I have warm childhood memories of sitting in the back of my parent’s car heading west on highway 50 to Grandma’s house in Colorado Springs. My dad would turn from the front seat - the sunset spinning beams from the steering wheel - to ask: “Should we stop for some melons?”
My initial thought was usually, “NO! Get me to Grandma’s green chili and tortillas, STAT!” But, inevitably, we would stop at one of the little markets just off the road near Rocky Ford to grab some summer sweet melons. They never disappointed.
During a recent autumn visit to Crowley County, home of those delicious Rocky Ford melons, I stopped at the quaintly picturesque Mauro Farms & Bakery. I was greeted by a rainbow of homemade pizzelles to the front, green chilies to the left, and rows and rows of biscochitos to the right. My mouth is watering right now remembering it.
In the back of the bakery I could hear arguments coming from the kitchen. A woman emerged to apologize, “It’s rough to work with family all day even when you love ‘em!" she said, “We’re all family here. This is my grandmother’s bakery.”
Since I was a first-time visitor to the family market she recommended their potica, a long time Mauro favorite and specialty. I obliged and she thanked me, going on to tell me the story of their family farm and half-jokingly stating that the “potica paid off the farm!”
On the way home, with a biscochito in my hand, I pondered the importance of that southeastern valley. The area is one of Colorado’s few agricultural expanses. Our pumpkins, melons, and, for goodness sakes, our PUEBLO CHILIS are grown there. We need them, and, for some farms, water accessibility is in danger due to population growth. As our region’s population booms, so increases non-agricultural development. With this we are in peril of losing important working farms and ranches in southeastern Colorado.
Conservation easements can help these farmers stay on their land, farming and ranching like they have done for generations, and Palmer is working on innovative ways to ensure both growing cities and nearby farms have the water they need. That is why I think Palmer is so important - this isn’t just about hiking and biking, folks. It’s about agriculture, about families, and about socioeconomic vitality.
Once a conservation easement is placed on a property, it must be defended forever. The wishes of the landowner for their property to continue to be a farm or a ranch are upheld even as the property is passed from generation to generation. These are lofty and important commitments.
If this in some way resonates with you, take a moment to do a few things: 1) Do yourself a favor and go grab a potica at Mauro Farms and 2) Learn more about Palmer’s work, and consider becoming a monthly donor. Monthly donations help sustain the work and keep the promise of forever.
Leah is a champion for the Pikes Peak community with a deep veneration for Colorado’s wild rooted by her grandmother, who brought the family to the front range from the San Luis Valley during the mid century. Weekend road trips, hiking and camping in the deep mountains were not uncommon during Leah’s childhood, and after a few years living in Oklahoma near her husband’s family, she returned to Colorado Springs where her heart lies.