Palm Beach Gardens, FL Level 1
My husband and I are lavender farmers who are involved in our rural community. We are active in many organizations and community projects. Most particularly, we work with the chamber of commerce, various tourism initiatives, and the Elbert County Agricultural Alliance, which promotes agricultural related businesses in the region.
We live in Elizabeth, Colorado. It’s not the mountain town, ski village part of Colorado that most people know about. We live on what is called the High Plains. Here our town towers above the valley that contains the Denver Metro, which sits at the foot of the vaulted Rocky Mountains.
Once upon a time our town was a large ponderosa pine forest that rose out of the grasslands. It was home to the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. In the 1800s the lower Smokey Creek Trail led early settlers in covered wagons toward the gold and silver mines in Colorado Springs and beyond. The wagon ruts are still here, so are the native artifacts.
Today the forest is a series of thin lines that mark the end of the prairie and shade the first clear views of the Rockies. Our timber built the city of Denver, and a town grew up in place of the forest. The town was established officially in 1890. Many of the original buildings still survive on our Main Street. It boomed and busted over the years until it became a bedroom community for Denver and a rural getaway for people wanting to retire to a quieter life.
We are experiencing a renaissance now as Denver residents look further away for less expensive housing and land. The inevitable identity crisis that comes with growth ensues. How do we hold onto the things we love about our small town as the population growth attracts large retail and restaurant chains? How do we keep a sense of community with so many newcomers to the area?
I don’t know how many years the town has held a Mayor’s Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, but last year was the first year the entire downtown was lit up for the occasion. (Downtown has about 15 buildings, none of which have more than two levels.) The Elbert County Agricultural Alliance (one of our favorite organizations) wanted to be part of this special lighting ceremony. We volunteered to provide Christmas cookie decorating kits for over 400 people attending the event.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you should know cookies are a big deal. Making them is an experience to be shared with loved ones. Giving them is a meaningful act of love and generosity. To receive cookies is to accept the spirit of love and kindness with which they are given.
Our entire town turns out for the Christmas tree lighting event. The shops open their doors. Carolers stroll the street singing. The high school band plays. Horse drawn carriages give rides up and down the street. The police department offers hot chocolate. A local equestrian ranch collects Christmas cards to send to soldiers who are away from home over the holidays. The rodeo queen and her court volunteer to collect donations for charities. (Google rodeo queens if you need to, because these young ladies are amazing community ambassadors.) Santa Claus visits with the children. Our little band of farmers dresses up like Santa’s elves and hands out cookies we made in our kitchens, along with icing and colored sugars for people to take home and make personal gifts. Families come to enjoy the spectacle. And of course, the mayor flips the switch to light up the tree that makes our dark winter more cheerful.
That cheerful light in a dark time of year is what it is all about. We farmers bake cookies, dress in crazy costumes, and gather in the freezing cold to hand out treats just to have a share in the joy of people being a light for each other. The wide-eyed wonder on the faces of mature adults who have just been handed sweets for them and their children at no cost is a gift in itself. It is a moment of shared gratitude that warms us all.
I admit that it is moments like this that I find gratifying as an Airbnb host. When a guest is blown away by my hospitality or appreciative of the little details that made them comfortable, I find myself grateful for their notice.
So here is something I believe about all people, whether we celebrate Christmas or not: gratitude is a gift we all appreciate and can give freely.
My little rural community may not be little for much longer. We can keep our community by sharing our hospitality with newcomers and letting them become a part of us. A Christmas cookie is a small gesture of generosity, but certainly it is as important as any other in knitting us together with gratitude for the love received and the love accepted.
At the event last night, Mrs. Claus asked me if I had been good. Well, I hope so. Cheers to you all with all of the generosity my heart can give and with gratitude for everything you have taught me.
@Sheila646 Thank you for sharing your photos of your village and your community spirit.
This makes one think what the words " it takes a village to raise a child" in that what they learn growing up they can share in the future. I am sure your village is helping children to enjoy Chritmas, paticipate and to share.
I love what you have shared with the Airbnb community bringing us the spirit and joy across the miles (kms) for us it is summer but we still share the same spirit.
What a lovely post Sheila.....or should I say 'Farm Diva'!!!
I was always going to be a farmer! My parents were given a 2,000 acre property with a 50 square homestead on it as a wedding present.........not a bad start off in life you might say. Unfortunately none of it filtered down to me! Dad suffered from war neurosis, had a breakdown and sold the farm while I was away at boarding school, the end of a farming dynasty.
I did take my girls back there a few years ago to show them where I spent the first 12 years of my life.......
I did miss the opportunity to carry on the family tradition but, I have had a great life without anything being handed to me.
We have ended up a bit like you Sheila, a quiet country town that has become a dormitory suburb of our sprawling capital city.
When we moved into Mt Barker 13 years ago there was 7,000 residents here......now there is 38,000. We still have a lovely quaint main street......
and our lovely stately buildings.....
This is the lovely Auchandorroch House and is just one of many lovely Mt Barker properties.
But progress is destroying our quite tranquil area.....
We are saddened by this development but there is so much lovely character here in this part of the world that it remains as one of the worlds hidden gems.
And we love welcoming guests from wherever they may come from in the world......
Thanks for that lovely glimpse at your part of the world Sheila.
Thanks for sharing those beautiful pictures of your town. It really is charming.
It's funny that I would be the farmer in my family. My grandparents farmed and of all of their grandchildren no one imagined I would do anything that would involve being outside or ruining a manicure. I wanted to live in a city and work in an office, which I did for twenty years.
When my uncle heard I had started farming he sent me one of my grandfather's bear trophies, which are highly coveted in the family. I never imagined I would do anything to make the short list of people who might inherit a bear, but here I am with a farm and a bear. LOL!
Your childhood home looks like an amazing place to grow up. You must have climbed a lot of trees. Thank you again for sharing.
Hello @Sheila646 ,
Such a good read it is. Didn't know about the symbolism behind sharing cookies. May your rural community grow manifolds! Witnessing beautiful colours of Christmas through your post is a treat to our eyes🎄. Truly, gratitude is a gift.
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Thank you @Sheila646 for this colorfull and authentic contribution, I would love to discover your rural community !
Hello, Farm Diva @Sheila646 for sharing your wonderful community and all the warmth and fun that it enjoys. I love the fact that people just connect and help one another making your community a richer place to reside by supporting one another. It is not the size of the community that makes a house your home but the people who reside there. Bravo for letting us all know how special your hometown is. You are very lucky to live there.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas🎄
Thank you for this wonderful, warming contribution, @Sheila646 !