Old farm in Fort Collins keeps traditions despite nearby developments
As Colorado development land becomes a hot commodity and farming overhead costs grow, ag properties become less likely to survive as-is when sold.
Some multi-generational farm owners try to hang onto their family’s rural roots by devoting part of their land to farm museums, or through Community Sponsored Agriculture endeavors or special event-driven festivities.
One Fort Collins farm more than 130 years old has tolerated the switch from a produce and livestock past to an encroaching suburban sprawl future. Its goal is to educate and serve its surrounding community.
In the early 20th century, Fort Collins, Colo., was a smudge on the map, an agricultural college its singular claim to fame. Several miles east of its modest downtown, atop a bluff overlooking the Poudre River, sat a newly-built red brick farmhouse. Joseph and Mary Jessup just bought the property, where they built their two-story home from Joseph’s uncle. Soon, the Jessups added a barn and other outbuildings that served their family through the mid-1950s.
In 1963, the farm changed ownership when a prominent landowning family, the Johnsons, added the acreage to their nearby land at the juncture of Timberline and Drake roads. Subsequently known as Spring Creek Farms, the property continued on as agricultural until it was sold off bit by bit for development.
As recently as the late 1990s, the previous Jessup portion quietly sat unused, except for two or three horses that contentedly grazed in a field adjacent to the farmhouse. Its under-the-radar status likely preserved it from bulldozers. Eventually, the horses moved on.
But the brick building and the other structures were preserved in 2011 when Bellisimo, Inc. and Jessup Farm’s new owners, Gino, Michael, Tony, Dominick and Nico Campana, presented their vision for the property. Their goal was to “create an innovative, adaptive reuse plan to preserve, restore and rehabilitate the historic integrity of Joseph and Mary Jessup’s farmstead” by transforming it into Jessup Farm Artisan Village.
The farm’s website sais the plan combined “elements of New Urbanist planning with concepts drawn from the farm-to-table and farmer’s market movements”.
On the Jessup land that surrounds the island of structures, the Bucking Horse Farm neighborhood offers residential housing. Jessup Farm Artisan Village itself remains as welcoming as old-time farmhouses once were to neighbors and travelers.
Anne Genson, director of community building and farm operations for Bucking Horse Farm and CSA, is proud of what has already been accomplished. Various elements of the farm each lend to its rural atmosphere, albeit surrounded by suburban growth.
“The neat thing about this neighborhood is keeping farmland that was farmland,” Genson said. “It makes us unique. There are different levels of opportunity; for example, the CSA. In the future, we will also have a city park and community gardens where residents can grow produce in their individuals plots.”
The CSA farm occupies 3.6 acres destined to generate local, healthy produce and educate children about food sources. The adjacent working farm houses cows, goats, sheep, pigs and poultry. Bucking Horse Farm’s CSA functions as do other similar ones: members pay in advance for a share of produce and pick it up weekly at the farm. This assures consumers that what they consume is locally grown. In the case of this CSA, only organic methods are used. Sustainable growing practices omit any and all herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.
Growing seasons will see the most activity in and around the village, including summer camps. Junior Farmers Preschool Camps are scheduled June-August for five days each with themes of Earth, water and air. More themed camps include Life on the Farm, Barnyard Buddies, How Does Your Garden Grow?, Nature Detectives, Farm-to-Table Cooking, Techniques and Food Science and Around the World and Delicious and Nutritious.
Speaking of food, no visit would be complete without a meal served up at the Farmhouse at Jessup Village. This farm-to-fork establishment housed in the original farmhouse uses as much food as possible that’s grown on-premises, like eggs from the adjacent coop. The former single-family brick home’s interior has been renovated into a two-story restaurant. Vignettes of tables are available for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, special events and private parties. The Farmhouse porch and side patio draw fair-weather diners as well.
More individually-owned businesses that preserve the historic integrity of Jessup Farm are housed in its renovated original outbuildings, as well as more in a strip of new structures on the south edge of the village.
The Jessup Farm Barrel House occupies the original white barn. Its barrel and blending brewery uses wine, bourbon and more specialty barrel-aged beer to create an exciting variety of brews. For coffee aficionados, Bindle Coffee Company roasts a variety of beans and serves homemade pastries. Heyday offers patrons high-quality furnishings and casual, classic apparel. Kennedy’s Lucky 27 Barbershop and Social Club combines shaves, haircuts and chit-chat as found in early 1900s shops.
There are also Clayton Jenkins Photography, The Loafing Shed, a bakery and eatery and REVE, a fitness program.
On April 2, a half-day festival kicked off the 2016 growing season with demonstrations, live music from “The Painters,” a petting zoo, tractor-driven hayrides, a fairy garden, farm share sign-ups and vendor displays for the hundreds of visitors.
The Jessup Farm Artisan Village strives to follow in the wagon tracks of early-day farmers whose methods served up healthy fare to consumers.
Jessup Farm Artisan Village’s workers try to maintain agricultural integrity in northern Colorado. The red farmhouse that was once an afterthought on the outskirts of a small agricultural town is now on the forefront of an innovative movement to spare farmland from oblivion and to conserve wholesome farming traditions. ❖