Every time you bite into a fresh apple, cut into a perfect steak, or admire the dainty microgreens atop your risotto, you are consuming a product that has been carefully cultivated and selected by local farmers — all for the intent of bringing you the very moment you are indulging in. While it is no secret that modern day pop culture and media consumption have idolized and glorified food, chefs and restaurants, it’s time that we take a step back and look to where it all begins — with the incredible people who grow our food.
We dove into the contact books of some of the Denver area’s beloved chefs and restaurants to see who and where they were getting their high-quality, Colorado-grown produce, protein and grains. Read on to go behind the scenes of the food world and get a glimpse into where it all begins, with Mother Nature herself and the hands that foster her.
Where: 13300 West 2nd Place, Lakewood
Phone: (720) 550-9015
The Lowdown: ACRES Farm at Warren tech is more than just a farm. Here, Chef, farmer and instructor Josh Olsen and farm technician Dave DeMalteris “plant seeds, both in the ground and in the minds of young people.” The three-acre plot in Lakewood was previously used as open space for 4-H activities and poinsettia production before Olsen recognized the urban agriculture potential for the space and transformed the land to ACRES Farm. Today, he caters to various Denver restaurants, farmers markets and distributors.
For over five years, Olsen and his team have been growing high-quality, organic, chef-minded fresh produce influenced by Olsen’s decades of culinary experience. His background is invaluable, as it provides a unique understanding and insight into what chefs and restaurants are looking for and need from farms. Some of his current restaurant clients include Señor Bear, Bar Dough, Bistro Vendôme and Ultreia.
In addition to his organic produce endeavors, Olsen and his team have been cultivating the minds of students from the Denver metro area through their educational program. Students are able to come to space, learn about farming and the environment and use that as a springboard for a meaningful work experience that Olsen and his team feel is overshadowed in “today’s tech-dominated world.” The education demonstrates to young minds the “viability of urban agriculture” alongside 21st-century knowledge. The farm also actively provides assistance to Slow Food Nations, City Gal, Fruition Farms and Sprout City Farms-planting the seeds for tomorrow’s future in more way than one.
Where: 3925 E County Rd 32 (Carpenter Rd), Fort Collins
Phone: (970) 226-0978
The Lowdown: A favorite among restaurants and distributors in the Denver area, this Fort Collins-based exotic mushroom farm has been catering to a variety of culinary endeavors. From pizzerias, farm-to-table classics, seafood-driven restaurants and Italian restaurants, Hazel Dell’s has some kind of mushroom for every palate, taste and plate.
“I’m flattered that most of these restaurants will post our names and the names of the different farms they’ve used. It’s always a treat to see our name on the menu, it’s a great way to get our mushrooms out in the public as is the farmers market in Boulder, Longmont and Fort Collins,” said Jim Hammond, co-owner alongside wife Toni, mushroom grower and connoisseur. The farm offers a variety of mushrooms year-round, including shiitake, oyster, lion’s mane, portabella, button and cinnamon cap to name a few. While Hammond and his wife have seen great success and exposure with their mushrooms, it is not the easiest endeavor. Growing mushrooms in Colorado’s transformative climate — often polarizing in the same day — can be tricky for the sensitive mushrooms. But he enjoys the trials.
“My favorite part is learning how to grow mushrooms in a very difficult climate, which is Colorado. It’s always too cold, too hot, too windy, too dry. Very challenging. But I always love the challenge of learning how to grow mushrooms in these climates and getting to deliver this product to the local restaurants.” Some of the restaurants that Jim and Hazel Dell cater to include Urban Farmer, Laudisio Ristorante, Root Down, The Kitchen Restaurants, Hedgerow, Wild Standard, Zolo, Tahona, Panzano, Atelier, Pizzeria del Lupo, Rifts, St. Julian Hotel, Zeal, Tangerine and Under the Sun.
Where: 445 S 112th St, Lafayette
The Lowdown: Owned and operated by Lenny and Sara Martinelli, this one farm that “truly meets table.” Three Leaf Farm caters directly towards the Martellini’s culinary and restaurant company, Three Leaf Concepts, which houses their five Boulder restaurants —The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse, The Chautauqua Dining Hall, Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant, The Huckleberry and Zucca Italian Ristorante — as well as their catering company, Three Leaf Catering, and tea company-The Boulder Tea Company.
