decided to open it up and let poets vote which was an honor you know that my colleagues voted me in yeah

LM: absolutely that’s cool so sure like a network of poets everywhere just kind of whispering to each other and everybody being like Wendy! Wendy!

WV: yeah or not Wendy anybody but her

WV: well that’s such an awesome honor is it something you’ve always aspired to or

WV: not at all but I’ll tell you as I’ve grown older I’ve begun to realize more and more the importance of my role as the poet within the community because I’ve done so many funerals and memorials people really do turn to the poets I I even had one poet put it in his will that he wanted me at his funeral and he had money set aside to have me travel there that’s how important it is to people to have you know meaningful words spoken I mean because we turn to the poets you know during these times I mean during 9/11 there were there was such a call for poetry and a very famous poem by WH Auden was making the rounds in a way that I’d never seen a poem do and it was written many many years ago but it felt like it really was relevant to that moment and and it really happens with collective crisis and also personal crisis

but also during times of great celebration you know inaugurations and presidential you know and graduations and weddings and you know things like that we turn to poetry then too

LM: right right just think about how much Amanda Gorman’s poem just I mean ever I feel like millions of people read that poem yeah went around and around for weeks

WV: and it’s just been blacklisted in Florida it’s just like really it’s sad

LM: but no just to your point about

WV: about how there’s a hunger and a thirst and so I mean for many years I thought why am I doing this so you know and publishing books and you know publishing journals and you know I got I got published in O magazine that was sort of a big deal and The New York Times and you know

LM: there goes one

WV: that was cool that’s what they did

LM: this is my professional studio

WV: and all of these accomplishments really weren’t all that satisfying

LM: interesting

WV: um they don’t change your life you know none of that comes from you know the real joy is writing the poem that’s the real joy the real joy is painting a painting not selling it is great don’t get me wrong and it’s lovely when people buy my books and actually read the work but it’s the creative process that that is on my mind all the time and it’s the thing that when I teach I’m always saying you know this this is something that saves people’s lives this little thing that we can do which is just called creating artists and poets have known this for thousands of years and uh so we’re always out there going okay here’s how you do it and it’s not that there’s a rule in fact there’s no rules what you do is you kind of just get out of the way and then the creative thing starts to happen it’s like a conversation you just kind of allow it to to happen

LM: right absolutely um when you write do you have a process where you’re you are sitting down for a certain amount of time a day and you force yourself to write or do you just do it when it comes to you or both

WV: yeah it’s interesting so if I’m not writing poetry then yeah I have to sit down and you know just you know shoulder to the grindstone and and get going um with a poem it’s a little different because it’s all driven by sound for me and so I’ll get a rhythm and I’ll get a line and it’s sort of like getting a song stuck in your head you’ve got to start playing with it and then you start to say it and then you start to write it and then you start to sing it and then and then you wonder you know if it’s going to go anywhere and then once you’re in then you’re trying to get out because the ending of a poem is really important too so you know as Billy Collins says all the poet does is trying to get out once they’re in like how are you gonna you know finish this like you had a great start and and so many poems have a great start and then they don’t get there

LM: yeah you know the ending is absolutely

WV: it’s so crucial like yeah yeah

LM: hmm do you have one that you want to read

WV: yeah I might give you a sample

LM: cool

WV: this one’s called just so you know

LM: so what you bring me to writing the poem obviously is important creating it but I think so much poetry is enhanced and made alive by the poet reading it and the distinct delivery style that you develop over time

WV: yeah

LM: and do you feel like that’s something that has always been the same to you for you or do you think you’ve developed more of a different delivery style as as you’ve gone through your career

