If you’re familiar with the Basalt-area working farm run by the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies, you know what a special place it is, with its pigs, sheep, chickens, duck- and goose-filled ponds, towering willow trees and irreplaceable setting along the Roaring Fork River.
It’s a throwback to the midvalley’s agricultural days that, paradoxically, also offers a hopeful glimpse at a local farming future.
If you’re not familiar with Rock Bottom Ranch — or just want to meet it again — today is the day to go make its acquaintance. To celebrate planting season, the ranch is hosting a free Spring into Summer open-house event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with egg collecting, potato planting, crafts, plant seeding and hay rides. There will also be brunch items for purchase, as well as RBR meat and eggs for sale.
The activities, which are aimed at kids and adults alike, are meant to be fun, but in keeping with ACES’ overall mission of “educating for environmental responsibility,” they’ll also be a way to start a conversation about food.
“Our whole seasonal farm crew will be here, so it’s about meeting your farmer and talking to your farmer about what they’re farming and what we’re growing for the community,” said Alyssa Barsanti, agriculture manager at RBR. “Our staff will be sharing information and answering questions about all of our production systems and what we’re doing.”
What they’re doing is turning the ranch into a source for hyper-local beef (some tenant cattle will be arriving next week), pork, chicken, lamb, eggs and produce as part of a resurgent agrarian scene in the valley. Along with places like Aspen’s Farm Collaborative and Basalt’s Two Roots Farm and Mountain Primal Meat Co., RBR is helping local food show up on more and more menus and store shelves throughout the area.
With little shipping and reduced packaging involved, it’s a great formula for reducing the overall carbon footprint of the food we eat and practicing “environmental responsibility,” as famed Aspen philanthropist Elizabeth Paepcke put it when she founded ACES in 1968.
This will be the inaugural Spring into Summer event, and while ACES hopes to make it an annual springtime counterpart to RBR’s wildly popular Harvest Party, right now the differences between it and that fall-season tradition are stark. The Harvest Party is a ticketed, shuttle-serviced event with a catered meal, music and dancing, in addition to all manner of farm activities. Saturday’s free open house is going to be much more low-key — for now, at least.
“We’re excited to have a spring open house every year and create some excitement for the growing season and local food systems,” said Barsanti, though she doesn’t expect the turnout to be anything like the Harvest Party. “That event already has a reputation. We could maybe grow to such numbers, but not yet.”
Regardless of how many people it draws, the open house will be a great opportunity for young and old alike to see the ranch and maybe do a little thinking about what they eat and how it arrives on their plate.
“It should be an exciting day to learn where your food comes from and meet your farmers,” said Barsanti.
You can bet you’ll be pleased to make their acquaintances.