Elk Run Farm
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Pilot Research Project
In November of 2015, Drylands Agroecology Research (D.A.R) began managing 14 acres of land in rural North Boulder County on the front range of Colorado. The land, although zoned for agriculture, had not been farmed or ranched in at least 15 years. Remnants of a cattle operation and clues of overgrazing were left. Dry and barren fields remained as a prairie dog colony grew. Little if any topsoil was present, and biodiversity was minimal. A typical example of desertification in the brittle climate of the southwest, D.A.R saw this as a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of regenerative design.
After diligent analysis and assessment of the land and it’s resources and elements, systems of regeneration were carefully designed and mapped. With the goal in mind of building a productive homestead that could provide a livelihood for all of the inhabitants of the land, Drylands began to lay the groundwork for what would become Elk Run Farm. Intensive animal management of pigs, chickens, and sheep was utilized to quickly build topsoil and rehabilitate the pastures. An exotic forest garden was designed and planted to provide the essential needs of vitamin and mineral rich foods and herbal medicines.
Large scale earthworks were built to manage the water flow on the property, effectively catching and distributing every drop of water that falls and flows through the property. Over 1,200 fruiting or useful trees and shrubs have been successfully established using planting techniques devised exclusively by Drylands Ag without any supplemental water or irrigation. Staple grain trials of Blue Corn, Amaranth, Sorghum, and dry beans develop resilient crops adapted to the region.
The Land Today
Each year, the land continues to grow in fertility and beauty as the ecosystem strengthens, attracting a wide variety of frogs, snakes, birds, and other wildlife. As the pilot research project for the organization, Drylands Ag continues to document and collect data from all the different systems, including the perennial silvopasture crops, grain crops, and forest garden systems. Breeding programs to select highly drought tolerant and resilient perennial crops continue to refine each year.