WV: yeah well you know I taught for many years so we you know when you’re standing in front of kids and high school kids and then university students you learn a lot of tricks like because once you start to lose them you better do something different you’ve got to change the rhythm you’ve got to move your body in a different way and it’s really the same way on stage with delivering a poem so I heard this great line recently which was anybody on stage who isn’t aware that the audience wants to be seen is really missing out on something and it did take me some years to sort of realize that that the audience too is is plugging it like you’re you’ve got nothing unless you’re connecting with the audience and that if if you’re not really looking at the audience and and paying attention to where their attention is then you don’t know when to quit as I always say you know always leave them wanting more if you go on and on you’re just adding to that reputation you know that we’re trying to sort of revamp you know um and also um slowing down because the whole art of poetry is the art of listening and most people don’t listen very well particularly if they have something to say

um which is why I want to institute this program whereby we do these sort of invocations regional poets you know go into like town halls and school board meetings and you know places where decisions are being made that affect people across the boards like policy making situations and and just deliver a brief invocation which just invites everybody to slow down to connect with their humanity instead of going and going whoa I’m going to get what I have to say you know up there and I’m going to fight for it you know nothing gets accomplished if we go in with that if we go in with a little bit of a listening attitude then

LM: this is gonna happen throughout so uh the tiles are falling off the wall to anybody listening to this late um yeah I’m sorry I’m sure it’ll just keep happening

WV: it’s ok we enjoy it’s a kind of an you know it’s an encouraging form it’s something that you you have to let it happen

LM: totally well uh I was really intrigued by that part of your announcement about uh what your goals were for your two year term as a poet laureate um which is a really hard word to say but

WV: I say lariat I’m kidding

LM: oh okay like that right a poet lariat laureate uh yeah but I thought that was really interesting and intriguing that you wanted to bring poetry to more people into different types of settings because in meetings

WV: in small amounts um uh and we’ve already started um I did a uh a house concert the other day where they invited me to do the invocation um Trish Hopkinson who is another poet do you know Trish

LM: I do yeah

WV: she’s going to be doing an event for um awareness about human trafficking on June 12th in Grand Junction so we’re we’re already we’ve already started and you know we’ve got a good collection of you know regional poets and we want to extend beyond just the Grand Valley we want to be in Ouray County and Telluride and Ridgeway and Montrose and Crestone and

LM: right because this is all the Western

WV: all of the Western Slope which is a remarkably something like 27 counties it’s really

LM: yeah yeah huge area yeah so how would somebody get if say they wanted to invite like a local poet or one of one of you or you even into do a reading at the beginning of a meeting yeah how would they go about even requesting that

WV: that’s a really good idea so what I’m going to end up doing is making a website so that people can see what we do but for now before we get there um they can reach me by phone 970-241-2057 or they can email me at Colorada with an a at the end Colorada Wendy w-e-n-d-y at gmail

LM: awesome yeah and I’ll put that I’ll put your email for sure the description of the um

WV: that’d be great because I really want Palisade to be a kind of a forerunner we could do town halls here and we’ve already got some events Caleb has been doing with the paddle board club so things are starting to happen hopefully we’ll break through to the library too

LM: yeah I love that and I love that idea of starting a meeting especially a meeting where you’re going to be talking about contentious things with a poem because normally if people if the public is coming to say like a Board of Trustees meeting or a Planning Commission meeting yeah usually they’re coming because they’re upset about something

WV: right

LM: and yeah you know also it does feel sometimes sort of like you’re just yeah maybe just speaking your piece just to do it you know I like that idea of kind of opening up with a listening attitude and setting the tone

WV: yeah and sometimes the poem can be funny and sometimes just laughing with people brings out your humanity I mean there’s just nothing like a good hearty laugh

LM: yeah it’s a cool idea yeah so I I feel like we touched on this a little bit but um why do you want to make I think we already did but let me I’m going to ask it just in case there’s something else you want to add but why do you want to bring poetry to more people in that sort of a casual format casual being every day going about your everyday life

