December 5-7, 2018
January 23-24, 2019
Brendon Rockey, Rockey Farms, Center, Colorado, raises specialty potatoes and quinoa on 500-acres under irrigation at 7,600 feet above sea level using a biotic approach. Brendon chooses to use biological inputs like companion crops, livestock, green manure and flowering strips instead of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides and insecticides. Biotic management supports a healthy, diverse pollinator population as well as a healthy farm and healthy consumers.
Rockey Farms was awarded the 2014 National Potato Council Environmental Stewardship Award and the 2011 Colorado Association of Conservation Districts Farming Division Conservationist of the Year Award for its biotic practices.
In 2016, the National Association of Conservation Districts named him a Soil Health Champion.
The NACD and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign honored Rockey Farms in October with the 2017 Farmer-Rancher Pollinator Conservation Award in
Brendon is the recipient of numerous individual honors for his innovative ideas and dedication to education.
Over the last decade, the Rockey Farms story has traveled far and wide.
Farmers, scientists and consumers in Colorado, Wisconsin, Idaho, Oregon, California, Montana, Wyoming, Maine, North Dakota and Canada have brought their soil health questions to him because of the hard work of conservation districts and other agencies to have him to the table.
It crossed the Atlantic Ocean when he traveled to France and Belgium in 2017 to share his techniques with farmers. He was received with standing ovations for his agricultural practices and beliefs.
He is often invited back to these places to reiterate his message and to witness the introduction of biotic farming methods like flowering strips, green manure and companion plants into a variety of land management plans.
In addition to a traditional power point presentation explaining his transition to and practice of biotic farming, Brendon designed a tangible lesson in carbon cycling. Session participants create a soil system and then test its resilience against farm management techniques and nature’s whim. The presentation stresses the importance of carbon in a healthy soil system and demonstrates how a properly functioning carbon cycle can result in economic profits.
The activity continues to leave participants of all ages and backgrounds with a better understanding of soil health relationships and thinking about how to manage farms for optimal carbon cycling.
Rockey Farms hosted its first field day event in July 2017. The event’s agenda included a complete farm tour, a locally-sourced lunch, a presentation from Rudy Garcia, the New Mexico based NRCS soil health specialist and a screening of 'Sustainable" at the Vali 3 Theatre in Monte Vista, Colorado. The event’s purpose was education and community building; a celebration of agriculture.
Brendon, center, talks with Maine potato growers about using cover crops and companion crops. The growers incorporated cover crops into their fields after hearing Brendon speak several years before during a soil health event.
Photo by Angie Wotton, Southern Aroostook Soil and Water Conservation District
Brendon, center, explains companion crops and flowering strips to Mollie Wells, left, a Del Norte, Colorado dairywoman and Elliot Salazar, right, an agronomist farming in Antonito, Colorado during the Rockey Farms Field Day in July. The field day brought 100 people together to celebrate agriculture and to enjoy the potato and cover crop fields at their peak.
Photo by Candace Krebs
Brendon has served on the Center Conservation District Board, the Rio Grande Water Conservation Education Initiative Board, the Colorado State Conservation Board, the Farm Service Agency Board and many of their subcommittees.
Over the past several years, numerous media outlets have featured Brendon and Rockey Farms including: Spudman, The Furrow, Acres, High Country News, FFA Horizons and The Valley Courier along with many small town newspapers, radio programs, and international publications.
He is a continual resource for academia, providing researchers with information for papers and books.
Victor Leforestier, left, introduces Brendon, right, at the BASE Annual Meeting in Blois, France. Brendon spoke at four events to a largely no-till crowd in France and Belgium about how he grows potatoes in the San Luis Valley during February 2017 .
Brendon, right, and his brother, Sheldon, left, were featured in Spudman for Rockey Farms biotic farming practices.
Photo by Bill Schaefer,
Brendon also works with a local Future Farmers of America chapter to grow seed potatoes in their greenhouse during the winter with Matt Seger, Seger West Farms. Both farmers also sit on the Colorado Certified Potato Growers Association board where they represent the San Luis Valley seed potato grower’s contribution to the industry’s certification and research.
In 2012, Rockey Farms and White Mountain Farms joined together to form White Rock Specialties, a potato and quinoa packaging facility in Mosca, Colorado.