Four Generations of Jones in the San Luis Valley
You might say that Rob Jones has potatoes in his blood. His grandfather started farming oats, peas, potatoes and alfalfa in the San Luis Valley around 1925, and they’ve never looked back. His father took over when it was time for Grandad to retire and Rob did the same with his dad. Back in the day, the family had to rent the land to farm, but today Jones Farms Organics has grown to 600 acres with an average potato yield of 250-350 cwt./ac. Now Rob’s son Michael and his wife Sarah are moving back to the Valley from Denver to be more directly involved on the farm and expand direct marketing efforts.
Focused on Sustainability
While size does matter, what makes Rob most proud are the efforts he and his family have taken to better care for the soil and shift to more organic and sustainable farming. After he took over the farm, the trend was shifting toward band liquid fertilizer in potatoes. While this brought about major yield increases, it made it almost impossible to control weeds and required increasing use of herbicides. It was a slippery slope of increasing chemical use that was impacting both soil and potato quality. In 2005 Jones Farms Organics quit using chemicals cold turkey. For the last several years, they’ve shifted to working with nature as much as possible rather than forcing excess fertility. The result, the ground has started to regain some of its former health and be able to take care of itself again. They’ve also noticed that the ground is starting to stay put more instead of blowing away because of improving soil structure. Also they’re seeing less disease pressure in the potatoes at harvest, another sign that the soil is starting to grow healthier plants which resist disease better than before.
Farming is My Fun
Rob loves the outdoors which is one reason he finds farming so much fun. There’s just nothing better than hearing people come back and tell him how good Jones Farms spuds taste. They’ve always gotten compliments but even more so since they started improving soil health. It’s also been very gratifying and exciting to learn more about how plants grow and how to build soil to grow plants without a lot of expensive and soil-damaging inputs. This process has made farming fun again. For more outdoor fun, Rob and his family don’t have to go far. They have a cabin that looks down on the upper end of the Rio Grande Reservoir, and his Dad has a lodge up by Zapata.
Supporting the Valley
Rob is not just focused on soil sustainability for his own farm, he’s actively promoting healthier growing practices throughout the region with involvement on the San Luis Canal Board, the Rio Grande Water Users Group, the Soil Health Group and the State Organic Advisory Board, in addition to his involvement on the CPAC Marketing Committee.