WV: yeah that’s that’s the question that is the question um so in my own sort of personal development I’ve been working on this thing called integration which is you know there’s a part of me that’s a visual artist there’s a part of me that’s mom there’s a part of me that’s a wife that’s a part of me that’s a poet that’s a teacher and I put on these different hats and I’ve always felt that it I should just it’s all one it’s all the same and why should I feel this way it true in the arts too the visual artists they all know each other they’ve got their own community the poets they have their own community the sculptors have their own community and this has always seemed to me a missed opportunity you know many many campfires one fire so it seems to me that that poetry in particular is sort of off in its own little ghetto so that people who are interested in poetry go to poetry readings they’re pretty well attended too they go to readings and novel readings they go to the library for events and they they’re very into that but why not incorporate why not integrate so that you know at an art opening you’ve got a poet

I talked this morning on CPR about this art form which is called ekphrasis because before photography the only way that people knew about a famous sculpture or monolith or painting was that the poet would write about it because the language could get passed because it was spoken we didn’t have cameras so the average person didn’t get to see the famous artworks that were you know you know being placed in the in the big you know cities

LM: right

WV: so that’s a service you know that the the poet does and we do this today it’s called ekphrasis we go into the galleries we get a few poets to write about some of the works in the galleries and then during the opening the poet you know recites a poem that they’ve worked with and that’s another program I’d like to get going is with the art on the corner you know as we unveil have a poet there who’s been working with that sculptor has gone and visited you know during the process watched the process gotten to put into words because a lot of times they’ll ask the sculptor they’ll shove a microphone in their face and they’re like they don’t you know they just spent five years of their lives building this thing but they they haven’t the language to describe and the poet comes in and swoops in and reads a poem

and it opens up the language for the sculptor because now the sculptor has some grounding you know that something because you know the poet has this concept show don’t tell we don’t say this is a beautiful piece we describe it instead of telling you what to think about it right and that gives the sculptor or the artist something to say about their work that they hadn’t maybe even noticed

LM: that’s awesome that’s such an interesting idea and I don’t think I’ve ever I don’t think I’ve ever experienced an example of that

WV: you will now

LM: which is funny because you know I grew up my dad’s an artist I grew up going to art museums I love art it’s like but I can’t think of an example of something like that that I’ve experienced before

WV: is your dad a local artist

LM: no I grew up in Upstate New York

WV: oh really okay interesting yeah my husband comes from Bethpage Long Island

LM: but oh that’s so interesting is there is have you done any um now how do you even spell that ekphrasis

WV: E-k-p-h-r-a-s-i-s it’s from the Greek yeah if you uh if you look it up you’ll see all kinds of famous examples um there might be poems that you’ve heard of before that you didn’t know were actually ekphrastic poems yeah they were about you know Apollo’s torso by Rilke um I never saw Apollo’s torso but I knew the poem and then I went and did more research on the actual piece of art because it’s never just about the piece of art right it’s more it always gets bigger and one of our more successful literary journals does an ekphrasis every month they put up a painting a contemporary painting and then they do a contest poets you know submit and they feature one that is chosen by the artist and one that is chosen by the editors

LM: oh I like that like that

WV: really interesting

LM: yeah oh I love that I gotta check that out okay let me make a note really quick

WV: so that’s called rattle poetry

LM: rattle

WV: yeah

LM: that’s so cool yeah I really I didn’t check that out just personally I really like that idea because it would be really cool to see how they compare and contrast like the one the artist picked and then the one that the editors pick

WV: yeah well editors tend to pick more um more sort of literary you know and then the the artist tends to pick something that has that takes some aspect of their work and then goes off in some other direction because that’s really what a painting or a poem should do it’s not like a contained thing it’s more like it’s not like you quote capture something I hate when people say oh your poem really captured that it’s like no it’s supposed to set it free not keep it still it should be opened you know I mean I’m a poet so words

LM: that is such a cool distinction

WV: yeah I’ve got one more little poem I’d like to do at this point

LM: awesome I’d love to hear it

WV: this is kind of my um my little anthem about poetry poetry is not a line in the sand but a kind of circulation not a rare exotic bird but a sparrow and a raven not a call to commiserate but a fierce conversation not a star in the dark but the whole constellation

