Visiting Red Canyon Farm, owned and operated by Kim Lindgren, gave me the opportunity to visit the gorgeous and unique Mc Elmo Canyon, an experience I am very grateful for. With autumn in full swing, the trees seemed to be glowing against the background of the blue sky and the red rocks of the canyon. Passing picturesque farms and homes with the cool breeze blowing in my face, I felt an amazing energy as I drove deeper into the canyon on my way to Red Canyon Farm. If you have never ventured up Mc Elmo Canyon, it may be time to take a trip! With the mouth of the canyon located just over an hour from Durango, this spot is worth the drive. A walk, run, or hike at Sand Canyon is a great winter retreat. If you have a little more time, you can also visit the Hovenweep National Monument, located in the heart of Mc Elmo canyon, about 40 minutes past Kim’s farm. At the National Monument, there are ancient ruins, hiking trails and a visitor center where you can learn about the people who lived in the four corners thousands of years ago.
As Kim showed me around her property, which is 15 acres in total with 4 acres dedicated to food production, we were followed by two gorgeous turkeys, who over the years have become family pets. “They like to be around people. If you are on the other side of the property, they will come find you,” Kim says with a smile. The property is unlike anything I have ever seen. A neatly-planted vegetable patch with stunning red canyon walls in the background. Flowing Mc Elmo creek running right through the land. A luscious orchard, sheep and dogs sitting peacefully in the shade the trees provide. A chicken with her baby chicks resting on a Ewe’s back as she sits in the shade. Donkeys “hee-haw”ing for attention. All of these plants and animals seemingly living in a unique symbiotic harmony.
Kim and her family, consisting of her husband and two daughters, have been living in Mc Elmo Canyon for twenty years. Kim and her husband, Eric, moved to their property In Mc Elmo from Albuquerque when their daughters were young, because they wanted to raise their daughters on a farm. “The kids grew up raising food,” Kim says proudly. “It’s a lot of who they are.” Mc Elmo canyon has served as farmland for many different people for thousands of years. Right from Kim’s property, ancient ruins can be spotted. When the Lindgren family first bought their property, they found a lot of evidence of ancient peoples on the land. In fact, Kim says it is hard not to spot some sort of ancient artifacts around here. Needless to say, this is a very special place.
Red Canyon Farm consists of a large orchard with 500 apple, pear and peach trees and a garden in which she grows almost all of the food they eat as a family. There is also a large green house, stuffed with tomatoes and peppers, which she sells though the Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative. There are also more animals than I could keep track of. Red Canyon Farm sells lamb, so at any given time, there are about 30 lambs (baby sheep), 15 ewes (adult female sheep) and a few rams (adult male sheep) on the property. Kim also keeps two donkeys, three Pyrenees guard dogs to ward off predators, two pet dogs, as well as chickens, ducks, geese and bees.
Growing your own food is a lot of hard work, but Kim seems grateful to have the opportunity to do so. “I do not like butchering season,” Kim says of raising sheep for food. “I choose which sheep are to go and I take responsibility for that sheep’s life. If I am going to eat meat, this is how I want to do it. It is looking at my practices right in the eye.” The sheep are an important part of the farm, as they eat the fallen fruit from the orchard. “I think this (eating the fruit from the orchard) makes our lamb taste better,” Kim says. Since their farm is organic, the fruit from the orchard falls faster and it is hard to keep up with. Having the sheep to help “clean up” is a two-for-one for Kim.
Red Canyon Farm, being so lush and full of delicious food, also makes it a target for predators, like mountain lions and bears. The fruit from the orchard is very enticing for the bears, especially in the fall, when they are preparing for the winter. They hop over the fence and gorge themselves on the luscious fruit. “The animals all get very tense when the bears are around,” Kim says. The mountain lions have also been a huge problem over the years on the farm. A few years ago, they lost two dozen sheep to one mountain lion that was living in the area. They also simply just jump over then fence and help themselves to what they like. Kim once woke to a mountain lion right outside her window, as it took one of her sheep for its dinner.
Kim mostly runs her farm by herself, but gets help from Eric, who runs the tractor and cares for the orchard. Her two daughters, Mesa and Maya, both in their twenties, also help when they come home. Eric still works part time in Albuquerque, staying there for a few days every two weeks. The rest of the time, he is able to work from home. Kim, however, has been farming full-time for about fifteen years now. “Every year is different,” she says. “There is always something…a new disease, a new bug.” Kim is originally from Pheonix and worked as a Social Worker before dedicating her time to the farm. “I didn’t necessarily see this (farming) as my life’s calling, but it was a wonderful lifestyle to bring my kids up in.”
Kim’s favorite crop that she grows are her heirloom tomatoes. “I am a cook so I am always looking for flavor. I am kind of addicted to these tomatoes. I have to grow them. I can’t stop.” If you have not ordered Kim’s heirloom tomatoes yet, you should give them a try…they are delicious!
Being a small farmer is tough. It is hard work. It is hard to make a living. One thing that Kim struggles with, like many small farmers, is finding the right labor. The right person to do the job. “It is a very tricky thing,” she says “My (other) biggest challenge is marketing. It is a big issue. It is a totally different thing than growing the stuff. I like that the co-op does it for me. It makes it much easier. As my kids say, ‘This is cool. This is what you need.’” Kim sees the co-op as having the potential to help farmers in our area feed our entire community, to make the local food scene much more prominent in Southwest Colorado and beyond. I agree!