Pollinator Appreciation Month: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes

Faces of Farming and Food: Haystack Mountain Cheese / Part One

Days are getting longer. Plants our budding. Seasonal allergies are upon us. Winter depression is lifting. And of course, it’s also farmer’s market season!

My name is Daniel Bedell and I’m a photographer and run the instagram feed @lightandwork where I have been exploring many careers and trades, but mostly farming. I am really excited to be working with BCFM this season and profiling different vendors. I love exploring the backstories of people, brands and products and your local market is a fantastic place to discover interesting stories and people.

One thing I love the most is when I discover the story behind something that I have used or seen for years and never given it a second thought. Ever since I’ve moved to Colorado I’ve bought Haystack Mountain goat cheese. It wasn’t until I was at the cheese making plant that I realized that the goat cheese was the same and that it was made Longmont 45 less than an hour from where I live.  

When I buy something like cheese it’s easy to forget it was made by people and not just squeezed out of some stainless steel machine. When you buy cheese, especially hard cheeses, from Haystack you are getting a food that was crafted by hand and imagined into existence by a single person. Jackie Chang was born in Taiwan and thought she’d spend her career in the medical field. But she and her parents moved to America and eventually Boulder and one day she found herself on a field trip to a goat dairy owned by Jim Schott’s the founder of Haystack. She loved the animals and began helping with them. A love of the animals turned eventually into a love of cheese and cheese crafting. She is now the master cheesemaker for Haystack crafting old standbys and dreaming up new cheese.

So now you know that something as Colorado as Green Chile Jack really comes from the strong hands of a Taiwanese immigrant woman who grew up more interested in beauty pageants than farming and thought Kraft Singles was the height of cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer Profile: Sunseed Farm

Farm Philosophy and Growing Practices:

The Munz Family has only been farming in Lafayette since last winter, but their already making good marks at two of our producer-only farmers market. They farm on the property owned by Duane and Shirley Johnson, who own Johnson Sharpening (long-time knife sharpening vendors at the Boulder and Longmont locations). Owner of Sunseed, Carrie Munz, spent a decade farming in Washington state before making the trek to Colorado so she is no stranger to farm life. You can find her for their first at the Longmont Farmers Market every Saturday and every Thursday for their second season at the Lafayette Farmers Market.

She uses her ecological knowledge as a former wildlife and fisheries biologist to care for the land and the water. Her farming experience instilled a love of the land and a passion for contributing to her community. Munz believes that eating locally and in season is a necessity not a choice and that it is her responsibility to help provide food for her local community.

Favorite crop & its challenges and joys:

“I love beets, I love the color and the fact that they are very nutrient dense.” This will be Munz’s second year successfully growing beets. She has tried before with limited success, but find in farming that every year is different. Weather, soil and insects change each year. “I always try again even if the crop hasn’t done well in the past.”

Fresh at the Market by Season:

Spring: radishes, turnips, mizuna, lettuce, pea shoots and spinach.

Summer: basil, zucchini, green beans and eggplant.

Fall: winter squash, pumpkins and onions.

Most season long – beets, cabbage, asian greens, carrots and kohlrabi.

 

Farmer Profile: Cure Organic Farm

Paul and Anne Cure worked together on farms during college, traveling the country together. On a small farm in Seattle, they realized the farm-to-table movement was beginning to get traction and decided they wanted to start their own farm and join this movement.  They moved to Boulder and started Cure Organic Farm in 2005: the same year Hugo Matheson and Kimball Musk–from The River Café in London—and Bobby Stuckey and Lachlan Mackinnon-Patterson from The French Laundry in San Francisco—each moved here to open The Kitchen Café and Frasca Food and Wine, respectively. The restauranteurs and farmers shared the same vision of sourcing organic food from small, local farms; and friendships were born became the foundation for professional relationships that thrive to this day. Boulder was a unique landing pad for the right personalities at the right time: not only these entrepreneurs, but also the ecosystem of consumers to champion and support it. The fact each year, Cure alone receives 100 applications for interns to learn and study farming in Boulder, signifies how Boulder’s especial farming character.

