One of the original wheat farms in Arvada will be the setting for the filming of seasons three and four of the docu-series “Urban Conversion,” which airs on PBS. The show centers around …
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One of the original wheat farms in Arvada will be the setting for the filming of seasons three and four of the docu-series “Urban Conversion,” which airs on PBS.
The show centers around businessman Rodman Schley and his free-spirited wife, Gina, as they combine their passions — film and farming — within the confines of their city lifestyle. During the first two seasons, the couple learned skills such as backyard beekeeping and animal husbandry, as well as exploring green homebuilding. For the third season, they are integrating lessons learned over the past two seasons into their new project, a recently purchased farm estate in Arvada.
“We’re just really happy that this show will spotlight the city of Arvada,” Rodman said. “It’s our home and we love being here. Arvada being ground zero for this nationally televised show is cool and that makes us really happy.”
Schley has lived in Arvada for 20 years. When he married Gina in 2004, she joined him there. The town became their community and they put down roots — Gina helped create the Rose Roots Community Garden in Northwest Arvada.
“We’ve built really strong relationships with the people and the city of Arvada — it’s our tribe,” Rodman said.
Around the same time the garden was beginning, Gina was trying to make her husband more conscious of his urban footprint.
“Gina was a little more earth-friendly and conscious,” Rodman said. “She was wanting me to go out and learn these things. I was resistant a bit.”
But he did, and the results were often funny. The couple wanted to share these scenes with others and also educate a larger community.
They filmed their first episode of “Urban Conversion” in 2012 with an urban farmer in Denver and another with a backyard beekeeper in Eldorado Springs.
Then they reached out to the White House. To their surprise, they were invited to film episode three with White House chef Sam Kass in Michelle Obama’s backyard garden.
In 2013, Rocky Mountain PBS picked up those three episodes. The show became syndicated in 2015 and it is now aired in 33 states.
“We weren’t expecting it,” Rodman said. “We just wanted to do a little show to make small changes in Colorado.”
The Schleys rounded out the first season with eight episodes, one of which focused on homebrewing in Arvada.
A six-episode second season, spotlighting sustainable living, followed. The couple believed they should combine the two themes for a third season, but struggled to find a property.
One day, Rodman walked past the farm, which was about a mile from the Schleys’ current home in Arvada. It was perfect for the show. The next day, they saw it was for sale.
“This property was a culmination of everything we hoped for for season three,” Gina said. “Farmland is usually far out of town, but we wanted to find something that was still an urban environment.”
The property on Kline Drive was originally a 300-acre wheat farm — one of the originals in the area. The house on the property was built in 1949. Most of the acreage has now been transformed into the neighborhood homes that surround the old property, but a large piece of the original property still remains.
“We feel like this is a little treasure that we found here in the suburbs,” Gina said. “We have some big dreams for the property to farm it and revive the house.
The house is in the permitting phase. With demolition started, the hope is to break ground in April and move the family in by the fall.
The plan is to make the home into a high-performance house with sustainable resources and resurrect the soil to grow lavender and specialty cut flowers that will be sold to the public.
The house and the property will be brought back to life on camera for seasons three and four of the show, expected to cover several years. The episodes will be filmed around themes — soil, marble, wood, water.
“We look at life, and our worlds are big,” Rodman said. The show “is about taking people who are inundated by so many things and getting them to take a closer look at how they’re living their lives. I think that leads to a deeper connection of place and community.”
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