On a recent Saturday at the Durango Farmers Market, you could find a busy politician shucking corn, a nurse selling her homemade jams and jellies and an occupational therapist greeting customers.
Brenda and Jim Isgar, along with their niece, Robyn Kellogg, create time in their busy schedules of community work to discover what nourishes them in working the land.
Jim Isgar, a fourth-generation Coloradoan and lifelong resident of La Plata County, grew up on the family ranch in Breen. His parents, Art and Anne Isgar, settled there in the 1950s to raise cattle and a family of five children.
Isgar, who received his bachelor of arts in accounting from Fort Lewis College and attended graduate school at Colorado State University, worked as a CPA before eventually returning to the ranch in the 1970s.
For the last eight years, he has been in politics, just recently stepping down from his position as state senator to head the USDA state Office of Rural Development. He has passed on the management of the 1,500-acre ranch and its 100 cow-calf pairs to his son, Matt.
Jim still runs the tractor, but it is Brenda Isgar who is the master behind the produce, preserves and quilts found at the Isgar Farms booth at theDurango Farmers Market. What began as a large family garden 13 years ago has become one acre of organically grown produce available for the last seven years at the market.
Brenda Isgar moved to Durango from west Texas as a young child after her father left cotton farming for work as a welder with Telluride Ironworks in 1959.
She received her degree in psychology from West Texas State University and later a bachelor of science in nursing. She works as a Senior Outreach Nurse with La Plata Senior Services and San Juan Basin Health Department.
Brenda recalls first meeting Jim in Sunday school when they were just 10 years old. As Jim's parents before them, they have raised five children on the ranch.
It is Jim's niece, Robyn Kellogg, who adds her homemade touch to the Isgar Farms stand with her knitted creations and vintage clothing. Robyn received her degree in psychology and a master's degree in occupational therapy at CSU and works with Escalante Middle School's Life Skills Program for children with disabilities. She often incorporates lessons from food production with her students. Brenda faces the challenges of farming at an elevation of 7,400 feet, and water restrictions with crop rotation, drip irrigation and companion planting.
"Every plant needs a friend," Kellogg explains, as she describes the benefits of pairing certain plants, such as squash and marigolds, to deter pests.
She finds rewards often are in the physical labor that farming requires.
"I find that physical exhaustion is healthful and gratifying, and is a way to counter the emotional exhaustion we are so often faced with in our lives."
Marje Cristol owns Linnaea Farm in Durango and sells cut flowers and goat-milk cheeses.
Reach her at 946-2712 or marje@LinnaeaFarm.com.