Spearfish’s Cycle Farm receives 2017 Conservation Citizenship Award

The 2017 Conservation Citizenship Award given by Lawrence Conservation District went to Trish Jenkins and Jeremy Smith, owners of Cycle Farm in Spearfish, during the recent Butte-Lawrence County Fair. Courtesy photo

SPEARFISH — The 2017 Conservation Citizenship Award winner is part of the local foods movement that encourages healthy, community grown produce: The Lawrence Conservation District recognized and honored Cycle Farm, of Spearfish, for the owners’ efforts and contributions during the recent Butte-Lawrence County Fair.

Trish Jenkins and Jeremy Smith, owners, established the operation in 2012 on a three-acre parcel in Spearfish’s Lower Valley, an area that supplied food for the communities of the northern Black Hills in its early years. Their vision was to run a small-scale, direct-to-consumer farm growing diverse fruits and vegetables without chemical fertilizers or pesticides. They employ no-till practices as well as the use of cover crops, chicken tractors, crop rotations, and composting to improve soil health and increase fertility.

Another goal of Cycle Farm is to reduce inputs that affect the environment, especially in regard to carbon. All of the farm work is done by hand. There are no gas-powered tools. Bicycles and carts are used around the farm and to transport vegetables to some of their local buyers such as Killian’s, Dough Trader, Blackbird Espresso, and Leones’ Creamery. Solar energy is employed in their greenhouse and tunnels. Their farming methods and practices have had a net positive result.

Increasing pollinator habitat is also part of Cycle Farm’s focus. A variety of flowers and herbs are planted throughout the property to attract pollinators. Additionally, close to 200 fruit shrubs have been planted around the farm’s back perimeter, and more fruit trees are being added to the orchard. New this year is a pollinator hotel or nesting box, a small wooden box filled with various sticks, stems, and hollow plant material that is being used by bees, wasps, and others. It sits on a post near the road side farm stand on Evans Lane, where customers may walk up to purchase the crops of the week and eggs from the farm’s 43 hens.

Always evaluating and learning from their work, Jenkins and Smith are willing to try new things and adapt their practices. And, like all agricultural producers, they rely on partnerships to gain knowledge and share ideas. They have good working relationships with other small operation farms in the area and have joined with Black Hills State University’s Sustainability staff on projects and workshops. They have given tours to the S.D. Specialty Producers Association, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Boys and Girls Clubs of Lead, and third graders from Creekside Elementary in Spearfish.

Outside of the farming operation, Smith volunteers time at the Spearfish Bike Shop (formerly Spearfish Bicycle Cooperative) and recently became certified by the League of American Bicyclists as a safety instructor. He also creates wooden kitchen utensils from trees that have been removed in their yard and makes block print note cards. Jenkins works from their home doing GIS consulting for the Trust for Public Land and sews dishtowels, potholders, ornaments, and shopping bags. These items can be purchased at the farm stand, along with dried herbs and teas.

Cycle Farm maintains an informative and entertaining website where you can learn more about their farming methods, farm stand purchasing options, crops and products for sale, and check out recipes using farm vegetables and fruits. A newsletter with wonderful photographs by Jenkins gives a weekly update to what’s happening at the farm, including special events like the upcoming Native Pollinator Nesting Box Building Bonanza — a chance to make your own pollinator hotel.

For Smith and Jenkins, Cycle Farm is a labor of love — lots of labor to be sure — but their enthusiasm and concern for not only their own operation, but their community and the global environment, demonstrate conservation citizenship at its best.

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