LM: that kind of ties into one of the things I read about you on the on your bio on the Poetry Foundation was that okay so I’m just gonna read their quote but it says known for poems that evoke myth fairy tale and the natural world Videlock has also received praise for her deaf command deft command of meter and um I think that’s a great example of that um how would you describe what meter is to somebody who’s not a poet doesn’t understand poetry who wouldn’t understand that compliment

WV: right well this is how this is the best way to describe what we call meter which just means measure it’s the heartbeat what does the heart do bump bump bump bump it’s the pulse of the sea what does the sea do whoosh whoosh whoosh and then it has variations so it’s not like a metronome there are variations so Shakespeare really is kind of the founder of what we think of as modern meter and he was writing very specifically for actors on a stage and what he did is he he didn’t call it this later on the critics went back and went let’s call this iambic pentameter because but but what Shakespeare was doing was saying after a certain amount of breath the actor needs to take a breath so we’ll stop the line after this certain amount of measurement and the measurement happened to be five what we call beats so my love is like a red red rose my love is like a red red rose goes up and down and up and down but it doesn’t but when you say it you don’t say my love is like because that’s just the mark of someone who doesn’t understand that this is how we speak in normal normal English and when you want to really make a point you’re doing an iambic pentameter you just don’t know that that’s the name of it

LM: ooh interesting

WV: it’s really interesting so it’s true of a lot of things in the arts you’ll say you know look at how that artist used dark and light together and you go well look at nature that’s how nature did it so the the artist is really just imitating what’s already out there whether it’s the heartbeat the pulse of the rhythm the forest you know the drum of the of the sound of the of life you know it’s just that so within meter we have what we call substitutions so that when you getting to a really good line like if you’re thinking a pop song the best singers have a way of playing with the line so that it becomes really emotionally packed that’s what poetry does with meter is it has an expectation and it averts that expectation people think it means keeping in lockstep no it means creating the rhythm and then averting it

LM: right otherwise then everything would sound exactly the same

WV: exactly yeah exactly that’s the great magic of it that’s a great question

LM: yeah yeah well it’s I mean I think a lot of poetry can be really intimidating and I think some of it is because some of the words that are used to describe it or you know even somebody kind of opening a page you might say well this doesn’t look familiar to me I’m not gonna continue yeah so I think making it relatable helps too

WV: that’s the reason we put up the anti-poetry deflector shields it’s it makes people feel stupid and that there’s a clue and that we’re not getting we don’t have the key to that my daughter came home from school in high school and she said I hate poetry why doesn’t the poet just say what they mean and it was adorable you know because uh but the truth is is that when we say what we mean like oh I feel sad nobody’s gonna get moved

LM: oh right

WV: I feel sad oh okay how do we grab on to that and make it our own and so the poet has a metaphor and then it comes sneaking up from behind and that’s when it knocks us down and music is exactly the same way and the visual arts are exactly the same thing once we get surprised in that you know film too film is really poetic you know that a good filmmaker knows how to avert our expectation and make us think we don’t know what’s going on and then suddenly it doesn’t we don’t have to have a key we just feel it right

LM: right everybody remembers those those twists or plot twists

WV: yes

LM: um did you have you always written poetry or did you start at some point in your life like what was the first poem you ever wrote do you remember how old you were

WV: um I remember the first poem I ever learned by heart which was probably more meaningful than the first poem I wrote because that I don’t have a memory of but my mother asked me to learn a poem by heart I say by heart instead of memorized because a lot of people don’t like this word memorize and it was I met a little elf man once down where the lilies blow he asked me why I was so small and why I did not grow I’m just as big for me I said as you are big for you or I missed a couple lines in there but it’s really about individuality and saying you know we don’t have to be like everybody else and it really struck me that this was something that was meaningful to my mother it wasn’t really meaningful to my dad to be honest it was meaningful to my mother and so it had meaning to me