Within the farm-to-table movement, Paul notes the reciprocity and distinction between restaurants and farms. For restaurants: farm-to-table serves an economy of scale; for farms, restaurants are a part of the economic equation, but the economic base are CSAs and farmers’ markets. Restaurants elevate food and are type of theatre: restaurants are where food is a special occasion. For farms, food is blue-collar work, not theatre: food is about people getting their groceries. We can eat without a restaurant; we cannot eat without a farm. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship with complementary parts.

Years in business:

Cured Organic Farm has been in business since 2005 and started selling at the Boulder County Farmers Market the same year. Of Cure’s 30 acres, 22 are leased from the City and County of Boulder. For Paul and Anne, the City and County of Boulder are a key ingredient in Boulder’s hospitable environment for small farmers.

Farm Philosophy and Growing Practices:

Cure is an organic, biodynamic farm that grows soil for the next generation.  The Cures maintain the ecosystem, and keep the land in production so that future farmers will be given same quality of soil that they were given. In addition to vegetables, Cure raises ducks and chickens for eggs and three different breeds of hogs as “cheap tractors.” They rotate their ~40 hogs that till up last year’s crops and compost them throughout the farm. They also butcher some hogs to sell pork to restaurants and the farmers’ market.

Education was a significant aspect of Paul and Anne’s starting their farm.  They wanted to open the door for people curious about agriculture who might not have easily access to learn about it. Cure gives tours to students, from elementary to universities; participates with Senior Living; offers a kids’ summer camp for ages 6-9; and on-hand exposure of the ecosystem to employers like Google who want to get their employees off the screen for a bit.  Cure hosts a volunteer every Thursday 9-12, from May to October, open to anyone in the community who wants to feel empowered and know where their food comes from. Cure delivers weekly in Boulder to Cured Boulder, Pizzeria Locale and Frasca, The Kitchen, Arcana, The Flagstaff House, Seeds at the BPL, and Black Belly Bistro. They also deliver twice weekly in Denver to Acorn, Beast and Bottle, Protégé, The Kitchen, Duo, and Western Daughters.

Favorite crop & its challenges and joys:

“What’s growing now”! In March, Cure is loving pea shoots. The challenges are the seasonal variables of farming that change yearly according to weather—whether it’s a hot and dry year or a flood year. The joys are farming in Boulder’s unique farming eco-system of farming, from the enthusiastic farm-to-table community to legacy farmers who’ve maintained and cultivated land for generations, and the City and County of Boulder who lease to local farmers.

Fresh at the Market by Season:

Spring: Over-winter carrots and spinach (several varieties of each!). Summer: Tomatoes.  Fall: Kale and collard greens and the like.

What I’d Love my Customers to Know:

Anne and Paul are the beneficiaries of others, notably Gene and Pat Sawhill, the Hogan and Ellis Families—lifetime farmers who first leased land to the Cures at an affordable price and, along with their neighbors the Munsons, encouraged them, and maintained tolerance of their mistakes and learning curve. This encouragement helped the Cures carve out a life here.

Farmer Profile: Black Cat Farm Table Bistro

By Marni Gauthier

 

Passion is the name of the game for Eric and Jill Skokan. Together they manage Black Cat Farm and their two restaurants that it fully supplies – Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare. Farmers by day and restaurateurs by night, Eric and Jill literally embody Black Cat’s full farm-to-table operation.  Eric, both farm manager and James-Beard nominated chef, cooks in the open kitchen and Jill, expediter and communicator, is right there on the floor with him facilitating between the front entrance and the food.

Managing employees is a whole other piece of Black Cat’s operation that Eric and Jill love. Eric is fluent in Spanish and the Skokans bring Mexican families to Black Cat Farm on a H2A VISA program, house, arrange all transport and care for them. Most of the restaurant staff have been with Black Cat since its inception. The Black Cat family share a great work ethic, passion and aligned value. Black Cat is the largest full-scale farm-to-table operation in the country! “Full-scale” means all of the food on their restaurant tables year-round comes from their Farm: from vegetables to meat, grains, polenta, wheat, farrow, edible flowers and herbs. The menu changes daily and seasonally according to what’s harvested that day.

