People are always eating. For people who eat three times a day, that equates to around 1,092 meals a year. And that goes without mentioning the snacks and desserts that are sandwiched in the midst of a busy schedule. In this fast-paced environment, it is all to easy to be thoughtless about the food we consume and its origins.
Fox Hill, a residential company planted in the Franktown countryside, is making sure that isn’t the narrative for the members of their neighborhood. After all, it’s hard to ignore where your food comes from when the farm is right across from your house. The crowning feature of Douglas County’s newest custom home development is the fully sustainable garden and orchard located on-site that will provide residents with produce boxes on a weekly basis.
On one side of Flintwood road are bulldozers and half-built custom homes in the up-and-coming Fox Hill neighborhood. On the other side resides the farm, complete with everything from bees that produce local honey to a pumpkin patch for kids to play in during the fall. Unexpected vagabonds, a tribe of 9 deer, also meander around the farm and periodically thieve a few vegetables.
“They do look healthier than they did a couple months ago,” jokes Shawn Lopez, the farm manager.
Shawn is the main man for just about everything around the farm. As the farm manager, he ensures that all of the farm’s processes are connected and functioning well. This is the first year that Fox Hill will distribute produce boxes. According to Shawn, the boxes will include chilis, squash, lettuce, herbs, flowers, fennel, and a crowler of beer.
“They promised the community all of these services, so no matter what we will make it work,” Shawn says.
Shawn is especially interested in their hops, a plant cultivated to brew beer. Long vines of hops dangle on wooden posts and almost seem to dance in the slight breeze. They’re adorned with thousands of green, pinecone-like blossoms. When torn in two, the fuzzy hops release the unmistakable aroma of bitter, citrusy beer. All in all, the hops will produce one barrel (about 31.5 gallons) of IPAs and lager for the community.
“Your average beer starts as a dehydrated, pelleted hop. They’re kind of gross.” Shawn says. “If you go to the store and see limited release or seasonal beer, it’s made from fresh hops like these.”
Natural and fresh is the goal. Fox Hill Farm has 52 free range chickens that strut openly around the farm. Their coop is cheekily coined “Cluckingham Palace,” but most of the time they’re out exploring their surroundings.
“You’re not going to find free-range chickens roaming around like how we have them here,” Shawn says. “In the store, 'free-range' typically means that they’re just fenced in rather than caged.”
Another unique quality farm-to-table produce provides is the exclusivity of plant types. Fox Hill has lemon, lime, and spicy basil as well as blue and Indian corn— all varieties that cannot be found in the supermarket. Much of the produce is grown inside of the greenhouse. This allows the farm to provide year-round produce, even in a state like Colorado where the growing season is squeezed between snowfalls. Produce is simply grown inside of the greenhouse and transplanted outside once it becomes warm enough.
Perhaps the most magical element of the greenhouse is one you wouldn’t expect— fish poop. The farm has plenty of tilapia that are fed organic, vegan food. Their waste is distributed as fertilizer to the fruit trees outdoors. Meanwhile, bacteria breaks down and purifies the fish’s urine, which provides clear water to hydrate the indoor plants.
Because of this system, Shawn hasn’t had to fertilize anything inside of the greenhouse. To add organic or vegan fertilizer would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In addition to being economically sustainable, the farm-to-table system is efficient in just about every other realm as well. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council report titled ‘Wasted,’ transporting food from farms accounts for 50 percent of land use in the United States and 80 percent of all freshwater used.
Shawn notes that over 50 percent of food produced on farms in the United States is lost in the transportation process. At Fox Hill, there is no waste due to transport— the consumers are all local, and the food that isn’t consumed by residents will be donated.
Fox Hill only constitutes one neighborhood. However, if other residential areas follow suit in the future, leaps and bounds of progress can be made toward more mindful and sustainable communities.