Brighton en­vi­sions bumper crop

City OKs plan for agri­cul­tural show­case, agri­tourism hot spot on 10 acres

The Denver Post - - DENVER & THE WEST - By John Aguilar

brighton» On a par­cel less than 10 acres, this fast-grow­ing Adams County city hopes to cre­ate an agri­cul­tural show­case and agri­tourism hot spot that re­calls a his­tory dis­ap­pear­ing amid the ex­plo­sion of fresh rooftops fill­ing in Den­ver’s north­ern sub­urbs.

On Tues­day night, the Brighton City Coun­cil ap­proved a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with a West­min­ster com­pany that plans to grow crops, de­velop agri­cul­tural classes and es­tab­lish an in­cu­ba­tor/ac­cel­er­a­tor for busi­nesses spe­cial­iz­ing in the lo­cal foods sec­tor. The fa­cil­ity will be at the 9.6acre Brom­ley/Koizuma-Hish­inuma Farm, which is listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places at 1594 E. Brom­ley Lane.

Brighton pur­chased the farm in 2006 and saved the build­ings there from the wreck­ing ball.

“It’s go­ing to be a very vis­i­ble piece of the preser­va­tion of agri­cul­tural land,” said Mark Heidt, as­sis­tant di­rec­tor of parks and recre­ation for Brighton. “As the Den­ver metro area has grown, Brighton has been able to pre­serve a lot of the open space in the area. To keep the farm­ing on site here is key.”

The city of 37,000, ap­prox­i­mately 20 miles north­east of Den­ver, has for years been pur­chas­ing sur­round­ing farm fields and leas­ing them to farm­ers, pro­vid­ing nat­u­ral buf­fers amid a seem­ingly end­less col­lec­tion of res­i­den­tial sub­di­vi­sions. The city has nearly dou­bled in pop­u­la­tion in less than 20 years.

The ini­tia­tive at Brom­ley/Koizuma-Hish­inuma Farm would pig­gy­back off an ef­fort that has seen Brighton sink more than $5 mil­lion into buy­ing land and re­fur­bish­ing a main house, barn, mi­grant worker house, wash house and silo at the site.

“We’ve saved as much as we could out here,” Heidt said of the farm that was first pur­chased by rancher and for­mer Colorado law­maker Em­mett Brom­ley in 1883 and later owned by the long­time farm­ing Hish­inuma and Koizuma fam­i­lies, who bought the prop­erty in 1947.

Ac­cord­ing to the pub­lic-pri­vate part­ner­ship deal ap­proved Tues­day, the city will al­low Lo­cal Foods Cam­pus to op­er­ate the

farm for a five-year term, with the com­pany shar­ing 7 per­cent of its an­nual rev­enues with Brighton. Nathan Mudd, co-founder of Lo­cal Foods Cam­pus, said things will get started on the prop­erty in early 2017.

“This is more of a show­case for liv­ing agri­cul­ture,” Mudd said as a pink hue filled the late Tues­day af­ter­noon sky west of the farm. “Here in Colorado, there is such a de­mand for all things lo­cal.”

And Mudd prom­ises to pro­vide that lo­cal fla­vor peo­ple crave, grow­ing toma­toes, cu­cum­bers and pep­pers on one por­tion of the prop­erty and es­tab­lish­ing a 3.5-acre corn maze and a pump­kin patch on an­other por­tion. The prop­erty also will fea­ture chick­ens and bee­hives.

Mudd en­vi­sions bring­ing school and FFA groups to learn hands-on about farm­ing in an area that is home to a cou­ple of agri­cul­tural heavy hit­ters — Sakata and Petrocco farms. The cen­ter­piece of the op­er­a­tion will be the in­cu­ba­tor for lo­cal food pro­duc­ers look­ing to es­tab­lish them­selves in the mar­ket­place. Housed in a build­ing dat­ing back to 1896 and filled with orig­i­nal fix­tures and in­tri­cate 19th­cen­tury mold­ing, Mudd hopes to “grow small lo­cal food com­pa­nies into medium-size com­pa­nies.”

“Au­then­tic venues are hard to find,” he said of the his­toric farm.

Mudd, who owns the West­min­ster farm­ers market and runs the Ar­vada farm­ers market, cred­its Brighton for be­ing a solid part­ner in a ven­ture that he said could never have hap­pened with­out “the ded­i­ca­tion of gov­ern­ment.”

His com­pany’s part­ner­ship with Brighton comes on the heels of a less-fruit­ful re­la­tion­ship with West­min­ster, where two years ago Lo­cal Foods Cam­pus had out­lined an am­bi­tious plan for turn­ing the in­ter­sec­tion of West 72nd Av­enue and Sheri­dan Boule­vard into a lo­cal foods node.

Plans to re­vamp Shoen­berg Farm as an ur­ban farm is on hold, al­though the com­pany’s ef­forts to turn an empty 29,000-square-foot Al­bert­sons gro­cery store in the Hid­den Lake shop­ping cen­ter across the street from the farm into an in­door farm­ers market re­main on track, Mudd said.

Adams County Com­mis­sioner Steve O’Dori­sio said the Brom­ley/Koizuma-Hish­inuma Farm pro­ject af­firms the pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship the county has de­vel­oped with Brighton to pro­mote and pre­serve the area’s agri­cul­tural his­tory. The de­vel­op­ment pres­sure the city and county face is ex­em­pli­fied by the va­cant par­cel just south of the farm, which is zoned for homes. A new sub­di­vi­sion there would quickly erase the nat­u­ral buf­fer that now neatly frames the Brom­ley/ Koizuma-Hish­inuma prop­erty.

That makes the ef­fort Brighton is un­der­tak­ing with Lo­cal Foods Cam­pus that much more im­por­tant, O’Dori­sio said.

“We’re re­ally try­ing to build an agri­tourism in­dus­try out here,” he said. “We want to keep this the bread bas­ket of the metro area.”

A barn sits on the 9.6-acre Brom­ley/Koizuma-Hish­inuma Farm, which is listed on the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places at 1594 E. Brom­ley Lane. Brighton pur­chased the farm in 2006 and saved the build­ings there from the wreck­ing ball. Joe Amon, The Den­ver Post

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