Osage Gardens celebrates 25 years of culinary herb growth
If you go
Farm Store summer hours are Wed.-Fri., 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sat.-Sun., 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Farm tours are available throughout the year and by appointment; visit website for a calendar.
36730 River Frontage Road, New Castle | 970-876-0668 | osagegardens.com
Wanted: south-facing farm land with access to natural gas and good irrigation.
Those may not be the exact words they used, but 25 years ago a similar advertisement led Tom and Sarah Rumery to the New Castle property that would become Osage Gardens.
The couple became interested in organic farming while working in Boulder, and a trip to the Roaring Fork Valley set their sites on this area. They launched the business on a smaller piece of property two miles from where the expanded farm now sits. At the time, their focus was tomatoes; Tom had researched and calculated enough to know they could support themselves and three daughters with that crop. But as they established Osage Gardens, the Rumerys soon noticed a different demand: culinary herbs.
They shifted the business model to focus on basil, their dominant crop. They planted a row of basil and thought it was the most basil they’d ever seen. Now, however, it occupies one-and-a-half acres of the family’s 20 acres. Of those 20 acres, three acres are covered by greenhouses. And that popular herb is in good company, with more than 20 others growing alongside it.
That’s only one of several ways the company has grown in its first two-and-a-half decades. At one time, the Rumerys delivered the herbs themselves. Their customer base now includes about 35 Whole Foods stores in the Rocky Mountain region, as well as other natural grocers. Today, Front Range deliveries run twice a week, and their drivers make weekly deliveries within the Roaring Fork Valley.
Those wholesale orders are the farm’s key business, but on-site sales allow the Rumerys and staff to maintain a community relationship, as well. The Farm Store is stocked not only with Osage Gardens herbs and greens, but also Colorado-raised meat and fish, honey (they work with a Boulder apiarist who maintains 20-plus on-site beehives) and more. Customers can join the farm’s community-supported agriculture program and shop the store at a membership rate.
“There’s a lot of food choices out there, but very few of them offer nutritional value. We’re about high density,” Sarah said.
It’s very much a family operation. Daughter Tara Rumery, who works in customer service and sales, emphasizes the farm’s quality-over-quantity philosophy; that’s why the store is filled not only with their products, but everything needed to make a meal. A farm of Osage’s size couldn’t produce everything and maintain the quality standards they expect.
But it’s not just a family business, it’s a production farm. Manager Jared McDermott oversees the day-to-day operations, and you might say he’s become like family himself. McDermott worked for the Rumerys years ago before moving to Vermont. After a visit home, he wrote the Rumerys a letter to say he’d like to become the farm’s manager.
“I wear a lot of hats,” McDermott said. “We are a farm, so everyone starts with farming.”
His days include administrative business, maintaining the operation’s organic status and more. He also oversees a team of 30 full-time employees. Those people work the farm itself, but also complete such tasks as filling clamshells with herbs to send to the wholesale distributors.
“One thing about this business is there’s always something to do,” Tom said.
It’s a year-round operation, and the farm is busiest during November and December.
“Everybody wants an herb in their Thanksgiving meal,” Sarah said.
And those herbs remain the heart of Osage Gardens, 25 years in.
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