The couple purchased the farm in 2011 an effort to maintain their “self-sustaining agriculture and an environmentally conscious lifestyle,” one which is evident throughout their restaurants and personal lives as well. The Martinelli’s received the Nature’s Plate Award in 2012 for the “greenest” restaurant in Colorado. “To be able to grow food, and to serve it in our restaurants, is an extremely satisfying process. Both efforts can be difficult and complicated, but there’s great satisfaction in actually ‘doing it.’ The process of cultivating vegetables for the restaurants has developed a deep understanding for us about the entire food chain,” said chef and owner Lenny Martinelli.
The Lafayette farm grows a variety of produce that makes its way into their restaurants and onto diners’ plates — heirloom tomatoes, corn, broccoli, greens, peppers and squash — medicinal plants, herbs as well as fruit such as cherries, apricots, apples, peaches and plums. The farm also houses goats, chickens and horses, all of whom the Martinelli’s say “contribute to the ecosystem of the farm.”
With their eco-conscious cultivating and culinary endeavors, it is clear that the Martinelli’s, Three Leaf Concepts and Three Leaf Farm are one of the reasons why Colorado is famous for being a leader in the farm-to-table, culinary lifestyle. It is one of those farms that make locales proud to be a part of it all.
Where: 5445 W. Evans, Denver
Phone: (303) 986-1542
The Lowdown: Rebel Farm is a “sustainable greenhouse farm concept utilizing hydroponic (NFT) technology” and is located in South Denver. Farmer/owners Lauren Brettschneider and Jake Olson are able to tend and grow their crops, alongside their team, in the 15,000-square-foot facility that runs year round due to the protection of the indoor greenhouse farm. The farm houses of 38,000 plants on site, and while the farm offers a product list that ranges anywhere between 20 to 30 different types of at any given time, their focus is placed on more green endeavors — arugula, heads lettuce, herbs and a variety of kales.
Local restaurants and gourmet food distributors love the facilities as they eliminate the uncertainty and variability that growing crops in Colorado’s high altitude, excess sun, and fickle weather environment can conceive. Chefs and owners can continuously rely on not only a great, fresh, GMO-free product but the consistency of its availability as well.
Rebel Farm serves restaurants big and small, casual and upscale —from fast-casual locales like Turtle Boat to upscale dining places like Ultreia, Spuntino and Urban Farmer. Then, there are the restaurants that have been working with the farm since the day they started including Root Down, Linger and Butcher’s Bistro. “[It’s] amazing [working with some of the local restaurants]! We have an incredible amount of respect and love for chefs and the art they create. It is an honor and pleasure to get to know them and be able to work with them every day!!” says Brettschneider.
And one of the best parts of being a farmer in Colorado? According to Brettschneider, “…the 300 days of sunshine doesn’t hurt [either].”
Where: 7416 Valmont Road, Boulder
The Lowdown: Founded in 2005, this 15-acre farm is as close to home as it gets, ran and operated by husband-wife duo Anne and Paul Cure who live on the property with their family. The Cure Farm and family focus on growing “the most nutritious produce possible,” evident by their assortment of over 100 different certified organic vegetables, flowers and herbs. While cultivating the best crops is a priority, the family also places high importance on “working with the ecosystem to maintain and encourage natural diversity.” As a result, they use sustainable farming methods that preserve a healthy farm ecosystem through things like the cultivation of honey bee hives, hens and ducks and heritage Mangalitsa and Berkshire pigs — “which are rotationally grazed.”
But their eco and environmental consciousness extend past the gates of produce, Ann and Paul Cure believe that the surrounding community has just as much impact in maintaining this ecosystem balance. To them “community involvement is instrumental in the revival of small family farms.” It is their passion to help people develop a relationship with the land and so actively work to support the local community through engaging its involvement through local farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs. The CSA programs are a great way for people to get their produce, participants can choose and pack their own vegetables, fruit and flowers at the Boulder Famers Market or Denver Union Station Farmers Market. The rest of Cure Farm’s crops get distributed within 50 miles of the farm, maintaining the Cure’s goals to keep food fair, fresh and local.
In addition to these distribution channels, Cure Farm supplies some local favorites with their harvests, including restaurants such as Beast & Bottle, Basta, Acorn, Boulder Cork, Cured, Fresca Food & Wine, Jax Denver, Lucky Pie, Cafe Aion, The Kitchen Restaurants, Hedgerow and Western Daughters. With a list like that, it’s evident that they are doing things right.
Phone: (303) 495-8580
The Lowdown: Mountain Man Micro Farms was founded back in November 2015 by Andrew McArdle. Since then, the Franktown urban farm has been growing various herbs, beets, celery, wasabi, plants and its specialty—microgreens. All produce is grown indoors to allow for production 365 days a year. The farm also utilizes a racking system, which allows the team to turn 192 square feet of grow space into a 768 square-foot “climbing” wall for plants. “As we expand, we just keep building up,” McArdle elaborated.
