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Organic Farmer Near Longmont Worried About Xcel Pipeline Construction

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Organic Farmer in CO

Farmer Jason Griffith stands at the edge of the area that will be disturbed at Aspen Moon Farms on Thursday. Go to timescall.com for more photos. (Matthew Jonas / Staff Photographer)

For the owners of a biodynamic farm a half-mile west of Longmont city limits, organic farming and a natural gas pipeline don't mix.

Jason Griffith and his wife Erin Dreistadt own Aspen Moon Farms, 7927 Hygiene Road, where they grow everything from kale to watermelons and raise chickens and cows on 35 acres they lease from landowner John Shaffer.

Xcel, through its subsidiary company Public Services Company of Colorado, is installing a 16-inch high-pressure pipeline under a portion of the farm, using eminent domain to claim a right-of-way easement on the property.

Griffith is growing increasingly concerned that the pipeline construction will take a part of his farm out of commission for three to five years and damage his business.

Griffith has an organic certification from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning he avoids using pesticides and antibiotics in his farming. In addition to the organic certification, the entire farm is certified as biodynamic, a more stringent philosophy that requires a farmer to view the farm as a carefully balanced ecosystem.

In biodynamic farming, the animals and crops work together and the farmer avoids any imported feeds or fertilizers, carefully cultivating the right nutrients in the soil.

Griffith's organic certification can be broken up so that he keeps it for the untouched portion of the 19 acres, but he's worried that the biodynamic certification will be all or nothing for the 19-acre affected parcel.

Griffith and Shaffer met with people representing Boulder County and Xcel Thursday to discuss ways for the construction can work around the organic farm.

Brian Brown, part of a team of contracted environmental overseers working with Boulder County, said they are working to make sure Xcel puts the top soil back as it was, to the correct compaction and grade.

Shannon Kulseth, an agricultural expert on the environmental overseer team, said she was going to work with Griffith to prevent him from losing his certifications.

"Some of the things we can do is have it demarcated out and we say 'no work is going to go on outside of this demarcation' and the equipment will be washed down before it gets to the parcel," Kulseth told Griffith.

Griffith is still skeptical he'll be able to farm on the land until he can get the nutrients in the soil back to normal, which he estimates will be three to five years after construction is complete.