The farm within a city
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An uphill battle
When Bren Frisch and John Roberts first saw the dilapidated farm in Longmont, Colorado, they were overwhelmed by the amount of work that needed to be done. But at the same time, they were excited about the possibilities the farm had to offer -- living an old-fashioned, rural lifestyle similar to the way they were raised, starting a family to enjoy it, and sharing that lifestyle with others.
<br>With the purchase of the 50-acre farm (now called Sunflower Farm) at the end of 1999, they are doing just that. Bren, a graphic designer, and John, who remodels homes, spent the next 2-1/2 years cleaning up the farm and making it vital again.
<br>While the couple knew there was a great deal to be accomplished to restore the farm, what they didn't realize were the challenges they would face because of where they're located. The farm is situated within Boulder County, near the city of Longmont, with a population of about 71,000.
<br>Date Published: April 13, 2012Date Updated: May 10, 2012
One step at a time
They approached the farm one step at a time. The first area they tackled was landscaping. The couple spent $11,000 immediately by hiring a tree service. The property is filled with huge, century-old trees that had been seriously neglected, and many were at risk of being lost. In addition, they installed sprinkler systems, built walkways to weave through the property, and planted approximately 300 trees and shrubs to complement the existing foliage.<br>Tackling the repair of the buildings was equally challenging. There were originally 13 buildings -- a main house, a barn, and several small outbuildings. Two buildings were completely torn down. One building was converted into a garage with a second story for offices.<br>Even though the original 1890 mansared-roof house was considered condemned, the couple decided to preserve its history and to restore it to a home for their family. In total, Bren and John have spent about $250,000 on building improvements.<br>Date Published: April 13, 2012Date Updated: May 10, 2012
Opening the barn doors
The couple wanted to diversify -- to thrive and survive -- slowly. Each year they have added something new to the farm.<br>Their first endeavor was Kid's Farmfest, which is a self-guided tour. For $7 per child (and $3 per adult) every Saturday, guests can enjoy pony rides, hold and feed baby animals, collect eggs, climb giant treehouses, play barnyard bingo in a hay maze, swing on a tire swing, try out a hammock, or take a ride on an old-fashioned Merry Go Round.<br>"It was a bit of an experiment to open our doors to the public," Bren confesses. "The truth is, we were just so proud of all the work that had taken place and how beautiful the land had become. We feel so incredibly blessed and lucky to live here!"<br>Before the couple could invite visitors in, their farm had to be licensed by the USDA. They are also required to have a veterinarian visit their animals on a regular basis (the farm is home to approximately 100 animals).<br>They grow 40 acres of barley, 5 acres of alfalfa, 1 acre of pumpkins, and 1 acre of sunflowers.<br>Bren and John purchased Lover's Lane Carriage Company in 2003. This investment will allow them to offer horse-drawn carriage rides on their property as well as off-site.<br>The summer of 2005 marked the first year summer day camps were offered for kids 3 to 9 years old. Youngsters can spend two days learning about the inner workings of a farm, as well as create art.<br>Date Published: April 13, 2012Date Updated: May 10, 2012
Ag education/entertainment is gaining popularity as an alternative revenue source in the ag industry. However, as this area continues to expand and grow, there will be challenges.<br>Insurance is one such challenge. There are few providers that offer entertainment insurance for this type of endeavor. For a $1 million liability policy on Sunflower Farm and Lover's Lane Carriage Company, Bren and John's annual premium is approximately $6,000.<br>Because they are a farm business within a city, zoning is being questioned. The local government recently requested all Kid's Farmfest activities cease because the county views the farm as a commercial business rather than agriculturally-related since they charge admission.<br>"We're not sure if we can win this battle, but we're going to try. Our goal is to allow visitors to experience a true taste of agriculture and ultimately appreciate its value," says John.<br>Date Published: April 13, 2012Date Updated: May 10, 2012
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