Last week board members PJ Bergin and Sally Ayotte visited the beautiful site of Jones Farm Organics. The location is spectacular with a view of the Sangres on the east and peaks of the San Juan Mountain Range on the west in the heart of the San Luis Valley (SLV) northwest of Hooper. The day was sunny, breezy and temperate – great weather for exploring the organic potato fields maintained by Michael Jones.
Jones Farms Organics grows a lot of potatoes! With the assistance of Michael and two (of three) daughters we found medium sized red and purple potatoes, small yellow potatoes and other yellow potatoes with a pink dot. They are famous for a medley of the small potatoes sold in boxes throughout Colorado. Other varieties of the Jones Farms Organics potatoes go to organic food producers who use them as part of their finished product. An example of this use is the russet potatoes that are sold to Amy’s Organics for the burritos found in a grocery stores’ freezer section.
Aside from potatoes Michael is growing other types of crops. They may be called “cover crops” planted after the potatoes are harvested. Cover crops are an important component with regenerative farming practices. They keep the soil intact while nourishing it and preventing weeds. Michael’s goal is to never see bare dirt in any of his “wedges” in the circles he farms. His desire is to always have a crop growing everywhere in sight. He is achieving maximum soil health while farming saleable products with the crops he chooses. One good example of this is the Wrens Abruzzi Rye we saw in the first part of the circle we visited. It was waist high, matured to a beautiful golden hue. The crop was planted in early Fall, 2020 soon after potatoes in this field were harvested. The rye grew over the winter, helping to keep the precious top soil from disappearing in dry winter winds. Soon the rye will be harvested and sold to a distillery in Denver. Michael uses a four year rotation with the potatoes, 2 types of rye and other products. One of the products in the experimental stage is safflower to be used for the oil. Bolita beans are another experiment that may become part of the 4 year cycle.
One of the most important aspects of choosing the rotation crops are the amount of water required to grow them. Michael has only so much water allotted to his farm each year. With the crop descriptions given through the tour Michael knows the amount of water each plant requires. He uses this information in plant selection, juggling the water allotment from one crop to another.
The farm is not far from The Great Sand Dunes National Park. During the quieter winter months of 2020 the Jones Family renovated an older ranch house to be used as a stunning vacation rental. This can be an opportunity to enjoy time on the farm and experience for yourself the amazing surroundings of Jones Farm Organics!