and what I’ve discovered is that people are hungry for meaning they’ve been disappointed by some of the aspects of meaning that we’ve traditionally relied upon and so the arts are where a lot of people are turning and they’re discovering that there’s a whole lot of glory in there and a lot of people say that the arts saved their lives specifically poetry you’re never alone if you’re reading poetry and if you’re writing it then you’ve got an extra boom you know and this doesn’t mean you have to publish like a lot of poets don’t publish but they’re interested in language and they’re interested in you know and then there’s the healing aspect which we use with all kinds of people who’ve been traumatized and have been through wars and childhood difficulties

and that we learned that there’s three steps to healing with the arts so because we think that it’s just you know if you paint a picture or you write a poem boom that’s a healing right there no that’s step one that’s the purge you’re getting it out there step two is crafting it so now you’re creating something beautiful out of something difficult which is what poets do I mean let’s face it life is difficult we’re all going to die like that’s the bottom line you’re going to have a lot of suffering in your life you’re also going to have a lot of joy but the poet won’t let you just get away with one or the other like you’ve got to have it all right and so with the crafting what you’re really doing is teaching yourself how to process difficult things by making it more meaningful more beautiful more powerful and also by sharing it and that’s the third step is actually sharing it by doing that now you’ve now you’ve really done something you’ve shifted the energy you haven’t kept that energy locked inside so that it’s now going to create inflammation and heart disease and all kinds of other things that come from emotions that we’re just not processing which is really what we’re taught to do is don’t just move on ahead stay busy keep consuming and you’ll be fine yeah

LM: right yeah totally and that makes me think about uh two weeks ago I talked to Christine Moore who’s the local yoga and dance teacher

WV: yeah yeah

LM: she was talking a lot about how you know to her processing trauma through dance and like movement was was so important and it’s a similar thing where it’s like even if you don’t just you don’t necessarily perform you’re doing it for yourself or you know you’re teaching somebody and teaching somebody how to you know physically like some people need to let go of their emotions physically some people need to do it you know mentally or a combination of the two or whatever and

WV: physically is absolutely I mean you talk to any polar and they’ll tell you that part of their process is moving like if they’re walking that’s when the best work comes if they’re rowing bicycling driving

LM: oh yeah

WV: these kinds of movements you know are really important and she’s right if you are moving you’re actually processing you know in I mean I I think it’s the answer to all that ails us

LM: totally yeah yeah I definitely have my best idea is when I’m biking or hiking you know you get to that point where your body is doing something but your mind disconnects and then just it’s such a cool feeling

WV: you’re in the zone

LM: yeah

WV: that’s it I mean that’s what we call creative process and that’s the thing it’s all the rest is great don’t get me wrong I’m happy to have it all but it’s that thing of being in the zone that’s what we’re that’s what we’re all about

LM: it’s so cool yeah um do you have a favorite poem of your own that you’ve written or do you like all of them

WV: ooo ooo um I I do have one that I really like um want me to read it

LM: sure

WV: I I originally titled this poem deconstruction um but I think it needs a better title but I’m not going to try to revise it right now I’m just gonna go ahead and give it to you

LM: okay

WV: and one of the reasons I really like it is because uh it’s because it speaks about birds and birds are everywhere and it also speaks to our need to try to put meaning on things and particularly those of us who are interested in the arts but you know if you see if somebody that you love dies and a butterfly lands on your hand you’ve just found meaning and this is what we do with birds and wildlife and nature and to me this is this is the magic of the arts

the other day I I read this at a at that house concert and a gentleman came up to me afterwards and he said he showed me his arm and there was a tattoo of a penguin he said what about the penguin and I said well the penguin because I am a poet of course I have an answer I said well the penguin is about fatherhood that’s the father who rears the baby and takes care of the egg and all of that and he said I did this for my son he and I both love penguins and I said there you go so this is what I mean by meaning and I know that it’s sort of random

LM: absolutely yeah and I like the visual too that you get from that because you take a moment after or on every line to visualize the bird

WV: yes yeah yeah and also it’s sort of like flowers like a red rose means something different from a yellow rose

LM: right right right yeah yeah that’s really cool

WV: they’re actual real things but they also are symbols right they represent something in the human psyche you know the tower represents something you know the river represents something other than obviously the river you know so yeah

