Down on the Farm & Sandstone Ranch
The surrounding farms of Longmont are a reminder of where things started in this once small farming community. Early settlers were attracted to the area by the rich soils, which proved to be great for growing sugar beets and other vegetables.
A visit to the Longmont Farmers Market (May through October at the Boulder County Fairgrounds) demonstrates that soils in this area are still rich in agriculture and showcase the variety of fruits and veggies grown by the local farmers, the colorful beauty of seasonal flowers or the locally produced honey, soaps, breads and other goodies.
Many farming opportunities are open to the public, whether one is looking to see and pet farm animals (such as pigs, llamas and miniature horses), purchase local and organic veggies and produce for dinner, milk a cow or merely experience some of the vast history of this area. Seasonally, Longmont and the surrounding areas offer apple picking, pumpkin picking (and other pumpkin and Halloween related activities), petting zoos, and locally grown plantings to take home and try out your own green thumb. Community Shared Agricultural programs allow one to buy in to a program early in the season and reap the benefits of the great harvests, new tastes, farm visits and like-minded community members.
The city provides several Community Gardens for those wishing to sow their oats in an environment with rich soils and others with whom to exchange stories, tools and produce. These are just a few of the many opportunities for Longmont visitors and citizens alike to appreciate the richness of this wonderful land.
by: Lauren Greenfield
Morse Coffin came west from Illinois during the gold rush of 1859. He quickly found that gold mining did not provide a stable income and homesteaded 160 acres east of what would become the city of Longmont. He eventually owned 400 acres along the St. Vrain River growing wheat, oats and other crops and, for a time, quarrying the sandstone on the property. In the 1880’s he built his family a large home from the sandstone of the cliffs on the property. The property and home stayed in the Coffin family for the next century.
In 1980 the Bigelow family purchased the property. They did major renovation and preservation work on the house and had it listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The house and 313 acres were purchased by the city of Longmont in 1998. A portion of the property was used for the Community Park with ball fields, soccer fields, skate park and picnic facilities. The remainder of the property was kept as Open Space to preserve the varied wildlife and the agricultural history. The Coffin family home remains, and is now the Visitor Center for the District Park.
The Visitor Center exhibits highlight the wildlife often seen in the Open Space and inform visitors about the Coffin family history. Wildlife seen at the Visitor Center include white-tailed deer, bald and golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, owls, fox and wild turkeys. Visitors will learn about the Coffin family and their influence in early Longmont history, such as starting the first rural school districts and their place in Colorado water law history. Guests can also tour original homestead buildings — the ice house, tool shed and barn which each contain educational exhibits. The Visitor Center periodically holds special events where visitors can try their hand at crafts from pioneer days along with children’s and senior activities and summer camps.
by: Ann Turbin