This blog is the second in a series featuring local farmers. We are lucky to have a diverse group of producers who sell their produce to the FoCo Café, other local businesses, and families in our community.
Sunspot Urban Farm: Sometimes the Most Ingenious Business Models are Not the Biggest
Farmer. Environmentalist. Biologist. Researcher. Community-builder. Philosopher. These are just a few of the terms that describe Rod and Amy Yackel of Sunspot Urban Farm. Rod has a master’s in both English and Philosophy, and Amy earned her PhD in Wildlife Ecology. Neither grew up farming, but both have always had a passion for agriculture. According to Rod, there are several times in life that lead a person to re-evaluate the mark they truly want to leave. For the Yackels, this moment came in 2008 when Rod was seriously injured in a car accident. By 2009, Rod and Amy started Sunspot Urban Farm with a desire to provide nutritionally superior food, in an environmentally friendly way. The Yackels are so committed to this goal they actually hope to run a carbon-negative operation.
From composting to food co-ops, this lofty benchmark has led to community-building along every step of the way. Friends and neighbors bring autumn leaves, compostable left-over foods, and reusable building material to Sunspot Urban Farm. Businesses have also become a part of this eco-friendly partnership. Rod bicycles to Mugs and several other businesses each morning to pick up compostable coffee grounds and produce.
Why go through all of this work? Rod and Amy have become experts in soil quality, down to the microbial level. Rod and Amy care for their soil with only all-natural products; this includes ash, mineral, and reusable products from around the community. According to Rod and Amy, soil quality is the most important step in producing nutritionally superior food. They both take great pride in knowing that Sunspot Urban Farm produces a wholesome product for their community.
Sunspot Urban Farm’s innovation has not gone unnoticed. A Colorado State University student is currently working with Rod and Amy on developing an above ground strawberry production system. Later this season, Rod and Amy will also start a research project on the potential of using compost heat as a supplemental heat source in greenhouses. This would lead to a completely sustainable greenhouse. The idea could be used in various other sustainable heating systems as well. Both of these projects were made possible through grants with the United States Department of Agriculture.
Grants and research projects might lead one to think of a large-scale farming operation, but Sunspot Urban Farm is actually nestled in the heart of Fort Collins. With the majority of their operation located on a half-acre just north of the CSU Campus, the Yackels produce over 40 vegetable varieties. They also feed 25 families through their Neighborhood Supported Agriculture (NSA) program. Families pick up their produce from Sunspot Urban Farm each Tuesday afternoon. The Yackels describe Tuesday pick-ups as a time for community building. Most NSA members get to know one another as they select their feast for the week. In addition to their Neighborhood Supported Agriculture Program, the Yackels sell produce to the Fort Collins Food Co-Op and the FoCo Cafe.
Rod and Amy truly understand the symbiotic relationship that can exist with the environment, the community, and the individual. “The human takes care of the soil, the soil takes care of the plant, the plant takes care of the human, and the human has energy to take care for the soil” (Rod Yackel, personal communication, June 8, 2015).
To learn more about Sunspot Urban Farm, Rod and Amy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on CSAs and pick up information in Fort Collins can be found at http://coloradocsas.info/csas/pickupCity/Fort%20Collins.