Sophie Javna, a Colorado College Alumni, graduated last May as a theatre major. She now lives and works on a small farm called “Prospect Farms” an acre of land “right off of this horrible fast-food strip…The Filmore.” In the quaint house that sits on the farm, Javna lives with Mercedes Whitman, who is one of the main farmers, Ruthie Narkwardt, who cares for the goats and chickens, and Zac Chapman, the executive director at Colorado Springs Food Rescue, all CC alumni.
As she began with the question, “how can I be a farmer on this land,” she now grapples with larger concepts and ideas about how to shift an change our local Colorado Springs community. “It’s kind of a complicated story,” she begins, “All throughout CC I found myself in all kinds of different food circles in the city…when I was a freshman I was just super super passionate about local food…I was pretty obsessed.” Javna talks about her relationship with Zac Chapman, “he was a senior when I was a freshman… I knew him because we both worked at the CC farm” Javna talks about the way in which Chapman got in touch with Craig McHugh, when looking for a place to live and grow food in the 2016 seasons. McHugh started the non-profit called “Pikes Peak Small Farms,” in 2014, with the goal of “connecting young people with land in the springs.” Chapman called me, Javna says, “and said, ‘Craig is going to show me this place and I want you to come see it with me.'” Upon describing their visit to the property, Javna says, “it was like heaven…there was so much space… obviously we’re going to move here and live here and do something cool like growing food for ourselves…it just happened!” And so began Prospect Farm.
Once establishing their place on the land, “another thing just kind of dropped into our laps,” Javna says. Elise Rothman informed them that Pikes Peak Small Farms had won a $50,000 USDA marketing grant to work with a farm start-up. Javna explains that a big part of the grant was devoted to working with Nanna Meyer, a professor at UCCS, and collaborate on a program. “We grow the food, and they do nutrition and cooking classes for the community…She’s calling them health jams… we’ll be starting in December…We want the neighborhood to come,” Javna says, as she begins to discuss her attention to the local community. “Our role is get the produce out, and basically make it a space that is open and welcoming to the community,” Javna says. Living in somewhat of a food desert, Javna talks about the challenges of reaching the immediate community. “It feels kind of like kindergarten,” she says, “when you’re trying to meet people and you’re like ‘hey wanna be friends’ but when you’re an adult it is way more awkward.” Over time, however, Javna has observed progress in the community, recalling the way in which each Prospect Farm event brings more community members, as well as the return of regulars—a couple seniors from the home across the way, and some children and teachers from a local school, Community Prep. “They mostly come hang out,” she says, commenting on the natural affiliation people find that they have with gardening and agriculture. “Everybody loves it,” she smiles. Javna talks about their plans to start teaching classes and working with the Thomas Edison school down the street, “It has been unexpected and so fulfilling to hear peoples responses to it…I’ve been surprised as to how well this community has responded… the principal of this school is stoked…he wants us to get in there immediately.”
Upon noticing the change she and the other members of Prospect Farm have accomplished in just the past growing season, Javna discusses the factors that hold us back from enacting change. “People get distracted by the conversation about how to start…do I start local, do I start big, what are the best avenues, da da da…it’s easy to turn that conversation into a very inward, insular one…just talking… and that does literally nothing…I think the best place to start is just get involved…there is really no best way to start…just do what makes you happy.” With so much concern about large verses small scale, and the true meaning of “organic” or “sustainable,” people seem to lose sight of the simplicity and accessibility to real changemaking.
“If you’re thinking on a small scale, you’re thinking big picture…you have to think about how do I fit into the community, access different markets, address safety concerns.. you’re tugging on all these different strings,” Javna says, “if I’m planting heirloom seeds, I’m making my own compost, I’m growing food for my neighbors, and making connections with those people, that’s all that matters. You can call it local, you can call it sustainable…those are all labels that have been coopted to sell things… to me those labels mean nothing anymore. “In the state of our planet today, and the dynamic in Colorado Springs, Javna suggests that it is all about the people—making human connections to attempt to better a human-caused issue.
“I’m starting to realize how much power young people have in this community….its unbelievable.” Javna urges the involvement of young people in the Colorado Springs community, “our city is in a really fragile place right now,” she says, “It’s really reflective of our election… right now we’re just demonizing conservative people, but are we actually talking with them? Are we creating a dialogue? No! So that’s what is so exciting about living here…you can actually have input in how this city is being built…And that’s really difficult because you’re actually doing something!”
We tend to overwhelm ourselves with big concepts and daunting consequences of climate change, blinded to the fact that growing food, becoming more sustainable, and connecting with community is really simple, and really doable. “Its cool!” Javna says, “You see sh-t happen!”