Years in business:

Black Cat Farm has been in business since 2008, and started selling at the Boulder County Farmers’ Market the same year. In what began as digging up the side and backyards of their rented North Boulder home to garden vegetables and raise chickens evolved to a three-family co-op, and later scaled into tractors and irrigation ditches.  As they moved and expanded to various city and county open-space plots over the years, Eric and Jill added pigs and sheep. Black Cat’s 130-acre Certified Organic Farm depicts a central aspect of farming in Boulder County.

Farm Philosophy and Growing Practices:

Black Cat Farm is holistic – all of their livestock are pasture-based and biodynamic. They rotate their livestock and vegetable crops, integrating their animals into the crops. The animals fertilize the vegetables, and continually replenish the soil. It’s complicated. It involves timing and requires more space than importing fertilizer. And there is a beauty behind it that feels good: the pigs love it and the Skokans haven’t bought pork in eight years and pork has been on Black Cat’s menu every day. To build the soil, pasture the animals, raise organic vegetables and supply the restaurants is a win-win.

Favorite crop & its challenges and joys:

Old-fashioned shell peas and wheat: two crops where we can have our cake and eat it too. Both are great for soil building and at same time, so useful and delicious in the kitchen. The performance of both depends on the weather being neither too wet nor too dry; so these “goldilocks” crops come with a healthy dose of fingers crossed.

Fresh at the Market by Season:

Early Spring:  Asian greens – so sweet and delicious. Early Summer:  Old heirloom shell peas come into their own. Late summer: baby summer squash and squash blossoms – the trick is to harvest small and often. Early Fall: black prince tomatoes – deep rich flavor, lower acid. Spectacular cooked as a roasted or dry tomato with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt.

What I’d Love my Customers to Know:

Farm-to-Table is run completely different than anything. Years ago, Eric and Jill were in France and it became their inspiration. The chefs were pointing to the farms where different proteins came from, and running out to garden for different herbs.  It was a lasting experience. Farm-to-Table is not new; it’s old. There are many models and all are important. Black Cat’s particular holistic, full-scale approach is high integrity, both challenging and rewarding. Not everyone has the bandwidth to do both farming and a restaurant.  There is a lot of training for young people coming into the industry: how to cook seasonally; how to use what’s coming off the farm; how the menu changes every day; whole-animal butchery. Making farming sustainable is part of the fabric for all farmers, and how to do it depends upon each farmer’s skill set. Black Cat happens to be farm-to-table and their restaurants and cookbook make their farm sustainable.

 

Pollinator Appreciation Month: Celebrating the Unsung Heroes

By Tim Brod, Highland Honey Bees

 

September is Pollinator Appreciation Month! Hopefully, all of us will take a moment this month to consider the importance of pollinators in our daily lives, and also educate ourselves about their plight.

The European honey bee may be the best-known agricultural pollinator, but in Boulder County alone more than 500 different species of native bees have been recorded. While bees are the primary pollinators, there are many other important pollinators in our region including wasps, flies, beetles, butterflies, moths and birds. All of these pollinators are unsung heroes as many of them are solitary, are associated with specific plants, and are not easily seen unless one goes looking for them.

 

There is an increasing public awareness that pollinators are under tremendous pressure, and are failing to thrive or are dying outright. The causes of honey bee decline are well known, and should scare us. They stem from our own kind. All parties involved in the story of honey bee decline agree that it is based on three factors:

  1. Disease
  2. Lack of high-quality forage
  3. Pesticides, primarily insecticides

While it is not in the scope of this blog to flesh out these causes in detail, I would like everyone to consider protecting pollinators by getting involved and informed.
On a personal level you can:

  • Eliminate or minimize your own pesticide (especially insecticide) use
  • Make your home a pollinator haven by creating safe habitat and quality forage
  • Promote healthy, responsible beekeeping practices in your neighborhood
  • Promoting organic or low-impact agriculture

You can apply these same principles on a larger scale by getting involved with your HOA, civic organizations, and city and county governments. Let’s stop the habit of planting non-native grasses, and instead promote sustainable pollinator habitat appropriate to our region. We don’t need to mow every vacant lot, or wide swaths along roadsides. Know your honey producers, and support them if they have healthy beekeeping practices and transparent labeling. These practices can be fun and educational for all ages—as well as critical to a healthy, thriving environment.

Find Tim and Highland Honey Bees at the Boulder and Union Station farmers markets.