Cloud City Farm: Growing the Impossible at 10,000 Feet
From Superfund Site to Community Gardens and Thriving High Altitude Farm
Take a moment to hear the amazing tale of Cloud City Farm.
With only 28 frost free days a year, and living 10,000 feet above sea level, they are growing what at first might seem impossible.
Cloud City Farm Growing the Impossible at 10,000 Feet
Cloud City Conservation Center (c4)
Cloud City Conservation Center (c4) is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization based in Leadville and Lake County, Colorado.
“To inspire stewardship of our natural resources by creating educational opportunities and lasting community infrastructure in Leadville and Lake County, Colorado.
Their current and on-going programs include:
- Environmental Education and Infrastructure in the Schools
- Residential Energy Efficiency Improvements
- Lake County Recycling and Waste Diversion Infrastructure
- Zero Waste Events and Event Recycling
- Lake County Clean Energy
Cloud City Farm
C4 maintains an impressive list of programs in Leadville and they’ve been hard at work in Lake County. But it was their involvement in local schools that eventually led to Cloud City Farm. As part of their environmental education and school infrastructure program, they implemented recycling and compost programs. The schools started recycling and composting their lunches and food scraps. And compost started piling up.
The teachers and students realized the rich asset on their hands and requested… a farm.
They recognized an opportunity to close the loop, put the compost to work, and grow food. Therefore, upon the school’s request, c4 started the fundraising that would lead to the creation of Cloud City Farm.
Cloud City Farm Mission:
“To address healthy food access challenges in Lake County and inspire stewardship of our natural resources through local food production, educational opportunities, and community engagement. The Cloud City Farm will provide outstanding educational opportunities for our youth to become farmers, scientists and stewards of the Earth.”
Fighting an Unhealthy Food Swamp
It made sense to make a farm.
Also, the request came in the midst of a growing awareness of a serious issue for the residents of Lake County.
“The LiveWell Leadville Community Food Access Assessment (2014) found that healthy foods are not adequately available and affordable to local residents. Lake County is an unhealthy food “swamp” with not enough healthy food outlets.” – c4
With only one grocery store, the cost of groceries is 18% more expensive than the national average, and 12-14% higher than surrounding counties.
The addition of a farm to provide access to healthy food easily fits into the philosophy and mission of c4’s already impressive list of environmental services. With a short 28 day frost free growing season, and possible snow any month of the year, growing local food is challenging. The seeming impossible task of creating a healthy food web in Leadville gets even more complicated by the repercussions of Leadville’s mining industry that have left a lasting impact on the land.
From Superfund Site to Thriving Farm
The Cloud City Farm sits on what was once a Superfund site. Deposits of heavy metals litter the land and settle in the soil. In order to create the farm that will scale to the promise of their mission, c4 is reclaiming the land.
First, they scraped away 6 inches of top soil from the entire farm site. Now, they are in the slow, but rewarding process of rebuilding healthy soil.
The growing farm currently consists of:
- A 42′ Growing Dome®… the production workhorse of the farm.
- Outside community garden beds… educational and experiential places for community members to get their hands back in the soil, and back into growing.
- And a weekly market where they sell all of the produce they grow.
Next Steps for Cloud City Farm
The farm is small, but it’s growing.
With vision, dedication, community support, and appropriate technology… they’re growing food.
In addition, they’re successfully distributing fresh produce every week through their market to the highest incorporated town in the United States. Meanwhile, a full-time gardener continually tends the Growing Dome towards maximum yield. And there are no signs of slowing down as Cloud City Farm reaches toward their mission of addressing healthy food access in Lake County.
Next year will find them… atop a tractor.
Fundraising starts soon for the machinery and infrastructure to expand their outdoor community garden beds, move more soil, and shape permaculture design principles into the landscape.
Moreover, their tractor will enable them to work at the scale the task demands.
“Who is supporting it? Over 100 Lake County residents have given money or volunteered on the project. In addition, the Leadville Trail 100 Legacy Foundation, Copper Environmental Foundation, the Freeport McMoRan Community Investment Fund, the Summit Foundation, Gates Family Foundation, and New Belgium Brewing have also given grants to support the project. Donate your time, donate your money, donate your expertise to creating healthy, local food systems.” – c4
To join the ranks and help raise the funds for the continuing development of Cloud City Farm, consider donating your time, money, or expertise.
Visit their website at http://cloudcityconservation.org/cloudcityfarm/ and support their efforts of healthy food and healthy communities.
Next Steps for You
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