In his 1986 essay, “In Defense of the Family Farm,” Wendell Berry observed, "money is the primary way to access land, but farming on a small scale performs poorly when it comes to creating financial wealth.”
The ability to buy agricultural land and pay for it by farming alone is not currently possible here in Boulder or most other developed places. This reality has weighed heavily on Alice and I over the past years, but also inspired us to pursue our dream of demonstrating a viable, ecologically managed, food-based model for agriculture in 21st century Boulder County.
Through the 1960ʼs, our farm, then well over 100 acres, was a commercial dairy with about 100 dairy cows, complemented by a dozen pigs, about 100 laying hens and a couple of horses. At that time, a new farmer buying a small agricultural property like ours in Boulder County might reasonably expect to be able to pay for the land over time through the value derived directly from managing that land. In other words, the productive value of the land was in sync with the market value of the land as a real estate commodity, and there were many farms like ours.
Fast forward to 2014 and the context has changed significantly. It is no longer possible to generate a living by farming land in Boulder County while paying off the value of that land. A grassroots movement toward local sustainability would like to recapture some of the potential benefits from having more small and mid-sized local farms in the Boulder "Foodshed," however most farm properties configured like ours have gradually disappeared, subdivided, or transformed into more suburban uses. Wendell Berry’s sentiments from the the 1980’s have only become more true.
Our Farm has survived the major dismantling process of the last decades, however it has been disconnected from its surrounding pastures which are now owned by the City of Boulder Agricultural Open Space program. When going through our review process to obtain building permits, we were told by Boulder County Land Use officials that we were one of the only private agricultural properties in the county to go back into food production.
We believe if Boulder is to succeed in facilitating a thriving and sustainable local agricultural system and reap the benefits for its citizens, a holistic paradigm shift needs to happen which would promote a more farmer-friendly environment on agricultural lands in Boulder County. We hope that The Golden Hoof will be an early example of this paradigm shift toward a “New Ruralism” which could create a truly symbiotic relationship between the urban areas of Boulder and its rural surroundings for the mutual benefit of our community.