Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann's Confluence Farm is a unique operation in more ways than one. They have a stunning location just down the road from Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado. They also have a unusual model - their main business is supplying two 'shoulder' CSAs one in early spring and then again in late fall into winter. And of interest for all you achey-back farmers out there, Mary and Paul have a new weeding contraption designed to save your spine.
Who farms with you? Mary Vozar and Paul Bohmann do all of the work on the 2 acres they have cultivated. They occasionally have volunteers and use day labor help for larger crop harvesting and planting days.
How long have you been farming? Mary has been an organic gardener since she was a teenager. She planted her first garden in 1975 and has been gardening ever since. In 1996, Mary and Paul bought 27 acres, an old farmhouse and a handful of outbuildings with the dream of eventually farming an alternative crop (We are surrounded by alfalfa hay fields and cows). When the garden started producing more than they could use, Mary started selling at the local Farmers Market in Cortez. That was in 2006.
What are your markets? We no longer sell at the Farmers Market but have two shoulder season CSA’s; a Spring Greens CSA from April to June and a Fall/Early Winter CSA that runs from September to early December. We sell wholesale to restaurants and Natural Grocers. This past year we participated in the School to Farm program and supplied some local schools with produce.
Briefly describe your farm. We live and farm at 7,000 feet and grow vegetables to supply two, small, shoulder season CSA’s. Cold hearty varieties, row covers and timing have helped us in growing for the off seasons. Just as the local Farmers Markets are winding down - our CSA is starting up! And our Spring Greens CSA starts early when customers are craving fresh green and the farmers markets haven’t opened.
Why did you get involved with CNG? We like the spirit of farmers inspecting other farms and networking in a cooperative way. We also love the fact that CNG is a grassroots organization and provides an alternative to Organic Certification.
What was your most positive farming experience? Having school groups come visit and get their hands dirty on the farm. The future of our food and small farms depends on our children and the next generations. It is most rewarding to have a kid harvest a carrot, eat it and love it so much that they want to keep harvesting and eating more! To me, that’s the real beginning of food security! We need to teach the next generations about where their food comes from, the value of it tasting great and being healthy.
How do you include customers in your farming operation? Our CSA customers come to the farm for pick-up. We set aside those hours to be available to chat it up or just hang out for a bit or tour the farm.
What unexpected customer interactions have been especially rewarding? As CSA members have moved on, they actively seek replacement members. We keep our operation small and personal and our members are like a special family.
Who is your mentor or hero in the farming world? I have always admired Helen and Scott Nearing and everything they represented to the “back to the land” movement. In those early years I looked to Rodale Press for information about organic gardening. But my true mentors were Ruth and Lon Wasco who lived in Shaftsbury, Vermont. They walked the talk of living off the land and valued farm fresh food and sustainability way back in the early 1970’s.
Favorite vegetable My favorite vegetable would have to be spinach. It is easy to grow (just forget about trying in the heat of the summer) and will survive our severe winters (even – 20 degrees . . . . yes, I really do mean 20 degrees BELOW zero!!). It is wonderful eaten raw or cooked and is much easier to clean and process than lettuce. It is one of the last greens to survive in the late fall and definitely the first to produce in the spring. In fact, we usually get to harvest some in January or February.
Most unusual farm tool . . . . Our friend, Ole Bye, made a weeding platform from scrap materials – it has wheels (bicycle) and is a flat low platform that you lay on and propel yourself forward as you weed the row or rows you are hovering above. It needs some refinement but has the potential of being the next best weeding contraption!
Do you have any guilty pleasures? Weeding naked (Paul!).
What’s special about your farm? The abundance of wildlife that co-exist with our farm on the confluence of the Mancos River and Mud Creek. The frequent rainbow visuals that occupy our back yard where we can see the full arc and it’s often a double!