Your community connector

Highwater instills positive work ethic among youth

Locations: News Published

On a back road outside of Silt sits a plot of land made up of bountiful crops, raised by hard working hands. Each summer, for the past three years, a cohort of high school aged youth work the farm, learning from their mentors and through hands-on experience. 

On a hot day in July, Highwater Farm welcomed the community for a lunch, whipped up by The Farmer and the Chef Catering, with fresh vegetables from the farm. Before lunch, youth crew members took attendees on a tour of the farm. 

  • Carbondale Animal Hospital thumbnail

Brittany Zepeda and Julian Jasso, both sophomores at Coal Ridge High School, guided this reporter and were quite knowledgeable about the work they’ve been doing. 

Jasso’s grandmother grows corn, flowers and garlic at her home in New Castle, where he received his introduction into growing food. That experience inspired him to join the program at Highwater. 

  • KDNK thumbnail

Among other skills at the Highwater Farm, “We learned how to harvest garlic, onions and how to kill squash beetles” without using pesticides, Zepeda told The Sopris Sun. “Different crops grow in different ways,” she added. For instance, “some get watered from above which cools down the plant, while other plants get water from a drip line that waters directly at the roots.” 

Jasso explained the need to give a plot a break after working it for a couple of years, letting cover crops take over the section to help regenerate the soil. 

  • Film Festival thumbnail

A community member fills his plate with fresh Highwater Farm veggies during the community lunch on July 26. Photo by James Steindler

  • Dave Taylor thumbnail

On a typical work day, the youth crew generally splits into smaller working groups, the duo detailed. Over the eight-week session, they all develop friendships with other young people they may not have otherwise come to know. 

The students help raise the crops for Highwater’s Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members who get a box of fresh veggies regularly, and get to pick beautiful flowers themselves, straight from the farm. 

  • RJ PADDY thumbnail

Zepeda and Jasso shared that 15% of the harvest is donated to LIFT-UP, benefiting families experiencing food insecurity, and providing them the opportunity to be of service to their community.

At the end of a work day, the students will gather for a workshop session in the shade of a giant tree at the corner of the property. Either a staff member or a guest instructor will teach a component of the trade. 

Jasso is finishing up his second summer season with Highwater, and is considering applying for the fall youth crew this year. In order to qualify for the 11-week fall program, a student must complete the summer session first.

Zepeda said she is interested in passing on her knowledge one day by teaching agricultural studies. “And, grow my own little farm too,” of course, she added. 

Ava Gilbert, the youth program coordinator, acknowledged that the work is not easy and the staff has high expectations for themselves and the youth crew. “We hope that through this program they are really learning a sense of responsibility,” said Gilbert, “and communication skills as well. They’re practicing public speaking today, and always working on communication with each other.”

In closing, Gilbert quoted Highwater’s mission statement from heart: “We use sustainable agriculture to transform the lives of young people and increase access to healthy food in Garfield County,” which seemed to sum it up quite nicely. 

Highwater Farm offers volunteer opportunities for all ages, community events and more. Find out more at 

Tags: #Ava Gilbert #Brittany Zepeda #Highwater Farm #Julian Jasso #The Farmer and the Chef
▲Top ▲Top