Amanda Adare and her daughter at Table Mountain Farm. Courtesy photo

Meet Boulder County’s farmers

In Food & Drink by Aimee HeckelLeave a Comment

You don’t have to run your own farm to eat farm-fresh food in the Boulder area. Many local farms offer special community supported agriculture memberships. They’re essentially farm shares, where you pay a pre-set amount in exchange for regular baskets of produce and other locally sourced food. Think of it like a local produce box subscription.

You can buy into a CSA for fruits and veggies, but also meat, eggs, flowers, milk, honey and more. Exactly what you get in a produce box often depends on the weather and harvest, but you know exactly where it came from and who grew it. Many local farms offer organic or biodynamic food.

Most CSAs are open to the public, but they can be in high demand; some sell out as soon as registration opens, typically at the beginning of the year. Others keep registration open year-round. For this, check out McCauley Family Farms, Settembre Cellars and Light Root Community Farm. Ela Family Farms opens its apple share March 1-mid-June.

To join one of the Boulder-area’s CSAs, the cost ranges from about $280 for an individual share (BonaVida Growers) to $1,150 for a full share, which may feed up to five people (63rd Street Farm). Many family-sized produce shares are around $700, but the prices often depend on frequency, length and size of the share and the details of the offerings. For extra money, you may be able to add on local products, such as coffee, mushrooms, bread and more.

For people on a budget, some farms offer discounts if you help work on the farm.

Shares are typically given out weekly on set dates at specific pick-up locations. Some farms beyond Boulder County’s lines offer Boulder pick-ups; for example, Monroe Organic Farm of Kersey (just past Greeley) offers pick-ups throughout Broomfield, Louisville and Boulder at slightly lower rates than many Boulder County farms, an option that may be suitable for people on a budget who don’t mind buying from beyond the Boulder bubble. And Ela Family Farms, the big local purveyor of apples (as well as cherries, peaches and plums) hails from Hotchkiss, about five hours away, outside the Palisade mountain area.

Table Mountain Farm. Photo by Amanda Adare

To get a closer look at some of Boulder County’s farms, we talked to some of their farmers. Here’s how it went down.

Michael Moss at Kilt Farm

8140 Oxford Road, Longmont

More info: kiltfarm.com/

What makes your farm different or unique?

My farm is unique in a few ways. One, I am totally organic and completely on Boulder County open space. I have taken neglected properties and turned them into high-productive fields. With my focus on building healthy soils, we have been able to build a farm around growing the richest and most nutritious food in Boulder County.

Why do you run this farm?

My degree and first career is hotel-restaurant management. When I was living in Steamboat Springs, I realized how poor the food quality was in our Colorado mountain towns, and I decided to do something about it. I worked with farmers in Palisade and Fort Collins to bring food to mountain communities. While this was great work, it was the magic in the field that truly drew me. By 2011, I was back in Boulder, learning how to farm, and in 2013, Kilt Farm was started on one-half acre. Now I have grown to more than 35 acres with a 200-member CSA, distributing our food from Fort Collins to the Denver-metro area.

Why are local farms important in 2020?

In a world where food has been commodified and shipped thousands of miles, local food gives us the chance to experience what food can taste and feel like. Boulder County has an agricultural heritage that stretches back to the first settlers in the valley. As we move into the ’20s, local food can help improve our health and the health of our land. This is truly a priceless benefit.

Kilt Farm. From left to right: Paulie Anderson, Michael Moss, Cayla Moss, Eliza Peterson, Kyle Johnson. Courtesy photo

What’s something about your farm that people may not know?

I started wearing kilts when I went to Burning Man in the early 2000s. Kilts, especially the working-man’s kilt I wear, make sense when you’re building a city in the desert. Farming is hard work in harsh conditions, and it was a perfect fit to wear my kilt to carry all my tools when I was the only person running a small, half-acre farm. One day, I was in Whole Foods and someone stopped me and told me they saw me farming and wanted to learn more about what I do. It was an aha moment; I realized instead of naming my new farm Michael’s Place, I could have some fun and call it Kilt Farm. It stuck. Now my wife and some of my staff have also fallen in love with working in a kilt.

What’s a tip for getting the most out of what you offer?

People often tell me that our produce is the best they have ever eaten. The more energy-conscious folks tell me often that it is the highest-vibrational food they have ever seen or experienced. With our customizable CSA, you can get more of the local food you like, so you can eat more veggies. In the end, the best thing you can do is eat more veggies.

What is your greatest challenge with running a farm?

Farming is a business where you dance with nature. She can throw crazy weather at you, like the 2018 hail storms, and you just have to keep dancing. While unpredictable weather can be hard, it is just a part of nature. Here in Boulder County, finding people who want to do the hard work to grow our food is seeming to be harder and harder. We live in a very expensive town, and sometimes the farm economics make it tough to pay people what they need or feel they are worth. Farm work is very skilled and should be paid a living wage or even higher. This is our food, our health and our future we are talking about. As our community becomes more and more expensive, the farm economics become harder and harder, maybe even harder than the wild weather.

