A heavy, cold rain poured down on Debra Neeley as she set-up and opened her pioneering Green Gate Farm Stand Saturday morning, but dampen her spirit, or the enthusiasm of her customers it did not. As the opening hour of 9am passed, her front porch – turned farm stand – was packed with customers snatching up fresh herbs, eggs, greenery and tomato starter plants.
This might conjure a picture of life in a small rural town, or of a time long ago, but Debra Neeley is the proprietor of Green Gate Urban Farm and Gardens, a farm located in the backyard of her home in urban Denver, Colorado. She is a one of the first to take advantage of recently passed “cottage food” legislation to legally produce and sell home-grown produce and homemade foods from her residence.
It is always a treat for me to meet and photograph a skilled entrepreneur, farmer or artist as they work to create something that has the potential to elevate an industry, transform sentiment or upturn convention. Recently I had such an opportunity, making photographs inside a Good Meds medical cannabis cultivation facility here in Denver. Growing Cannabis (marijuana) in Colorado isn’t new, but with the rapid approach of legal recreational marijuana being available to those so inclined (and over 21) from shops in Denver on Jan. 1st, attention on the subject has greatly increased.
Farming indoors is a feat I used to associate with survival in a post-apocalyptic movie. But over the last few years I have witnessed substantial crops being raised in warehouses across Denver. The photographs below are a few from an indoor Good Meds cultivation facility. The combination of entrepreneurship, agricultural skills and craftsmanship on display there was wonderful to experience. While complying with complex regulation they successfully grow a variety of strains and create a truly artisanal product.
The DEA did not show up to raid his field earlier this month so Ryan Loflin and a crew of volunteers harvested, by hand, the first major (known) hemp crop in The United States in over 50 years. Ryan quietly amassed the illegal seeds from abroad and planted them earlier this year in about 60 acres of the same land he worked as a boy in a remote corner of Southeast Colorado. In early October, as part of a decision to optimize yield, he opted to harvest the entire crop by hand. Instead of hiring migrant farm workers Ryan turned to twitter and facebook making a general call to anyone interested in participating in this historic event to go to his farm, camp and help harvest. Friday night the crew began to assemble, most camping in tents inside the barn used the following day to store the harvested crop. People came from down the road, and as far away as Idaho and Texas to participate. Saturday morning after filling out an indemnification contract, a breakfast of muffins, yogurt and coffee, Ryan and fellow hemp enthusiasts fanned out across the weedy hemp field plucking the green leafy stocks, now mature and heavy with seed, one by one, pulling out the entire plant by the roots.
Harvest weekend proved to be a visually interesting event full of colorful characters harvesting a crop in the still drought-plagued Southeastern corner of Colorado that directly reflects the changing attitudes and laws about Cannabis and Hemp in Colorado and around the country. And it was all made possible by the entrepreneurial spirit of an enterprising farmer.
I made 3 trips to the farm and hope that the photographs below capture Ryan’s entrepreneurial spirit as well as showcase the undertaking in a visually interesting way.
A set of new non-traditional landscape photographs capturing a bit more of the spirit of rural Colorado. I created these photographs while driving between editorial assignments recently.
Below is a portion of a series of photographs I created as part of a commission to document the relationship between agriculture and water. 2012 was a tough year to coax crops from the dry earth. The drought coupled with high heat caused many crops across Colorado (and the nation) to fail.
The sky is turning from black to blue, the street lights click off and people begin to stir outside as I sit drinking my first cafe-bought coffee of the New Year selecting photographs for a blog post showing destruction and hardship from the drought. But first I wanted to offer this photograph, an addition to my growing OTR (On The Road) project, as hope not just for a less dry year but general hope for prosperity and a lack of smiting from the powers that be.
From heavy traffic to a lone barn – 3 visual treats from a quick trip made a few hours early in an attempt to beat the storm.
I enjoy any opportunity to spend time in an agricultural setting – and this was no exception.