Amanda Weaver, Ph.D.
The Short Version
Amanda is a local Wheat Ridge, Colorado resident and owner of the 13-acre sustainable urban farm, 5 Fridges Farm. While finishing a dissertation on the viability of local food production in Colorado, Amanda apprenticed with long time Wheat Ridge resident Louis Turner with dairy goats in the urban environment. Amanda later bought the neighboring historical farm where she started her own herd of dairy goats. While teaching at CU Denver, she now maintains dairy and weed grazing herds, flocks of chickens and turkeys, hives of bees, as well as growing a variety of vegetables for local restaurant sales. Amanda uses her farm as her research lab and classroom, teaching urban agriculture, sustainability, and environmental science.
The Long Version
As a granddaughter, world traveler and geographer, Amanda has had a lifetime fascination with people’s connection to food and land. During her dissertation research on Colorado food production and distribution, she observed that the increase in popularity of “local” food by urban populations parallels the exponential loss the of local food production land due to development and water use. It seemed ironic that the same urban populations buying “local”and “organic” were also those buying homes on newly developed former farmland acreage. It also seemed as if no one had any idea that farmland, good prime agricultural land with water, is a finite resource.
So she went about trying to understand ways that prime farmland/ranchland could be saved when faced with an encroaching urban land use value system- “highest and best use.” About that time, she started apprenticing with Louise Turner. Amanda bought the farm with its conservation easement already in place. At the time, however, that only meant to her that she could afford 13 acres of farmland in the middle of the city to have the farm of her dreams. What she realized later is that this one of the best ways, when faced with higher land values around urban areas, that farmland can stay in farm use or that young un-landed farmers can access (via leasing) land for production close to urban centers.
Since buying the farm and soon after finishing the dissertation, her work changed to that of farming. But, unconnected, finite, conserved urban farmland requires a different philosophy than conventional rural farming. First, there was the disconnectedness. In an urban area there are no other farmers to connect to for labor, machinery, or knowledge. All input and outputs had to be rethought due to the implements and resources available. Next the farm boundary, while large by urban standards, is finite. At the farm, there is no “over there”, away from everything. Everything at the farm comes in and goes out on a truck, or it stays somewhere at the farm. Every growing area, wildlife habitat, grazing area, or human space affects each other. Amanda quickly realized that the legal conservation tool of an easement was just the beginning of sustainably managing one space sharing agricultural, wildlife, and human habitats.
Due to these requirements, all projects at the farm are evaluated for their full “life-cycle” attributes. What do they bring? What do they leave? Do they help or hurt current systems? From animal carrying capacity to soil redevelopment to water use-- “sustainable urban farming” is not just one solution, but many functioning side by side and changing all the time.