October 29, 2021|By Val Keefer| Food and Farms

This Historic Garden Is Here for the “Long” Haul

Catherine Long is the third-generation owner of her family’s farm property, known as Long’s Gardens. When her grandparents bought the farm in 1916, it was a mile north of Boulder, Colorado—which was considered “in the country” back then. But as the city expanded immensely over the next 100+ years, Catherine found her farm in the center of town.

11 1 21 Longs Gardens CO c Whitney Flanagan201906061 2 1Catherine Long, owner of Long’s Gardens in Boulder, Colorado. Photo by Whitney Flanagan.

In fact, this 25-acre oasis is the last and largest agriculturally zoned property within central Boulder. In addition to supporting the Long family’s iris rhizome and flower business, it’s also the headquarters for Growing Gardens—a nonprofit organization that provides food donations and educational opportunities to over 39,000 community members annually. The property also contains a key part of Boulder’s trail system and is an urban haven for wildlife. You can learn more about the many unique benefits of Long’s Gardens here.

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Volunteers at Growing Gardens work to bring sustainable agriculture, education and food donations to Boulder County residents. Photos by Whitney Flanagan.

However, it wasn’t until earlier this year that Long’s Gardens was officially a protected place. Over a decade ago, as Catherine and her family saw the city walls build up around their land, they grew determined to protect their farm in perpetuity so it could avoid any harmful development and be enjoyed by the community for generations to come.

That’s where The Conservation Fund stepped in. We spent many years working with Catherine and her family to conserve Long’s Gardens, and in April 2021, in partnership with the City of Boulder, we forever protected the land from development threats through a conservation easement. 

During our time working with Catherine on this conservation solution, we were able to hear just how connected she is to her land. From growing up in the gardens, to now being a third-generation owner, her story and her family’s legacy in Boulder is inspiring. We’ve asked her to share her thoughts on what protecting this property means to her and the community.

11 1 21 Presentation1Catherine Long sits with some of Mountain FLower Goat Dairy's goats, which are a fan favorite to many visitors. Photos by Whitney Flanagan. 


Can you describe the history of this land and what protecting it means to you?

Catherine LongMy family has been on this land for 105 years. When my grandparents bought the property, they not only wanted to grow things—they also wanted to grow their family. My dad decided to continue the farm business, and after growing up on the farm I eventually took it over from him. I feel so lucky I was able to do that. One of the positive outcomes of the conservation easement is that it enables my family to now make decisions for the property’s future ownership and management with the assurance the land will always be used for productive agricultural uses. 

We’ve grown a lot of things over the years from doing seed production to growing gladiolus. Over the last 50 years or so we’ve just focused on growing irises. People ask, “Why don’t you grow more vegetables and things like that?” And I say, “Flowers are really food for the soul, and we need that too.”

The new conservation easement honors and preserves the land’s agricultural past while looking to the future and all that this farm will continue to provide for the community—literally a place to connect to our roots. We’re very grateful to everyone that has worked to ensure this future.

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Photos by Whitney Flanagan.


Can you describe the community benefits that this property has?

Catherine Long: Our farmland educates people in an interactive way. People can come here and dig up plants that we grow, learn about growing vegetables, find out about goats and milk and where their food comes from. Too many people are separated from the natural world. We need to be outside learning how nature is really in control, not human beings. We need to pay more attention to that and be part of the natural world instead of thinking that we’re in control of it.

People love this place even when they’re not visiting the farm and interacting with our activities. People have told me that they drive by and just take a deep breath when they see our fields. In our crazy world, that’s really a worthwhile thing. I wanted to preserve that for future generations, and now we have, and it feels amazing. I love to think that in another 100 years the community will still be able to come and enjoy it. 

Are you feeling inspired? Conservation stories like this are not possible without the generosity of supporters like you. Please consider making a donation to support our ongoing efforts. You can learn about more of our conservation successes and donate here. We hope you’ll choose to join us on the journey to a brighter future.
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Written By

Valerie Keefer

As Media Relations Associate for The Conservation Fund, Val conducts media outreach, drives press activities and supports messaging strategies across the organization. She enjoys sharing the Fund’s holistic approach to environmental conservation and economic growth with the community and communicating the local and global impact of the Fund’s many projects. Val is an avid nature enthusiast who loves camping, hiking and rock climbing.