What is the biggest reward?

There are so many rewards from doing the hard work of farming. Two of my favorites are having young kids tour the farm and leave beaming with excitement about where their food comes from. The other is knowing that the food I put into my community is making my community a better place, while at the same time making them better for it.

Tim Quinn at Bonavida Growers

10729 Airport Road, Longmont

More info: facebook.com/bonavidagrowers/

What makes your farm different or unique?

My entire operation is on just an acre of ground, so every little patch of ground is used every season. There is a focus on keeping the soil healthy to keep the ground productive and disease-free.

Bonavida Growers. Photo by Amy QuBonavida Growers. Photo by Amy Quinn

Why do you run this farm?

I have a lot of energy and wanted to put it to use in a positive and meaningful way. Growing food for my immediate community was the path I chose.

Why are local farms important in 2020?

We are facing mounting environmental challenges and actions such as eating local are going to help to steer us in the right direction. These choices do matter to the overall health of our planet.

What’s something about your farm that people may not know?

I do all of the labor myself, save for the time that my friends pitch in to lend a hand.

What’s a tip for getting the most out of what you offer?

Try to focus on eating a mostly, if not an entirely, plant-based diet. You would be surprised with how many vegetables you can eat.

What is your greatest challenge with running a farm?

Working alone is, well, lonely sometimes.

What is the biggest reward?

The great food.

Amanda Adare at Table Mountain Farm

8181 N. 41st St., Longmont

More info: tablemountainfarm.com/

What makes your farm different or unique?

We are a small goat dairy in southwest Longmont focused on regenerative agriculture practices and human-animal husbandry. Basically, we love our animals and make sure we’re giving more to the land than we are taking.

Why do you run this farm?

We are passionate to serve our family and community with quality food that is raised locally, sustainably and to eliminate so much of the waste that comes from large-scale farming and distribution.

Why are local farms important in 2020?

I believe there has been a revolution with the natural food industry and individual consumers ensuring they are sourcing food locally, requiring higher standards for animal welfare and seeing the great value add of fresher tasting food.

What’s something about your farm that people may not know?

Not only do we provide milk and meat CSAs, but we also sell a delectable Goat Milk Caramel Sauce that will begin to be seen on my more store shelves in the near future.

What’s a tip for getting the most out of what you offer?

We encourage our CSA members to try their best to pick up their items consistently, which helps us keep our items affordable and eliminate wasted products—and to pick up items on the farm to see the animals and have a true view of the work we do.

What is your greatest challenge with running a farm?

Time. It seems there is never enough time during our busy seasons, but as soon as winter comes we somehow find ways to do even more the next year.

What is the biggest reward?

Watching growth, whether it is the growth of our caramel at farmers’ markets or baby goats (kids) growing into nursing moms, watching the bare spots in our pasture grow fresh grass to feed our animals, or my daughter growing in this environment and our growth as stewards of this piece of land. Watching everything grow and appreciating the different lengths of time for each thing to grow, I’ve truly come to cherish the entire process, whether its growth over a few weeks, several months or multiple years. I continue to grow alongside it all.

Amanda Scott at 63rd Street Farm

3796 63rd St., Boulder

More info: 63rdstfarm.com/

What makes your farm different or unique?  

63rd Street Farm is a CSA-only run farm. We sell all of our vegetables, meat, eggs and more to our CSA members only. On our CSA pick-up days, we invite those interested in our CSA to come by between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and check out the farm. We offer wood-fired pizza, local wine and more for all to purchase and enjoy out on the farm.

Why do you run this farm?

We are passionate about bringing wholesome, local food to our community while being able to steward the land and animals in a holistic manner.

Why are local farms important in 2020?

They are important in every year. When people shop at grocery stores or Amazon, they may be missing the nutrients in their diets that local farms can provide. Since we harvest the foods you eat that day or a day or two ahead of time, you will find more nutritional value in them than from those from box stores that have to ship food in from around the world. As fruits and vegetables travel, they lose their nutritional values each day.

What’s something about your farm that people may not know?

We are an open book, and our website tells our story pretty thoroughly. We did just receive a 37-acre parcel of land to steward from the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain parks this past spring. With that property, we got some Scottish Highland steer, alpacas and lots of hay.

What’s a tip for getting the most out of what you offer?

It is important to sign up for a CSA share for the season and keep coming back year after year to really engage in how a small farm can survive. Bouncing around from farm to farm is tough on the farmers, as we depend on you as much as you depend on us to feed you.

What is your greatest challenge with running a farm?

Mother Nature is our biggest challenge, as we never know what we will be getting as the seasons change. With that, it is also challenging to compete with market places, such as Amazon, that can deliver fruits and vegetables to people’s front door at a fraction of the cost. A small, family-run farm can get you a higher nutrient-dense food, but it costs more to do so and that is where folks tend to buy cheap, which will eventually catch up to you in your health.

What is the biggest reward?

