Community Agriculture Alliance: Harmony with nature’s cycles |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Harmony with nature’s cycles

Marco Chung-Shu Lam
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sitting on the porch, I watch the winter storms blow in, bringing much of what we need to live a good life. That winter snow will become the spring melt that will water our fruit trees, turn the grass green again and return the life giving moisture to the soil. My ancestors believed that cooperation with these natural cycles brings us harmony and good health, fighting against them only leads to more disaster and chaos.

Within that storm, the powder snow drives an ideal, a vision of what brings many of us to this high mountain valley. Some of you, maybe many of you, have experienced that weightless surrender to the mountain where we become like water flowing down with the natural dance of gravity, topography and snow. For an ephemeral moment, we are part of the mountain, and it cannot be truly described.

In Chinese culture, the word for a sage or a holy person is “Xian,” a mountain person. In the times of antiquities, the mountains were a place above the dust and noise of the marketplace and the politics of the city. There was the cultural assumption that one would only leave the cities and productive farms for the high and wild crags to cultivate insight and wisdom. “Holy” to the ancient Taoists was nothing other than nature itself. The concept of a sage was one who lived in harmony with the mountain.

Drinking a rich old pu’er grown from the mountains of Southwest China, I ask myself what does it mean to live in harmony with the mountain?

As the co-manager of Elkstone Farm, with my wife Jamie, we work to bring that spirit to our farm every day by using permaculture. Permaculture is an ethically driven land management approach that models its design on flourishing natural ecosystems. One way we do this is through a design called forest gardening, where we plant a mixture of medicinal plants, berry shrubs and edible ground covers beneath our fruit trees. The combined ecology of these plants working together provides both greater yields, more diverse fruits, improved soil conditions and more ecological habitat.

One of our greatest joys is sharing this form of ecological farming with our community, and it was a challenging year to be newcomers to this community as we couldn’t host with our normal hospitality. We started a CSA last year to invite the community to share in the bounty of the beautiful Elkstone farm. It was a wonderful success, so we are signing folks up for the 2021 season.

We will have socially distant farm-to-table dinners this summer and a regular weekly volunteer day. Please visit our website,, for more information.

Marco Chung-Shu Lam is co-manager of Elkstone Farm in Routt County, as well as an acupuncturist and powderhound.

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