Local Innovation
Classes and CSAs are two ways you can support and benefit from Benevolence Orchard. (Photo: Shutterstock).
Carol O'Meara, Colorado State University Extension
Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension

The small farm scene is heating up in northern Colorado, bringing fresh ideas to locally grown products.  Farmers thinking outside the tried-and-true offerings at Farmer’s Markets are creating a buzz around farms stands shopping and unusual CSAs.

If you’re looking to farms to feed your mind and soul with a deeper connection to the earth, classes and volunteering are as close as a local orchard on the east side of Boulder.

“As soon as we hung the ‘Open’ sign up, people were stopping to find out what we’re doing,” said Wesley Swartz, orchardist and permaculturist for Benevolence Orchard, 6712 Jay Road in Boulder, benevolenceorchard.com.  “We have all these flowers growing under the trees over here along Jay road and you could see people braking to take a look at them.”

Leasing property to realize his dream of a thriving orchard, Swartz brings 20 years of wisdom in tree fruit growing to the rolling, eastern Boulder farm. The step from caretaking an heirloom orchard to planting 100 trees of his own began with affection for the traditions of agriculture and an ancient, beloved apple tree that was failing.

Neighbors around the old orchard in western Boulder enjoyed the apples the 100-year-old tree provided and were dismayed at its declining health.  To preserve the tree, Swartz treated the tree to a plant version of the Fountain of Youth and clipped some branch tips for grafting onto young rootstock. Refreshed and growing strongly, the reinvigorated tree holds a place in Swartz’s new orchard. The variety is yet to be determined; once the tree fruits Swartz plans to enlist the help of fruit experts to identify the tasty type.

Apples, pears, plums, peaches and apricots sit quietly awaiting spring, when the orchard awakens to another year. In the meantime, Swartz is planting 75 more trees along a gentle, south-facing slope.  As he waits for the orchard to grow into fruit-picking maturity, Swartz and his partner farmers are offering other benefits of the demonstration farm: a cut-flower CSA, Herbal Co-Op, classes and fresh, farm stand produce. 

Sharing their knowledge of tree fruits, permaculture, and specialty products is a passion for the Benevolence Orchard team, who offering classes designed to get you growing. Join in on spring one-day classes ranging from fruit tree pruning on March 16 to grafting or mushroom cultivation. Check out their classes on the website. 

If you’re looking to dive into herbs, the Herbal Co-Op is an in-depth introduction to learning to grow, identify, harvest, preserve, and process herbs. For an annual fee of $25, participants devote a year to the Co-Op, run by Community Herbalist Melissa Balizet, in volunteering each week to the tasks around herb cultivation. In return, classes, discounts on herbal products, a product to take home each week, and a wealth of knowledge is gained. 

Membership in the Co-Op is optional, though, and the public is welcome to join classes or work days for a small drop-in fee. If you’d like more information on the Herbal Co-Op, check out their pre-season meeting March 27, 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the orchard. 

The bounty of flowers planting in the orchard has inspired Swartz and Michelle Boucher to offer an innovative twist on Community Supported Agriculture: a Cut Flower CSA. From May through October, weekly bundles of beauty are readied for CSA shareholders to pick up on Fridays. Perfect for centerpieces, giving to loved ones, dressing up corporate offices, or enjoying yourself, the bouquets in the Cut Flower CSA can be tailored to meet your desires.  Prices vary on share type; inquiries should be sent to Boucher at benevolenceorchard@gmail.com.

By Carol O’Meara, Colorado State University Extension. CSU Extension together with Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides unbiased, research-based information about consumer and family issues, horticulture, natural resources, agriculture and 4-H youth development. For more information contact Colorado State University Extension at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Box B, Longmont, 303.678.6238, e-mail comeara@bouldercounty.org or visit ext.colostate.edu/boulder.