The Golden Hoof Farm: The Off-Grid Tropical Greenhouse

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Step into the solar greenhouse at The Golden Hoof Farm outside Boulder, Colorado, and you’re greeted not by a monoculture of greens, but by a forest of fruit trees — guava, avocado, mango, banana, lemon, dragon fruit and cinnamon, to name a few. Taller trees create a canopy above, while shorter shade-tolerant varieties form the understory, mimicking the layers of a tropical forest. The floor of the greenhouse is covered with more conventional crops, like kale, chard, mustard greens and tomatoes. In between the vegetables, a green blanket of nitrogen-fixing clover borders pathways and fills in any excess spaces. On a spring day, you step from the dry Colorado landscape, surrounded by corn fields, into this lush humid forest, and it’s clear that this is anything but your ordinary commercial greenhouse.

 

The greenhouse is a small component of Alice and Karel Starek’s dynamic “slow-food” farm: they produce sustainably raised pork, lamb, beef, chicken, duck, eggs and vegetables. The birds are fed pre-consumer kitchen scraps from local restaurants and roam freely around the acres of property. Pigs are also fed pre-consumer waste, while the ruminants rotationally graze the pastures. All in all, The Golden Hoof operates more like a farm in the 1900s than a farm of today, except that instead of just root vegetables, they are eating homegrown bananas, lemons and figs.

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