The biggest reward to being a CSA farmer is watching the children in our CSA community grow. They come in on their first day absolutely disgusted with vegetables, and by the end of the season, they are coming in yelling for some carrots. Then as they grow, we get to watch them make decisions for their life about the foods they consume and the education they received, coming to the farm and learning what is “good” food and what it takes to get it.

Taylor Drexler at Growing Gardens

1630 Hawthorn Ave., Boulder

More info: growinggardens.org/

What makes your farm different or unique?

We are both a farm and a nonprofit that is dedicated to enriching our community through sustainable urban agriculture education and food donations. We have hands-on programs for children, teens, adults, seniors and those with developmental disabilities that reconnect people with the land, their food, and each other.

In addition to Growing Gardens’ education programs, we donate thousands of pounds of produce, as well as plant starts and seeds, to low-income community members each year in order to impart greater food security and hunger relief in our community.

Growing Gardens CSA shares fresh produce with our community, grown organically and with regenerative agriculture principles. Our CSA is unique in that it is run in partnership with our Cultiva Youth Project, a program that employs teens ages 12 to 18 to learn leadership, agriculture and job skills throughout the growing season. Teens seed, care for and harvest fresh produce each week and prepare it for weekly CSA pickups at our Boulder farm. During these pickups, community members have the chance to meet their teen farmers and get to know other community members.

Cultiva. Photo courtesy of Growing Gardens

Why do you run this farm?

Our mission is to enrich the lives of our community through sustainable urban agriculture. We practice regenerative agriculture to ensure the long-term viability of our land and water resources to feed future generations. We run this farm to reconnect our community with fresh, locally grown food, as well as gardening, cooking and nutrition education.

Why are local farms important in 2020?

It’s now more important than ever that people of all ages understand where their food comes from and the impact that food systems have on the natural world, future food security and on the human body.

People are more likely to foster a connection with their food when they see where it’s grown, how and by whom. Locally sourced food generally carries significantly more nutrients and flavor than food shipped from around the world, which is enough to get anyone, even our 7-year-old summer campers, excited about harvesting and eating fresh arugula.

By purchasing locally grown food, we minimize the distance that food travels from seed to plate, which drastically reduces its carbon footprint. On average, food in the US typically travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate — resulting in a massive amount of fossil fuel usage. Buying locally produced food also keeps money within local economies, benefiting various members of the community at large.

Localized farming often means smaller-scale farms — which are innately different than large-scale, conventional agriculture operations, in how the farm interacts with the soil, the environment and its community.

Smaller-scale farms are often more likely and able to enact age-old farming principles that advocate working with the local ecology and natural systems in order to maximize the long-term viability of their soil (essentially, the long-term stability of our food systems). This typically means working with fewer pesticides and fertilizers, responsibly managing water resources and using less fossil fuel energy. These practices result in healthier soil that is more able to withstand drought, wind and other natural elements; grow more nutritious crops; and maintain viability for future generations — not to mention these practices minimize our carbon footprint.

Lastly, with the high cost of farm machinery, smaller-scale farms typically rely on more manpower and human labor (instead of machine labor), which employs and gives jobs to more community members.

What’s something about your farm that people may not know?

Growing Gardens is blessed by the generosity of its landowners, the Long family, from whom we lease 11 acres of farmland. The Long family has owned the 25-acre Long Family Farm for over 100 years, making it one of Colorado’s Centennial farms.

The Long Family Farm is the last remaining piece of agriculturally zoned land in the city of Boulder. In the fall of 2019, thanks to the generosity of the Long family and the overwhelming support from the local community, the city of Boulder purchased a conservation easement on the property, permanently protecting its agricultural legacy and limiting any future development on the land.

What’s a tip for getting the most out of what you offer?

Engage with our farm. You’ll meet your teen farmers each week during CSA pickup, as well as have the opportunity to participate in our various programs and classes related to sustainable agriculture. From children’s summer camps and field trips to cooking, gardening and beekeeping classes, we invite you to learn how to make the most of your CSA pickup or garden harvest this year. Our community events are open and free to the public, including our May Plant Sales and Community Harvest Festival in October. Visit growinggardens.org to learn more and get involved.

What is your greatest challenge with running a farm?

Probably farm labor. Balancing the educational and operational aspects of the Cultiva Youth Project teens’ involvement in the CSA program is deeply rewarding and challenging. As anyone might imagine, running a 2-acre farm with the help of 60-plus teenagers is not the most efficient way to go about farming, but it is incredibly meaningful and impactful to our teens. At the end of the day, for any farm, there is always more work to be done then there are hands (and financial resources) to make it happen.

What is the biggest reward?

The biggest reward is getting to see people of all walks of life able to reconnect with their food system in an urban environment. It’s amazing to work so hard throughout the growing season and see the fruit of our labor at our weekly CSA pickup — the joy and excitement of CSA members as they pick up fresh, bright purple cabbage and heads of broccoli. And the teens’ pride in presenting the food they grew to their community.

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