This historic property is now a permaculture farm that’s creating a community around it
Story By Chris Chandler Photos by Devon Wycoff
Those are going to be some spicy pigs!” I say to my husband, thinking of the many jalapeño pepper seeds and ends we’ve put in our compost bucket to send to the pigs at the Yellow Barn Farm.
The farm’s pigs will happily lap up our scraps, which will become pig manure that little pig feet will trample into the soil while the animals are rooting up grass in an area destined to become a community garden. This is a small glimpse of the regenerative land systems being implemented at the Yellow Barn Farm, a 100-acre farm in north Boulder County.
Anyone who drives past the west end of Nelson Road on U.S. Highway 36 can see the yellow barn, long a hallmark structure at this intersection. Originally homesteaded in 1865 by Alonzo Allen and his brother, Allen’s Farm operated as a dairy for many years, and more recently, as an international equestrian center. The land has been resting since 2015, but now it’s springing to life as the Yellow Barn Farm.
“Our goals are to increase soil carbon sequestration, feed and herd animals through this diverse orchard and farm, and offer fresh food to the community,” says Azuraye Wycoff, whose family has stewarded the land for more than 20 years. She ultimately hopes to build a community around the farm’s regenerative and sustainable practices. “If you are looking to get your hands in the dirt, then you’ve come to the right place,” she says.
One hundred and seventy-five volunteers took her up on that offer on a sunny weekend last April, when, over the course of two days, they planted 3,500 trees and shrubs as part of the farm’s “Carbon Sequestration Celebration”—now an annual event.Each volunteer team placed saplings into holes filled with compost, firmly packed soil around the roots and mulched the plants. These shrubs and trees will eventually mature into plants that will provide food for livestock, produce crops and create biodiversity.
The Yellow Barn Farm’s permaculture practices help revitalize the soil, conserve water and manage livestock. Eventually, Wycoff hopes to restore the farm to a productive ecosystem to grow nutrient-dense food. According to Bill Mollison, who, along with David Holmgren co-pioneered the permaculture concept in 1978, “The aim is to create systems that are ecologically sound and economically viable, which provide for their own needs, do not exploit or pollute, and are therefore sustainable in the long-term.”
By studying nature and consciously designing agriculturally sound systems, permaculturists hope to mimic the diversity, sustainability and resilience of natural ecosystems.
Uniting People Through Permaculture
April’s mass planting at the Yellow Barn Farm is an example of “social permaculture,” which, Wycoff says, answers the question of how do you bring the right people to the table and build community while tending to the earth? “By bringing teams together who are doing what they are good at, we can find innovative solutions to any problem,” she says. “We need a cohesive approach to creating stability at the social level, while taking care of the land.”
This marriage of permaculture practices and social collaborations might include activism, community building, supporting local businesses, education, volunteerism and other things. The Yellow Barn Farm hopes to engage the community in its permaculture efforts, Wycoff says. Some people might be communicators who will help get the word out about permaculture; others may be makers who could build a hoop house or repair an existing structure. Some may be planters who could condition the soil and sow the community garden; others might be formal or informal educators who could contribute their knowledge to a project. To find those people, the farm has started compiling a “knowledge network” on its website that people can join to offer up any skills they can contribute.
Weaving together land stewardship and community members is creating an ecological network that the Yellow Barn Farm hopes will, over time, develop into a small, sustainable economy.
The farm’s Mountain Root composting program is an example. The farm collects weekly food waste in 5-gallon buckets from subscribing families and swaps them out with fresh buckets every week. The scraps feed the farm’s pigs (which will eventually become a food source). Manure is churned into the soil to fertilize it, and the farm will plant cover crops this winter to protect and enrich the topsoil. Next year, farm staff and volunteers will plant a garden to provide fresh food to the community from an on-site market.
As the compost network grows, the Yellow Barn Farm plans to deliver food grown at local farms and products crafted by small businesses straight to subscribers’ doors once a week.
Wycoff hopes interested people will get involved in the effort by participating in upcoming action days, taking a free farm tour, purchasing fresh eggs, adopting a tree, or going on a Farm Hop bus tour to visit three local regenerative farms, including the Yellow Barn Farm.
Learn more at yellowbarn.farm, and hope to see you there!