LM: oh that’s awesome I really appreciate you sharing poems as well it’s really cool what other plots do you like to read or listen to

WV: oh my goodness well um so I love Lucille Clifton who um I actually have a poem of hers that I would like to share and it’s hilarious and it’s very short okay and it is one that I put in the poetry box because because it’s one that uh if the wrong person gets it it will make me happy just to think that that might be a possibility

LM: we should like sign it or something and then it’ll be something that somebody can find as part of this podcast oh well but then you don’t want to put your name on it maybe

WV: oh come on I hope I have it oh there it is okay so um this is Lucille Clifton she was born in 1936 and she died in 2010. and the title of the poem is wishes for sons s-o-n-s for boys wishes for sons

LM: that’s really good

WV: I mean it’s funny but it’s so true too I mean and I have a boy and you know and you know Camille Paglia always says you know the reason that women are so much more in tune with their own morality is because they bleed every month I mean let’s be honest it’s it’s a very humbling real experience so this is the kind of thing that I put a few of those in my poetry box and wonder secretly I wonder who’s gonna get that

LM: that’s so awesome

WV: so poetry can do this it can just make us laugh and also go you know that’s true that is something that that really is fundamentally you know something that that your your men in the world will never understand no matter how conscientious they are um that it’s just it’s just a part of a lot it’s part of the life of a woman um another poet that I love is Yeats he’s the Irish poet of that every contemporary poet has to deal with I’ve had dreams about him I mean he was the guy um probably the best in the English language of this century Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, Sylvia Plath, Edna St. Vincent Millay there’s so many I think those are my major influences and also Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan okay okay because with Joni and Bob they were writing poetry and they were writing poetry that rhymed they just weren’t doing it the way that Shakespeare did it

LM: right

WV: they were playing with the rhyme and allowing it and so it kind of gave me permission to play with language too

LM: absolutely sorry I need to grab a tissue sorry

WV: oh you’re fine uh was it the Clifton did she make you cry

LM: she did but it’s funny because it’s like uh you know it’s like sort of it’s dark humor you know

WV: right

LM: in a lot of ways

WV: and it’s not I mean I mean I have a son and a daughter and there are the difference I as soon as I read that I went that’s the difference that she was 14 and her life changed my daughter something like now you’ve got a different relationship with life it’s just your body now like you’re aware that your body has this red blood flowing through it you can’t forget it because you’re gonna be reminded and then of course we have childbirth but even if you don’t have childbirth you’ve got that and it’s just the constant reminder it’s the it’s what uh Camille Paglia calls the chthonic it keeps us to the Earth

LM: you’ve been here in the Grand Valley for I think you said about 30 years or so so you’ve been living here working here what’s the poetry community like here compared to other places yeah I’ve lived and worked before other places you’ve visited

WV: yeah so different well first let me say one of the first poems I wrote 30 years ago was about the big buffalo in downtown Junction by the bank which is now closing and it was the first question everybody had when they heard that the the big bank Wells Fargo was closing what about you know the Buffalo which is actually a Bison but I’m not going to get pedantic about it um but I sat down and I I couldn’t believe this thing it was probably had been there maybe two or three years before and I was just completely taken by it

of course art on the corner was already in place Dave Davis had been working on that for decades um and I I wrote this little sonnet about that Buffalo and about this new town that I couldn’t understand you know we came I was in Tucson and we were in Europe and then Vegas and then here and it was a culture shock we didn’t have a Barnes Noble we didn’t have a Home Depot this was a huge and I had a one-year-old and a two-year-old

