Contrast Ranch, Boulder County, Colorado

  • Location: Boulder County, Colorado, USA.
  • Site: Historic farmland, 36 acres.
  • Status: Initiated Winter 2012, completed Spring 2012.
  • Scope: Full property site assessment and detailed design for ecosystem restoration and regenerative agriculture.

When Real Earth Design arrived at Contrast Ranch we saw 36 acres of dissimilarities, from the sweeping view of the snow-covered continental divide overlooking the town of Boulder, CO, to the coal-fired power plant in the foreground contributing to the diminishment of local glaciers. From water scarcity to water abundance, the historic property was an agricultural challenge waiting to transition into agricultural fruitfulness. Historic though the property was, worn-out better characterized the land’s productive capacity. Many transitions occurred on this property, from dairy cow grazing and hay fields, to intensive horse grazing, to the dominate herds of black-tailed prairie dogs we witnessed. Looking at the property through the lens of permaculture design revealed there was yet another grazing transition lurking. This time it would be cultivating a micro-herd of soil organisms to replenish the landscape and return it to bountiful capacity.

The design is geared toward setting up the farmscape so that water, people, plants, animals, micro-herds, and productivity can flow and function in beneficial relationships, each feeding into the other. In order to accomplish this infrastructural change, we designed water harvesting ponds, food forests, intensive vegetable production areas, and unique strategies to bring the burgeoning prairie dog colony back into balance with the rest of the ecosystem. We also designed new buildings for the site—greenhouses, a local food market, composting toilets, and equipment storage buildings.