Colorado Farm to Table hires a part-time farm hand to help the organization that feeds the hungry grow food more sustainably
On a smoky August morning on the Shine Farm just north of Salida, Sarah Kurmin crouches down among rows of cabbage plants, some as big as basketballs. She pulls a pigweed from the dirt and tosses it to the side of the row. She pulls another weed, and another and another.
That’s how you control weeds when chemicals are eliminated from the growing equation. Her five-month, part-time job at the historic farm was supported by a mini-grant from Chaffee Common Ground, to help add the labor needed to tend the field as new sustainable growing practices are implemented.
Colorado Farm to Table provides fresh produce at no cost to food banks, soup kitchens and pantries, feeding families in need across Colorado. Twenty distribution partners include Ark Valley Christian Mission, First Presbyterian Food Pantry and the Salida Housing Authority in Chaffee County. It is the state’s only non-profit organization combining a viable farm operation with an anti-hunger mission, raising and giving away more than 2.4 million pounds of cabbage, broccoli, sweet corn, acorn squash and other fresh, nutritious produce.
In 2021, the farm moved to eliminate the use of pre-emergent herbicides that are traditionally put in the ground before the growing season to prevent weeds from growing up. Now they are using no herbicides at all. At the same time, they began to try new cover crop techniques. A cover crop is grown to enrich the soil and microorganisms that live there.
“These changes will provide long-term benefits to our farm, our recipients and our environment,” said farm manager Thomas McDaniel. Funding from Common Ground was combined with awards from the City of Salida, The Summit Foundation, Kettering Family Foundation and others to help pay for the new staff position.
Pulling pigweed is one job of a farm hand, but the addition of Kurmin has helped with all of the changes. She has worked in sustainable agriculture for the past eight years and has experience in permaculture and organic systems. “I’m excited to work here because the transition from conventional to sustainable farming is so important. I want to be part of this farm’s experience and build on the great foundation here,” she said.
The farm on Highway 291 passed through several generations of the Shine family and was subdivided over the years through succession. The land now encompasses 15 acres that Colorado Farm to Table placed back into agricultural production in 2005. The elimination of pre-emergent herbicides protects water supply since the farm is located on the William and Hamm irrigation ditch and water flowing through passes back into the Arkansas River.
“The changes will help us continue to improve and protect the health of this land through good stewardship,” Colorado Farm to Table Executive Director Lisa McGraw Siegfried said, adding that there also will be more diverse choices in fresh produce to the communities served.
Read more Stories of Impact from Chaffee Common Ground.