by Leigh Mills

Located on the north side of Crestone, just outside of town, is the Chokecherry Farm.  It is the home of Nick and Alycia Chambers, their 2 children and the Living Arts Institute.  The Chambers purchased the 100-year-old homestead a little over 7 years ago and lived in a teepee and yurt several years before moving into the old farmhouse.  Much has happened in those seven years and now the original farmhouse houses the Institute’s office, classroom, and kitchen.

When I met Nick for this interview, he was out in the “big field” turning a huge compost pile with a  tractor.  Nick said they received organics from the Crestone Music Festival and will be receiving organics from the local “Lone Ranger” set. There are several compost piles on the farm in various stages of decay and much is used throughout the growing areas.

After meeting Nick, we then went to see their attached greenhouse.  I snapped a few pictures while Nick watered his baby fig trees and some of the hundreds of seedlings that are almost ready for transplanting.  This greenhouse wraps around the front of their personal living structure with tall windows and lots of room to grow. Nick is psyched about the warm weather and said he will hopefully be transplanting squash a month early this year.

Next stop was the original greenhouse, a large hoop structure several years old and ready for replacement.  It was filled with baby lettuce plants and lots of radishes.  The garden area adjacent to it has several covered rows with more greens and pea plants over 2 inches tall.  Nick likes using “micro-hoop houses”.  These hoops are essentially taller row tunnels that leave room for bigger plants.  He’ll put the squash transplants under these for protection from any late spring frosts.

From that location I could see the farm’s orchard with its large raspberry patch, which will be expanded, and its many fruit trees that are a standard on any homestead.  We then meandered into the original kitchen garden.  This space is over 100 years old and is a beautiful garden filled with perennials and herbs that are cultivated especially for Alycia’s home birth supplies.  A lovely, large sand cherry bush covered in pretty pink flowers greeted us as we entered.

When asked how much land they have under cultivation, Nick said “about an acre under drip.”

He said that he loves growing food and their top crops are peas, beans, carrots, onions and beets. One feature of the Chokecherry Farm is their CSA (community supported agriculture).  They have done CSAs in past years and this year they are growing enough to offer 20 shares to the neighboring community.  The shares will be available weekly from mid-June through October and consist of an assortment of organic in-season produce and fruits.  Each share is $450.00 and work shares are available.  They are also offering Dairy Shares of fresh goat milk and cheese for an additional fee starting in June.

There is a lot going on at the Chokecherry Farm and Living Arts Institute; more that can be covered in this article.  To learn more about this year’s CSAs, Dairy Shares, LAI workshops and more, visit their website:
www.LivingArtsInstitute.net.