Five acres of lush, drip-irrigated flowers, fruits and vegetables cover the ground on the James Ranch in the Animas Valley, ten miles north of Durango. Jennifer Wheeling and her husband Joe came back to the family ranch several years ago to start a garden enterprise, and today it is a healthy contributor to the local farmers markets, restaurants, and farm to school program.
Among the garden beds grow a wide variety of organic fruits and vegetables. James Ranch Gardens continues to grow more and more perennial plants: asparagus, artichokes, rhubarb, strawberries, hops, and black and red currants, which are canned for jam and jelly. Potatoes, beets, carrots and herbs are just part of the annual vegetable list, which may change slightly from year to year, in addition to lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, peas, beans, onions, leeks, shallots, cucumbers, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, melons, and tomatoes.
The Gardens at James Ranch also includes fruit trees of apple, apricot, plum and pear and fields of flowers for cutting. Jennifer hires extra help in the summer when the gardens are at their peak creating mixed bouquets of specialty sunflowers, dahlias, gladiolus and various annual flowers. Their garden methods are organic and the results are bountiful, with endless possibilities of how to grow this enterprise. The Gardens at James Ranch recently began to offer a CSA program, farm dinners, tours and “Flower Fridays”, a custom pre-ordered bouquet program.
The James family recently placed 81 acres of the 450-acre family ranch under conservation easement, and plans to protect even more acreage in future years.