With fall’s arrival, produce farmers like Yosef Camire are in the final stretch of an intense and seemingly relentless growing season.

With fall’s arrival, produce farmers like Yosef Camire are in the final stretch of an intense and seemingly relentless growing season.

Camire was one of the fresh faces at this year’s Colorado Farm and Art Market in Colorado Springs, which closes for the season on Oct. 10.

A former Denver resident, he and his wife, Hava, escaped the city with their four young children and moved to a dilapidated 40-acre property near Peyton that they have since restored to life.

“The house didn’t even have a kitchen. We renovated it all,” he said in between greeting customers at his farmers market stand recently.

From a mere half-acre of land, their Ahavah Farm (the term is Hebrew for love) produces a bounty of fresh produce including several varieties of greens, heirloom tomatoes, purple and white turnips, bright carrots and sugar snap peas, along with farm fresh eggs.

Camire represents the latest generation of back-to-the-landers who are drawn to the rural lifestyle in large part because it is ideal for raising kids. Camire’s son Asher, for example, was in charge of selling duck eggs at the market, collected from a flock he tends himself.

“It’s always been a dream of ours to live sustainably, to live off our land and to grow pure food,” Camire said.

They raise produce that comes strictly from heirloom varieties and is grown in a manner Camire calls “beyond organic.” They use two hoop houses to help extend the growing season.

“We do sustainable farming, which means we do everything we can to reduce water consumption and resource use,” he said. “We’re actually carbon negative. We compost. We use our own fertilizer. We also don’t use any tractors.”

Camire practices no-till because it minimizes soil disruption and leaves the soil structure intact.

“We use deep mulch methods,” he explained. “In the winter, we’ll cover everything with a thick, thick layer of mulch. What that does is the mulch will break down and create a humus, which goes into the soil. It also keeps it nice and moist and keeps the worms very healthy and happy.”

“In spring, we’ll rake back the mulch and soften up the top part of the soil, and then we’ll seed or plant,” he added.

Camire refuses to use commercial pesticides or herbicides. “Healthy plants emit defensive mechanisms,” he said. “We take care of the soil, that’s it. I hoe by hand. I weed. I just love my plants.”

“I read my plants,” he added. “I know that sounds really weird, and my wife laughs at me for saying that. But I go out and look at them and read what they need every day.”

Cardboard signs next to the beautiful produce arrayed on his tables advertised most of it as “pay what you can.” He also doubles the value of coupons from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.

Like many larger markets, the Colorado Farm and Art began accepting SNAP in recent years. In July, the market started its own program of doubling the value of SNAP allowances after raising the funds to make up the difference. “We don’t want to put that on the farmers,” said market manager Natalie Seals.

Accepting SNAP is an investment. It requires farmers markets to purchase a special machine for around $900, an expense that prevents many smaller markets from joining in, Seals said. But it’s all part of a move to make fresh, local food more democratic and less elitist.

“We want to make sure we provide good food to those who don’t have access to it,” Camire said.

Like most small farmers, though, Camire hopes his farm will someday be self-supporting so he can give it his full attention.

For now, he commutes to a full-time engineering job.

“It’s impossible to get everything done. I honestly work 65 hours a week doing just the farming,” he said. “I start the day at 4 in the morning and end at 9 p.m. every day, except on Saturday. We’re Jewish so Saturday is the only day we don’t work.”

He has no illusions that even at its best farming will ever be especially lucrative.

“I’ve gone over the numbers 500 times and I know how tight it’s going to be,” he said. “It’s hard, that’s the bottom-line. Our economy is not conducive to small farms.”

Camire considers himself uniquely blessed. For one thing, his family was able to buy their property for $127,00, which he calls “a really good deal.”

For another, “my company was willing to work with me on when, where and how and give me a ridiculous pay raise,” he added. “I have a good job, I have the finances, I have an extreme work ethic and the skills to do everything myself. I have the passion and a supportive family.”

But Camire is concerned because he believes the country needs more small farms and most individuals don’t have the same advantages he’s had to help them get started.

“I am proud of how hard I work, but it is depressing in a sense because I have the most ideal situation,” he said. “Even so, it still cost us $80,000 just to set up the farm and that’s without tractors. That’s doing all the work myself.”

The hunger people have for a personal connection with the farmers who grow their food and for fresh produce that comes direct from the farm is apparent in the response from Camire’s customers, who have let his family know how much their efforts are appreciated.

“Way more than we anticipated, the outpouring of love and support has been incredible,” he said.

“I knew it was going to be hard work, and I’m good with that. I love what I do,” he added. “There’s no greater purpose on earth than providing pure food for people, whether they can afford it or not. It’s so important when I look at the future of our world, our environment and our families.”