Accidental Farmers Find Their Place
It’s been a wild ride. These two accidental farmers, Syl and Lyle, feel lucky to have bumped—quite literally—into this small plot of soil they call home.
In 1989 while hiking Mt. Wheeler, New Mexico’s highest peak, Lyle Davis and Sylvia Tawse engaged in an inspired conversation, one that would soon change their lives. The two cooks excitedly discussed the idea of a large family garden where one could grow a variety of vegetables and flowers, harvest one’s crops, prepare seasonal meals and celebrate gathering around the table, adjacent to the fields where the ingredients were grown. They called it a “field-to-table” experience long before ‘locavore’ was coined or ‘farm to table’ was a phrase.
In 1993 Lyle and Sylvia witnessed a view from another high point. This was a vista from the back fields of the historic Kirkmeyer Farm: a gently sloping contour of fields, Cottonwood trees and creek beds. It was a view of the entire spine of the Front Range that spanned all the way to the distant Spanish Peaks.
Lyle recalls, “We were looking for a house in the countryside outside of Boulder, Colorado. Something with a few acres where we could grow a big garden, raise our kids, and enjoy a semi-rural life. We accidently came upon the terribly neglected Kirkmeyer Farm. There was a dilapidated 120-year old farmhouse, broken down out buildings, shabby grounds, and fields overgrazed by livestock and not cultivated for 20 years. Yet, Syl and I knew we had discovered a gem—a 30.5-acre farm with decent water rights only 15 minutes from the Boulder.”
Despite the ramshackle conditions, they bought the farm and named it after the Woody Guthrie song, “Pastures of Plenty.” With four kids, two dogs, one decrepid Massey-Ferguson tractor and more cats then they could count, Lyle and Syl began their wild ride.
As founder of the original Alfalfa’s Markets in 1979, Lyle had a sound knowledge of the grocery business. He was also intimately involved with local and organic agriculture and was an avid gardener. Sylvia had owned a restaurant and a catering company, and was then the Director of Marketing for Alfalfa’s Markets, and on the verge of founding the public relations firm The Fresh Ideas Group. While these careers provided them with valuable assets, nether Lyle nor Syl were prepared to become farmers. As Lyle admits, “We had much to learn about one of life’s oldest professions.”
Today these two accidental farmers feel lucky to have stumbled upon their small plot of land and call it home. Just as Woody Guthrie observed in the song, “Pastures of Plenty”, the West was being changed as agriculture reshaped the land and its people.
Lyle and Syl hope they are part of another progressive era of change. By farming without the use of toxic chemicals and with a reverence for nature, Lyle and Syl believe they are able to make their own small, positive difference in the world. They are forever indebted to the many hard-working and dedicated employees who make it possible for the farm to thrive. They simply could not have done this without their farm manager, Todd Sprague, the only one patient enough to teach and stand by them each season of this accidental journey.