Confluence Farm is an extremely fitting name for the 2 acre plot in Mancos, Colorado owned by Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann. Confluence Farm is nestled in a gorgeous location, in the shadow of Mesa Verde National Park, at the meeting point of the Mudd Creek and the Mancos River. Mary and Paul live in a beautiful, open home located on the property, which they bought 19 years ago (1996)! At the time, they both had full-time jobs and kept the farm just to feed themselves. As time went on, they slowly have morphed the farm into both of their main jobs, although they both still keep part-time jobs off the farm. ‘Change’ seems to be the main theme at Confluence Farm. “It’s grown and morphed, grown and morphed, grown and morphed,” says Paul of his farm. “We started with alternative crops, like echinacea, hops and garlic. But every year we change it up. We chose to make adjustments instead of sticking to a formula-adjust to the circumstances.”
Mary, originally from the East Coast, has always been interested in gardening. She moved to Colorado for a Forest Service job in 1984 and stayed for the Colorado sunshine. “Colorado has the best sunshine. I love the sunshine,” she states with a shining smile. Paul is from Cincinnati, Ohio and moved to Vallecito area in 1975 to work on a dude ranch and fell in love with the area. He lived in Durango for 22 years before moving to Mancos to start Confluence farm with Mary. They met while they were both working for the Forest Service and realized that they both had Agriculture dreams for their future.
In 2007, Mary started selling vegetables at the Farmer’s Market in Cortez and in 2009, they registered the name ‘Confluence Farm.’ They started doing a CSA with 12 customers per year in 2010. When they started selling commercially, Mary and Paul became known in the region as the only farm to grow in the ‘off season,’ their main farming seasons being the Spring and Fall. “We taught ourselves to grow in December. Things want to grow here. Things grow especially well in the Spring and Fall. ” Confluence farm’s location allows them a smaller summer season because it is colder than most other growing areas. This is why they decided to focus on the shoulder season, to extended the growing season and reduce the competition from other farms (and less weeding!). They plant spinach in the greenhouse in the winter and have found themselves harvesting spinach with two feet of snow on the ground! Paul and Mary also farm by a model of ‘no hired help,’ which means they do everything by hand, all by themselves. “We do all the planting, maintaining and selling,” says Mary. “We always knew we did not want to be employers.” This year, Confluence Farm only sells their products through the Southwest Farm Fresh Co-op. The co-op allows them to focus on what they love, farming, rather than focusing on the selling and business side of things.
When I asked them about their favorite crops, it was obvious to both of them. For Paul, spinach. “I like dealing with spinach,” he says. “Processing and packaging-it works. We have a reputation for growing spinach. It is incredibly enduring- it even likes 24 below. It just hates the heat.” For Mary, her favorite is tomatoes. This is obvious if you take a visit to Conflunece Farm’s greenhouse, where Mary has put in countless hours of work on her beautiful tomato plants. She uses a trellis system and give the plants contact attention and love. I am excited to try one of her tomatoes when they are ready!
When I asked what the biggest challenge of being a small farmer is, Paul responded, “Sustainability. Financially, Mother Nature, marketing, our own ambitions, our age. It would be great to hit a formula that worked every time- we still haven’t found it. We make changes each year due to Mother Nature and other things. There are things you don’t account for-this spring we lost the plastic on our greenhouse during a storm and it needed to be replaced.”
Meeting with Paul and Mary in their beautiful home on their stunning property was an experience I will remember. The love and positive energy they put into their food, farm and lifestyle are present all around them.