The Handshake Diet: Green Junction Farmstead
On just one acre of land, Dawn Trujillo and Brian Adams can feed 500 to 700 people per week. Dawn and Brian’s farmstead, Green Junction Farmstead in Clifton, Colorado, is a beacon for all things fresh, local, and delicious. Brian and Dawn grow 50 varieties of vegetables and produce for their 73 Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members, two farmers’ markets, a handful of local restaurants, the homeless shelter, and a community food bank. All of the food grown at Green Junction Farmstead stays in Mesa County.
Dawn and Brian are firm believers in small scale done right. They want their community and other farmers to know you can grow a lot of good food, on a little bit of land while regenerating the soil.
Dawn started the farmstead in 2015 on a rented piece of land on the other side of town.
“I started with 17 packs of seeds in my pocket and about 30 chickens,” Dawn said. “We transformed less than a quarter of an acre piece of land to start feeding the community.”
For the first two years Green Junction Farmstead was up and running, Dawn worked the land growing food by herself. Dawn always gravitated towards working with the land. Her belief in the value of growing healthy food and robust land to nourish her community propelled her to get into farming.
“The income wasn't there yet to support both of us,” Dawn said. “Brian helped me when he could, of course, but he had to have an outside job to help us make this work.”
61 percent of farmers and ranchers today have to work off-farm part-time to support themselves. 52 percent of U.S. farmers actually have a primary occupation and only farm part-time.
By the third year of Green Junction Farmstead, Brian and Dawn decided they had the income to both solely work on the farm.
“We wanted to work together and grow the operation, so we knew we had to explore getting more land,” Brian said.
Dawn and Brian found a larger lot that they could lease close to their first leased lot.
Their set up of two lots worked well for that growing season, but it was clear to Dawn and Brian this was not a long-term solution. The couple had big ideas and hopes for doing more than just season-to-season farming. Their true passion lay in creating a sustainable, regenerative, thriving ecosystem that their entire community could partake in and consume from.
Brian and Dawn were not able to plan long term on rented land.
“The benefits of how we grow come not in the first year, but the second, and third, and fourth and so on and so on,” Brian said.
Building nutrient-dense soil is a labor of love. It takes time to build up the microbiotics and increase the health and the profitability of the soil by adding organic matter, planting diverse crops, planting cover crops, and more. Brian and Dawn knew starting over again on new land each season impeded on their business. In this cycle, they were unable to benefit from all of the hard work they put into their soil. Ultimately, Dawn and Brian entered a lease with an agreement to purchase the land within the next 6 years.
Today, Dawn and Brian are on their third piece of land.
“We joke that third time’s the farm, around here,” Dawn said.
They are beyond happy to have a place to call their own.
“This is where the universe has landed us to be able to finally work the soil for multiple years instead of starting over and over — we’ll finally get to benefit from all of the hard work and time we spend on our soil,” Brian said.
As Market Gardeners, Dawn and Brian are constantly thinking about space, practicality, and longevity.
“We get to grow good food for good people,” Brian said. “We just grow on a much smaller scale.”
Typically, growing on under five acres is considered market gardening.
“We want to teach people that farming on a smaller scale doesn't have to mean less food. The methods we use are a way to produce a lot of quality food on a small amount of land,” Dawn said.
To do this, Dawn and Brian use a combination of planting methods. They plant close together and they plant many successions throughout the season.
“We're constantly working the soil,” Brian said.
They utilize holistic practices and management to fight off weeds. By managing weeds this way, they are able to optimize the space they do have to plant more, without using expensive inputs and additives.
Dawn said, good planning and practices today will save them time and money in the future.
Regenerative agriculture is one of their guiding principles
“To me, regenerative agriculture means growing instead of killing,” Brian said.
To do this, Brian and Dawn utilize a systems-based approach to soil health that keeps carbon in the soil, rather than releasing it.
“We've got this natural system of plants, animals, land, soil, and regenerative ag is getting those systems to work together to benefit all,” Brian said.
At Green Junction Farmstead, regenerative agriculture is accomplished through cover cropping, green manure, growing diverse plants, and livestock integration.
“Everything we’re doing is improving, not degrading, the soil,” Dawn said.
Soil is the foundation of all growth at Green Junction Farmstead and Dawn and Brian want to reflect that in everything they do.
Not only is this practice better for the land, better for the animals that graze the land, and easier and cheaper on the farmer, this methodology is also better for the consumer. Customers of Green Junction Farmstead never have to worry about harmful pesticides or chemicals in their food, there’s also the benefit of all of the added nutrients and vitamins from healthier soil. Over the last few decades, the nutrient density in many crops has been depleted due to unhealthy soils. A report by Eco Farming Daily shows the level of every nutrient in almost every kind of food has fallen between 10 and 100 percent. An individual today would need to consume twice as much meat, three times as much fruit, and four to five times as many vegetables to obtain the same amount of minerals and trace elements available in those same foods in 1940. Customers of Green Junction Farmstead know exactly what they’re getting when they purchase food from Dawn and Brian.
For products they don’t produce themselves, Dawn and Brian source from neighbors and other local producers that their CSA members can opt into.
Brian and Dawn explained that they want to look their customers in the eyes and show them exactly what it is they’re purchasing. They want their customers to know them, their farm, their practices, their values, and their product. Raw, local honey from Little Canyon Ranch Honey, Alpaca meat from Dreamcatcher Alpacas, artisan breads and jams from Currier Hill Creations, grass-finished beef from Brand 2S Meat, are offered to Green Junction Farmstead CSA members. All of the producers that Dawn and Brian work with are within a 25-mile radius from their own market garden. The producers they work with abide by the same regenerative, ecologically minded principles that Brian and Dawn utilize in their own practices.
“It’s called the ‘handshake diet,’” Brian said, “That's really what we're trying to participate in and create by bringing together all the food sources of people we can go shake hands with and know where that food came from. That's kind of what this is going into is bringing more good growers and producers together in one place. People can come here and trust and know what they're getting.”
“We want to give other local producers a hand up and work together to provide amazing food for our community,” Dawn said.
Dawn and Brian are hoping to inspire other market gardeners and small farmers with their practices and by sharing their story.
“Hopefully we can encourage people who want to grow food for their community to do so without having to buy 20 plus acres and the latest farm equipment,” Brian said.
“We really want to educate people that this is possible,” Dawn said, “We need more small farms growing food for people.”