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Naropa's greenhousePhoto: Lindsay Michko

Growing Local—Sustainable Food Practices

By Lisa Birman

Naropa students don't have to look far to learn about urban farming. In the Fall of 2006, eight dedicated students in an Advanced Applied Horticulture class initiated the Naropa University Greenhouse Project. Their commitment extended beyond the class, and with the help of the Environmental Studies Department, Facilities, Advancement, and other invested members of the community, the William D. Jones Community Greenhouse opened on Earth Day 2009. Not only does the greenhouse provide valuable learning opportunities around horticulture, permaculture, ecological systems, and environmental philosophies, it also provides plants for Naropa campuses, vegetables for the café, and seedlings for the larger Boulder community.

Front Range farms were hit hard by the recent 100-year flood, and it's more important than ever to support local businesses. We're proud to be working with Oxford Farms, who deliver weekly farm shares to all three campuses. Naropa Café, owned and operated by Three Leaf Concepts, also sources much of its produce through Three Leaf Farms, a 10-acre farm in Lafayette. The farm is regrouping after the devastating floods, having lost its crops, but grateful that its animals and humans survived. We look forward to many years of continued partnership.


Lev Smoothie Operator
Lev Pasikhov of Smoothie Operator
Photo: Steph Anderson Chambers
Alumni are also exploring urban farming and the sustainable food movement in their local communities. Lev Pasikhov (BA, 2009) launched his new food truck business, Smoothie Operator, in June this year. The seeds of the business were planted a few years ago, when Lev's business partner Matteo Fabro began planting exotic berries and fruit trees on some family land in Michigan. When Pasikhov joined him, they started experimenting with Tulsi teas, mint, and other herbs, selling their produce at local markets and dreaming about what comes next.


Turning dreams to reality is no easy feat, particularly in a recession. Pasikhov studied the market and found a niche. "I did a lot of research and found out that food trucks are one of the few industries that grew during the recession. They call it a recession-era mini-boom. I wrote up a business plan, found some investors, and with the help of my business partner and my girlfriend (who moved from Florida to be a part of the project), we bought a DHL truck on craigslist and began plugging away... We source all of our produce organically, and a lot of our stuff comes from within 50 miles. During the spring we get to use lots of berries right from the farm." Four months in, Pasikhov has learned a lot about the red-tape and pressures of starting a business, particularly one in the food industry. He's looking forward to building his business and continuing to serve his community, "Farming is a huge part of my dharma for sure, making organic food for people is almost service/karma yoga at this point. I serve up nutritious disguised as delicious and feel good about helping people feel good." 

Will Curley beekeeper
Will Curley

William Curley (BA, 2009) studied Traditional Eastern Arts during his time at Naropa. He finds his daily meditation practice of great use in his current roles as EMT and beekeeper. William started keeping bees in 2010, when beekeeping was legalized in New York City. This may seem like an odd hobby for a vegan, but William takes a more proactive stance. "Taking steps in the right direction is infinitely more helpful than refusing to take any steps at all," he explains. While commercial beekeeping employs practices harmful to bees both in the short- and long-term, William uses methods that treat the bees well and help them flourish. He currently has four hives in upstate New York, two in Manhattan, and one in Brooklyn. He notes that the city hives consistently outperform the upstate hives.

William finds some interesting parallels in his work as an EMT and his work with bees. "We are both small cogs in a much larger machine. While bees will dance to tell each other where good sources of pollen and nectar are, I get sent out by my dispatcher. Bees go and collect the pollen and honey and return it to the hive – I go and collect sick and injured people and return them to the hospital. We are both doing an endless cycle of picking up, dropping off, and networking with others to give updates on where we have been and what has been happening. We both have a single-minded goal that we are working towards. Theirs is ensuring the hive has enough honey and pollen, mine is ensuring that my patients are cared for, and taken to wherever they need to go." While William hasn't started selling any of the honey he harvests, friends and family can expect a sweet gift this Christmas.

Read more about Will Curley's beekeeping practices at elephant journal