Imagine your friendly farmer planting, weeding, harvesting and then cooking your meal for you.
Rusty and Laurie Hall of Seven Meadows Farm, on 70 acres in Summit Ridge between Mancos and Dolores, own a Certified Naturally Grown farming operation and have now opened a restaurant showcasing their wares.
They began their farming careers with work as professional landscapers while living in Albuquerque and later near Taos. While living in a 30-foot yurt and nurturing their passion for gardening, they realized they wanted to work on a larger scale, and began their search for affordable land with adequate water. They found it at Seven Meadows Farm, with 3 acres of cultivated gardens, more than 1,100 acres dedicated to an orchard and berries and 40 acres of pasture for hay and sheep.
The Halls have experimented with sustainable growing techniques, cautious use of water, insect control and use of draft horses to help them work the land.
A greenhouse allows favorable year-round growing conditions. They have eliminated the propane heater that came with the greenhouse. Instead, cool-weather crops are grown under low row covers and strung with Christmas lights to maintain a temperature of 45 degrees - even when it reaches the teens outside. Rarely, a small construction heater is used to augment this system. They maintain a close watch on the weather, but have also developed an intuitive sense of their environment.
This method of close observation of the land and crops lends itself well to managing the insects, which also find year-round accommodation in the greenhouse. Natural oils, beneficial insects and free-range chickens are used to reduce the load, as well as hand-picking of insects and removal of affected portions of plants.
"We find we may take a loss in time to produce a crop, but we prefer to use creative ways to avoid chemicals that may be harmful," said Rusty Hall.
Water is a challenge because of the short irrigation season. They extend this by drip irrigation and storing water in ponds.
In their sixth farming season, they have moved from production-only to a unique way of sharing food with customers. Rusty Hall, relying on his training as a professional chef, opened their restaurant, The Farm, located on Main Street in Cortez.
Born out of a surplus of vegetables in the winter and in response to an interest in homegrown and local foods served in a simple atmosphere, they feature mostly organic, mostly locally grown ingredients in soups and salads. The Farm is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The Halls find the rewards of farming include being an integral part of the community and teaching people about sustainability.
"We are happy to be a part of the small-farm movement, sharing our values with others who wish to live and eat off the land in a healthy way."
Find Seven Meadows Farm products at the Durango Farmers Market, The Farm restaurant in Cortez and at businesses, including Guido's, Cocina Linda, The Strater Hotel and Nature's Oasis. Contact them at sevenmeadowsfarm.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 882-3834.
Marje Cristol owns Linnaea Farm in Durango and sells cut flowers and goat-milk cheeses. She also serves on the Durango Farmers Market board. Reach her at 946-2712 or marje@LinnaeaFarm.com.