Growing Community – and Veggies – on Rohwer Farm

9/6/2022

The Rohwer Family was in the middle of planting season on their truck farm in Pleasantview when they were struck head-on in a tragic accident while on their way to their second week at the Durango Farmers Market. This year's crops could have died, but dozens of volunteers have rallied around the family to plant, harvest, and sell crops – and pull weeds, lots of weeds. This story is sponsored by Big-O Tires and the law firm of Downs, McDonough, Cowan and Foley

The Rohwer family had planned for a big farming season this year when a tragic head on collision killed one and seriously injured three other family members. Farming operations came to a screeching halt, but not for long. You're watching the local news network brought to you by Big O Tires, and the law firm of Downs McDonough, Cowan & Foley. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. The Rohwer family farm in Pleasant View, is growing a new crop this year. It's growing community. Judy Rohwer, her daughters, Heidi and Angela Rohwer and their nephew Zachary Burge were on their way to sell seedlings and a little produce at the Durango Farmers Market on May 21st. When they were hit head on by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel. Judy was killed in the crash and the Rohwer sisters and nephew were seriously injured.

The high tunnels were completely planted. We had planted all the tomatoes and peppers in. And typically in a year, end of May we start planting in corn and beans and edamame and then we'll do some succession planting of some things. We had planned for a pretty big year this year. And so first of May, like I said, all those things had been planted. And so we're smack dab in the middle of planting season.

The Rohwer family has grown fruits and veggies on their small farm in pleasant view since 2000, when they moved to Colorado from Utah In 2005 or so, Heidi decided to expand their operation to sell produce commercially at local farmers markets. Their stand has been a fixture at the Durango Farmers Market since 2013. And Judy had come to be known as the market's matriarch, because of her easygoing manner and her quick wit. The accident could have ended the family's growing season and a significant source of income. Heidi remains in a wheelchair, and Angela continues to undergo surgeries to repair the damage to her hip and pelvis. Zach suffered neck and back injuries. But with the help of volunteers organized by the La Plata County Extension Office, and the Durango Farmers Market, the farm is thriving. Since June, volunteers have planted crops and weeded, and weeded, and weeded through the summer. Now they're harvesting ripe produce. And another group of volunteers sells the veggies at the Rohwer Farm stand at the Gringo Farmers Market every Saturday. The farm not only is growing produce, it's cultivating community.

And I will usually have between 10 and 15 volunteers here with me. We had everybody from 16 and 17 year olds to, you know, folks that 70, 80 years old working side by side. And I talk about it. Like weeding is not the funnest job. And we've done a lot of weeding this year. But part of that is that is that after we're done weeding or harvesting, we come sit underneath the trees over here in the shade on the lawn, and you share stories and you laugh. And, you know, it's that community piece that all of us, especially as we start to come out of a pandemic, are just so desperate for.

As Heidi wheels around the produce barn, giving orders, volunteers wash and prepare the mid-August harvest of onions and tomatoes. Others are flagging the fruit trees to keep birds off the ripening apples. Parmenter said he's experienced no shortage of volunteers this summer.

There's these different communities, They're always attached to this. So we have the farming community in general can be very tight knit, right? You know, someone falls, someone to pick them up. Part of the circle gets broken, we try to figure out how to hold hands to make that circle closed. The same can be said for this community out here in Yellowjacket, Pleasant View, Cortez, Dove Creek. This whole area has that same mentality that if a neighbor falls then... You know how we come together and pick them up.

My accident is overwhelming in a bad way, but the help has been overwhelming in a good way. And it's just I told my sister, like I heard about everybody coming while I was sitting there laying in the hospital and I just cried, was in the hospital. So. Yeah, it's been unbelievable. I just want to thank everybody for all the support they've shown. Really, it's been it's been wonderful. I just I didn't even know we knew that many people. So.

Parmenter said farm workdays will continue through mid-October, and all hands and weed pullers are welcome. To sign up for a work day, visit laplataextension.org or durangofarmersmarket.com. Thanks for watching this edition of the local news network. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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