and within about four years I was doing a poetry circle at Barnes Noble because I was working there and a gentleman came walking in who it was Art Goodtimes who actually was the one who nominated me for this position and he he makes an impression let’s say that beard down to here he’s like he makes he’s got the big booming voice and he sat and listened to our very controlled little circle at Barnes Noble and then he walked up to me and he said you need to get on my mailing list this email had just begun it was like a new thing and I got on his mailing list and discovered that there were poetry conferences happening all over the Western Slope and that people were coming from all these tiny little towns and would spend three or four days you know most of us are pretty introverted I mean I may seem like I’m comfortable this is not I mean I’m pretty I’m a writer I’m a painter I’m pretty much you know but when I do get social then I’m like up and that’s true of most artists that you know they want to be in the in nature or working and then when they are social it’s like bzzzz and then they have to go and recover so they would have these amazing events and within and I was going I’m a writer for the page I was publishing under pseudonyms I was doing this very privately uh and uh so Art Goodtimes and and his teacher was uh Dolores LaChapelle https://lachapellelegacy.org/Dolores who who said find a place sink your roots in and make a difference that’s what he’s done and it’s what he teaches all of us so Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer, Danny Rosen who owns lithic books, Jim Tipton who used to run the events at the library a very different community of writers than you’d find in places where it’s very academic even though we have I mean people think that I’m academic because I use the meters and things like that it’s really that it’s a strange thing but here um the thing that binds us together is our love of the land it’s the landscape whereas if you’re in New York you’re not writing about the birds and if you are it’s just purely a metaphor yeah that’s what makes it different

LM: and how did you end up coming to Palisade after living so many other places

WV: well my husband was in the military and we didn’t want we were done with that we had kids late I was 32 when my first came along and 33 when my second and um we were in Vegas and we I was teaching there and I did not want my kids in that school district it was really scary and um and we said let’s go to a small town and let’s not make money be the thing that matters like let’s just live in a small little house and I can wait tables maybe I’ll teach and you can get it we won’t chase the dollar that’s what we told ourselves and that’s what we did we didn’t know anybody here we came with a few hundred dollars um we came with two babies a dog and a cat not knowing a soul and it took a few years and like I say you know I had this little community starting at Barnes and Noble of people who were kind of readerly and writerly types but it wasn’t until Art came which said you know hey we’re meeting in Salida we meet in Telluride we meet in Crestone we we do these events and and I go to conferences on the East Coast too they’re very different they’re lovely but it’s not the same because these this is a different this is all about really the landscape I mean there’s a lot of social awareness too um here but you know our our number one one issue here in the west is always water and the land um so the the art reflects it and it reflects it in our visual art too yeah whereas you go to New York it’s going to be mostly portraits or you know something that’s kind of like picasso-like whereas you know rural America and you know western America you’re going to see a lot more landscape and um you know what I would call impressionistic and you know playing with the actual land

LM: right right yeah yeah we’re here because it’s beautiful that’s why I’m here

WV: yeah

LM: what’s your favorite thing about the community here in Palisade specifically

WV: yeah Palisade is interesting um so the way I describe Palisade is well obviously we’re ag but we’re also very art which is a really interesting mix um so whatever Palisade does they want to do it well so if they’re going to do a peach they’re going to make the best damn Peach you’ve ever had if they’re going to grow marijuana they’re going to grow the best pot if they’re going to make art they’re going to make good art and so Palisade has an interest in excellence and and this to me is pretty awesome you know and so I was in Junction when I actually started showing work at the blue Pig and my husband and I we both really wanted to come back to Pali but it wasn’t until I started showing at the pig again that I went okay this is an absolute necessity we’ve got you know a real drive now to come back so as soon as the kids were grown and left home we just made a beeline back to Palisade awesome yeah and of course I mean look at what look at these beautiful landscapes I mean Buzzard’s Roost and you know my goal really my biggest goal as a poet would be to rename Garfield this is a president who never came here this is a completely arbitrary name

LM: ooo what would you rename it

WV: and well the Ute didn’t name it a name they named it for a position for instance if you were on a trek and going somewhere or maybe to the four corners for some large event or you know something then you would name a mountain from what I understand you would name a mountain by how you would go around it like go to the left or go to the right or find the water source and do this and it would it would have a practical kind of a name because I’ve asked a lot of Ute elders and and that’s the kind of the basic answer that I’m getting is that you know these they didn’t name that just for the fun of it sure like Western culture came along said let’s put our flag in it you know it was like this is part of the walk and so it was practical to say this is how you get to where you’re headed

