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Colorado's farm of the future? Boulder County farmer hoping to produce food and 'juice'

Jack's Solar Garden is a re-imagined family farm
jack solar garden_jeff slemons.jpg
Posted at 4:57 PM, Apr 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-18 21:35:27-04

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BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. -- Our Colorado has always had a proud innovative spirit. From world-renowned microbrews to aerospace breakthroughs. And now, our state could be a launching point for the farm of the future.

"It's exciting and nerve-wracking," said Byron Kominek, owner of Jack’s Solar Garden.

Jack’s Solar Garden is a re-imagining of the family farm - a third generation farm in between Longmont and Niwot, purchased by Kominek’s grandfather, Jack, back in 1972.

"I actually never met my grandfather," Kominek said. “My mom was always telling me what a hard worker he was as a farmer.”

But Kominek says the hay and alfalfa crop is no longer sustainable.

"Continuing to do hay production wasn't economical," he said.

So, after working with Boulder County for more than a year to have the land rezoned, Kominek plans to install five acres of solar panels.

“The land use department, the county commissioners voted to change the land use code to allow solar on farmland like ours,” Kominek said. "It's quite nice to have this opportunity.”

Renderings show what it will look like. It'll be called Jack's Solar Garden, named after Kominek’s grandfather.

And in conjunction with Colorado State University, The University of Arizona and the NREL, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, it will be an experimental farm - growing crops underneath and around the solar panels with a drip irrigation system.

"Trying to determine what kind of crops or vegetation would grow best under the panels,” Kominek said. “Wildflowers or perennial shrubs that flower or also crops. A potential for peppers. Potential for tomatoes. They may not grow as well, but they may require less water to grow."

The panels will be setback, about 100 feet from North 95th Street, per county regulations.

“This flag line is the delineation between the setback and where we can have the solar garden," Kominek said as he pointed out the flag line.

Making the solar garden even more unique - residents can subscribe to the solar garden by leasing panels, and in return get utility bill credits from Xcel Energy.

"It's a one-of-a-kind project, at least here in Colorado," Kominek said. “And maybe the entire country.”

As if all that's not unorthodox enough, Kominek is also trying his hand at beekeeping and just planted a small 52 tree apple orchard.

"It's very exciting,” Kominek said. “I've never owned a business before."

The farmer is blazing a new trail in the ever-changing agricultural world.

If you'd like to subscribe, contact Jack's Solar Garden.