Not Your Typical Farmers: Rough and Ready Farm
Laura and Dave aren’t your typical farmers.
For starters, they’re in their 30s. Instead of stewarding land inherited from a family farm, they took a chance and began leasing a plot off of Highway 66 in 2020. They started by doing everything by hand; they painstakingly tackled the overgrown, invasive weeds that took over their plot, prepped each seedling in the foyer of their Longmont home, and poured their hopes and dreams into their new business: Rough and Ready Farm.
While farming may not be in their family tree, it’s clearly in their DNA.
Dave first became fascinated with growing vegetables while working with his grandmother in the garden of her Minnesota home, while Laura explored her similar passion for agriculture through her studies. Masters degree in hand, she couldn’t stand the idea of working inside for the rest of her life. Eventually, she and Dave both found themselves settling in the Front Range, and crossed paths while working at Aspen Moon Farm.
Their experiences working on farms brought immeasurable value to their own business. Their understanding of biodynamic practices shines through in their day-to-day operations. While their farm isn’t certified organic (a process they haven’t pursued as their sales are all direct-to-consumer), they never use chemicals or pesticides on their crops. Instead, when bugs or plant diseases descend on their plants, they’ll give it time. Dave carefully observes the crops and, instead of tilling them over, waits patiently to see if they’ll rebound. And, when they do lose a crop, they don’t lose any sleep over it, knowing that they have a small but diverse array of offerings that can support their farm. The payoff of their patience is clear in the results: the most colorful, ripe, and delicious produce you can imagine.
While it’s easy to see and applaud the success of Rough & Ready Farm, it hasn’t come without challenges. For two years, Dave and Laura ran their farm without any additional help. Add that on top of years of working under other farms, and the cumulative labor has already taken a toll on their bodies. Chronic shoulder and joint pain is a given, while constantly working in the dirt and dust has given Laura serious sinus pain in the past. They worked diligently to get their business to a place where they had enough revenue to purchase farm equipment and hire their first two staff members, but it took time – and plenty of hard work – to get there.
The weather poses its own challenges. Their farm was startlingly close to the Lefthand Canyon Fire. In fact, Dave was there tending to his crops as ash fell from a violently red sky. Recalling the memory, he shared that it felt like farming in Mordor. In addition to fire conditions, the availability of water in general is never guaranteed. Instead of simply turning the spigot whenever it’s time to water, they have to coordinate water usage from the ditch behind their property with their ditch rider and neighbors. Dave is careful to plan around water availability. For example, he’ll plant crops that need more water earlier in their growth in June rather than in August, capitalizing on early snowmelt while he can. Gesturing to his carrots, he shared that thanks to a healthy water supply earlier this season, they don’t need to be watered regularly late in the season.
After a grueling but prosperous summer, Laura and Dave are getting ready to wind down for the season and begin planning for next year. They have scored an additional 9 acre plot near their current farm to add to their repertoire next season, allowing them to scale their business even further. Laura and Dave are in the business of providing people with the food they want while preserving the beautiful open spaces of our local farmlands. They work with the land, plants, insects, and climate rather than trying to control each environmental factor. And the result is delicious abundance.
You can find Rough and Ready Farm at our Longmont Farmers Market every Saturday through November 19, or by ordering online at bcfm.org.