LM: it’s a landmark

WV: yeah a landmark yeah yeah and uh and Thunder Mountain means a lot more to me than the Grand Mesa although I don’t I think Grand Mesa is pretty lovely too because it you know pays homage to um Hispanic uh culture it was here before too so that’s that’s fine um but Garfield it is the number one landmark that people think of when they think of the Grand Valley and it’s the most strange and then we’ve got the Lincoln yeah what Lincoln was not here right it makes no it makes no sense

LM: those are the two presidents yeah I know what I love about it is that you can always see it when you get to a certain point and so I know as I’m getting closer and closer to it I’m getting closer closer to home right that is the coolest thing and you’re right Garfield doesn’t give you that feeling of like this is where my home is

WV: I know I call it the mighty gar um and it what I like about Garfield is it changes color with the sky it’s like water it’s going to reflect what’s happening it changes with it’s it’s an amazing dying mountain it’s really what it is it’s an ancient dying mountain and it deserves a better name I just don’t know how to go about that because it’s it’s pretty hard to change names right yeah

LM: right yeah who owns the name right who decides. anything else that I didn’t touch on that you really would love to share with the people of Palisade

WV: um specifically to Palisade what I’m hoping to do is to create a monthly gathering with an open mic where yeah where there’s a featured artist who gets up and tells a story or recites poems or whatever but also but also that open mic which is such a community builder yeah you know and you’ll be amazed what people do when they get up there you know it’s just astonishing I’m always just blown away by the quiet you know talent that you know people aren’t out there going look at me look at me but if you give them a microphone they’re going to get up there and they’re gonna they’re gonna show you something pretty cool

um that’s a large part of what of what my sort of impulses is is that I feel that I’ve had a lot of talk and conversation and interviews over the years but what I want to do is to put a spotlight on all the others you know that that have been part of this community that are doing these things in the privacy of their own homes like Leadville there was a poet living in Leadville he was growing roses nobody knew he was a poet he was a miner and when he died they cleaned out his house and they found all these oh yeah yeah

LM: that’s beautiful

WV: yeah so to sort of you know cultivate that you know that garden of um poets and writers that aren’t necessarily showing in the galleries or publishing books

LM: right and that would be so awesome to have that here in Palisade so that you don’t have to you know I know Friuta does a lot which is awesome yeah and there’s stuff in Junction but like to have something here would be really nice

WV: I know that East end of the valley is I mean the library is a big untapped opportunity uh so and and the blue Pig too yeah that’s those are my focuses for after I get this get the word out program happening then I’m gonna go okay right here in this little area that’s where it’s going to happen

LM: well that’s great yeah I’m excited

WV: thanks so much for having me

LM: yeah thanks so much for coming and for reaching out yeah I really appreciated hearing from you

WV: yeah it was great when I heard about I mean what a great title Postcards from Palisade I just went you know what that’s someone who’s got a poetic sensibility

LM: oh I love alliteration

WV: I know it’s all about the sound of the you know because that’s what got me it could have been podcast from the East Valley or something and I would have gone no thank you but Postcards from Palisade I’m in

LM: awesome oh I love it that’s like the best compliment that I’ve ever gotten

WV: do you write

LM: um yeah

WV: oh my goodness

LM: I’m gonna stop this so it’s not on the record

LM: Oh man, I’m the biggest dork. I was so not prepared to talk to Wendy about my writing. Because even I do this podcast, I talk to you, I really am most comfortable listening.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Wendy and all the ideas it sparked. I have more great episodes coming up, but I am going to be reducing the frequency that I publish them to every other week, because I got a full time job, partly to afford more soundproofing for my little office haha. Catch up on old episodes you’ve missed in the meantime.

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. Latest episodes and links to more information are also posted on the website postcardsfrompalisade.com.

Thanks for listening. With love, from Palisade.