No one speaks better to this change than the four summer interns who are helping produce the Indian Ridge’s organic bounty. Tony Daranyi and his wife, Barclay, who began this pioneering effort in 2000 (building ponds, putting in infrastructure and the like), says that the market for their fresh, wholesome food has grown much faster than they’d anticipated. Between the 48 area households that have signed up for their Community Supported Agricultural program, and the Indian Ridge Farm crew, Tony figures they’ll be feeding 150 people for 19 weeks.
Indian Ridge is the first-ever commercial sustainable agricultural enterprise on Wright’s Mesa, and this summer’s four interns are wholly dedicated to the future of sustainable organic farming. Indian Ridge veteran Kara Lindahl, 30, is the bakery manager, spending her third year here. This slight, dark-haired, attractive young woman who grew up in Downer’s Grove, Ill., says love of adventure and outdoor sports drew her to Colorado. She’s wintered in Aspen, working and skiing, managed an indoor swimming pool in Silverthorne, and worked with an at-risk youth program in Montrose. Kara loves to cook.
Over time, Barclay, whose Telluride area commercial bakery business was thriving even before the move to Indian Ridge, has imparted her baking secrets to Kara, who’s proved to be a very talented understudy.
Interns William Lyons, 21, and Marie Williams, 23, were both students at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina where they were involved in environmental studies. The college features a 400-acre farm, coupled with a work-study program. Marie earned a BS in biology, likes working with animals and worked on a Moffat County cattle ranch last summer. She is tall with long dark hair, and like Kara, is thoughtful and soft-spoken – and looks nothing like a seasoned ranch hand. She grew up in North Carolina, with significant “roots in environmental ethics.”
William – tall, trim with a lean face, blonde hair and a generous smile – is from Pennsylvania. He graduated this spring and speaks with strong conviction about the importance of promoting sustainable agriculture, of recognizing the harm that chemicals and industrial scale farming has done to the earth.
He says it’s critical that “the public makes the connection between food and health” and that “as a culture we must pay what food’s actually worth.” He says the future of food production in this country will largely be determined by the availability of water and oil. He speaks about the contrasts between the verdant eastern states where it’s standard to harvest three cuttings of hay, and here in the West where one cutting is often the norm.
I’ve met these four Indian Ridge interns during their lunch hour (Kara and Co.’s mouth-watering pizza) in the large teepee that serves as their communal kitchen and dining room. Despite the seriousness of our subject – food and world survival – there’s plenty of cheery banter and a sense of fun.
Twenty-four-year-old Dan, who is tall and lean with wavy red hair and an easy-going manner, says after four years at a small community college near his home in Amherst, Mass., he was ready to travel – and learn more about sustainable agriculture. The web, of course, was the perfect source. Among others, Dan found “Willing Workers on Organic Family Farms” – WWOOFF. He clearly scored, spending the winter of 2004 working on a fruit farm in Hawaii.
“I fell in love with the lifestyle,” he says, so not surprisingly he put in another winter there the following year. In between his island stints, Dan worked one summer on a small farm in the Sacramento area, and then “hooked up with a small farm in Amherst last year.” For a young guy who started gardening when he was in high school, Dan is still into the art and the science of growing food – just about anywhere.
Working outdoors is a key element in the ag lifestyle these interns are headed for. Dan says he’ll likely go back to school for training as a farm manager. He talks about an historic old farm in an eastern state that was saved by the local community. Rather than see the farm chopped up, community investors rallied, bought the farm and in time installed a farm manager.
Like Dan, Marie says she’ll probably go back to school as well. “I’d like to focus on possibly managing a diversified farm. It’s critically important, though, that farm owners or investors are practical – someone you can work with.” The enterprise must also be “financially viable – not a fantasy.”
William was less specific about his future but his keen interest in curbing massive, industrial-style farming and wholesale chemical use (fertilizer and pesticides, for example) made me think he could well become an important voice in reforming American agriculture. This is William’s second year at Indian Ridge Farm.
When I stopped at the farm a week or so earlier, William and Marie were planting a garden row – one on each side of a long, rounded, carefully prepared bed of soil. It seemed obvious they were a team.
Kara, the bakery manager, food aficionado and outdoor sports buff, still isn’t sure what the future holds for her. She owns her own travel trailer, but she’d love to “own some land.” With her cooking skills, and the high standards she’s inherited from Barclay’s professionalism, I’ll bet there’s a small town in the West with plenty of open space that’s aching to have it’s own bakery. (In these difficult times, nothing soothes the soul like the smell of freshly baked bread.)
All four of the Indian Ridge interns are obviously part of a quiet little revolution in food production. The Daranyis’ enterprise in sustainable agriculture is growing – they sell a wide variety of their produce at increasingly successful summer farmers markets in Telluride, Norwood and Ridgway. With farmers markets becoming the first choice of more and more American consumers, Indian Ridge Farm and its interns are showing us all the way toward a better, tastier, more sustainable future.