Development of additional agricultural structures on the Schoolhouse Lease Area of Emma Open Space is contemplated in 2019. On Dec. 4, 2018, the Board of County Commissioners endorsed budgeting $150,000 from the Open Space and Trails program for the addition to two sheds and associated infrastructure on the property to facilitate the operations of agricultural lessee Two Roots Farm.
Two Roots Farm requested an on-site structure in which to clean, pack and store produce that is grown on the lease area. After considering the expense of erecting a barn on the parcel, the Open Space Board agreed to move forward with the shed option.
SOME BACKGROUND In early 2018, Two Roots Farm was awarded the lease for the South Lease Area and Schoolhouse Lease Area at Emma Open Space for a term of 10 years. Two Roots produced 30,000 pounds of vegetables on the Schoolhouse Lease in 2018 after creating a fenced-in garden plot, installing a permanent irrigation system and erecting a hoop house for this purpose. The lessee also installed a shed on the property to facilitate its operations, but requested an additional structure to be supplied by Pitkin County.
Agricultural structures at Emma Open Space were envisioned when the Emma Open Space Management Plan was adopted in 2017. In addition, they are permitted by the Conservation Easement that overlays the property. The management plan reads, in part:
4.2.2 Agricultural Structures and Improvements Agricultural Structures - The conservation easement for Emma Open Space allows for the installation, repair and maintenance of water wells, irrigation systems, ponds, streams and irrigation ditches and agricultural outbuildings, such as a livestock or hay barns, tool sheds and greenhouses, with grantee approval. OST staff and the lessees will work with the Roaring Fork Conservancy (conservation easement grantee) to determine locations and allow the lessees to develop the listed improvements on their lease areas to fit their needs. Permanent improvements proposed by lessees may be cost-shared by OST on a case-by-case basis. Maintenance of improvements will be included in the lessee’s annual operating plan.
NEW FOOD SAFETY REGULATIONS The Food Safety and Modernization Act (FSMA) will require producers of Two Roots Farm’s scale to comply with FSMA regulations starting in 2020. Provisions of the act include safe and adequate sanitary water and buildings that “facilitate maintenance and sanitary operations,” i.e. washable surfaces and adequate drainage. The structure and infrastructure needed for an organic produce operation, and to comply with FSMA, include a well, electricity and barn. The well and electricity have been installed since they will be utilized regardless of whether a permanent structure is built on the property.
Meanwhile, Two Roots Farm could be certified organic by mid-2019. The operation would be the first USDA Certified Organic farm on Pitkin County open space.
PUBLIC PROCESS AND OUTCOME Open Space and Trails evaluated the addition of a barn on the property in the first half of 2018. This process included a Location and Extent Review by the county’s Planning and Zoning Commission, a presentation to the Emma Caucus and an online public survey. A 45-day public comment period in 2018 generated 109 comments via an online survey. In addition, the caucus submitted comments. Open Space staff evaluated the input, which showed 90.8 percent of respondents favored a structure on the property and 9.2 percent did not.
The public process comments are posted below, as is the Nov. 1 memo to the Open Space and Trails Board (at which time board members supported the addition of two more sheds on the agricultural lease area over the barn option) and a diagram showing existing improvements on the lease area.