Currently, the farm grows 30 varieties of specialty herbs, that are primarily used in local restaurants as garnishes, including pea shoots, chives, cilantro and curled cress. “I really pride myself on providing the highest quality produce I can to the Colorado food scene. It’s exciting to know that so many people are getting to sample our products across the state, and in so doing, are able to taste the difference of what truly local really means; from the flavors to nutrition it simply can’t be beat,” said McArdle.
McArdle and the farm have also recently partnered up with Targeted Aquaponic Grow, a Dallas based non-profit that “is working towards bringing aquaponic systems to developing countries.” Its most recent project took place in Arua, Uganda, where the team built an aquaponic system.
Today, Mountain Man Micro Farms works with 40 to 50 restaurants at a time, spanning from up North in Castle Rock down to South to Boulder. Find the farm’s greenery at Blackbelly, Santo, The Greenbriar, Flagstaff Restaurant, Sartos, The Bindery and the Palace Arms.
Where: 5821 West County Road 54E, Bellvue
The Lowdown: Morning Fresh Dairy Farms are a fifth-generation dairy farm operating out of the Pleasant Valley in Bellevue, Colorado. The farm has been in the Graves family since the late 1800s and has been serving the local Colorado community with high-quality milk and dairy products ever since. The family strives to do things right, controlling each aspect of the process to ensure the highest quality finish. The Graves raise their own cows without hormones and grow their own cow feed from alfalfa and grain, without the “use of pesticides to ensure the healthiest feed.” The team also bottles their own milk, using glass bottles for a reusable, BPA-free finish, which they believe helps the “milk stay fresher and taste [the] best.”
Some of the Denver area restaurants that the farm services include Root Down, The Kitchen family and Hedgerow.
Where: Boulder County
Phone: (303) 717-6836
The Lowdown: Black Cat Farm takes the meaning of farm-to-table dining to a new level. The ambitious 400-acre operation and Boulder County-based farm is owned and operated by Eric and Jill Skokan of the Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare in downtown Boulder. While Eric Skokan’s roots originate from an extensive culinary career, his experience now cultivating the very food that he serves in his restaurants has grown into something truly extraordinary.
Today, the farm grows more than 250 varieties of organic vegetables, grains and legumes; an immense variety that, according to the Black Cat crew, “allows Chef Skokan a limitless palette of flavors, colors and textures from which to build his award-winning cuisine.” In addition to the various produce, the farm raises Mulefoot and Hereford pigs, Tunis and Karakul sheep, Freedom Ranger poultry and is currently playing around with heritage grains such as emmer, buckwheat and soba. Skokan plans to mill the grains into flour for soba noodles, gluten-free pancakes and other tasty endeavors. The farm grows just about everything Skokan and his restaurants may desire — apart from items that the farm cannot produce here [in the Colorado climate] such as lemons, olives and salmon. Skokan often refers to the farm as his “food laboratory,” noting that he has learned far more about food while tending to the earth and its yieldings than he ever did as just a chef.
The entirety of the Black Cat Farm operation is certified organic and biodynamic. According to Demeter, a not-for-profit that certifies biodynamic operations, “[Skokan’s] is the only one of its kind in the United States.” The farm supplies the Skokan’s downtown Boulder restaurants — Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare — as well as Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs and the Denver and Boulder Farmers’ Markets.
Where: 2100 CR 54G, Laporte
The Lowdown: Native Hill Farm is a four-season, family-run vegetable farm located in Fort Collins. This year marks the seventh season of the farm, and the married farmers/owners Nic Koontz and Katie Slota are excited for “another great growing season on the Front Range.” Radish, acorn and butternut squash, various potatoes, onions, green peppers, leafy greens, nightshade vegetables and herbs are among some of the fresh, naturally grown produce that Koontz and Slota are currently furnishing at the farm.
By “using only the best of what Mother Nature can offer and a huge dose of love from the farmers,” Native Hill Farms strives to cultivate and offer the freshest, high-quality produce for its neighbors. The farm integrates with and supports the local community through the Larimer County Farmer’s Market, the Beaver’s Market Farm Stand and various CSA programs. You can also find their high-quality produce at various Fort Collins restaurants, including The Kitchen, Jax Fish House, Lucile’s and Spoons.
By focusing on various growing techniques — such as passive season extension and cover cropping — as well as eco-consciousness through energy efficiency and water conservation, the farm is able to remain dedicated to “preserving and encouraging the rich agrarian heritage” of the land. While doing so is hard work, it is something that Koontz and Slota seem grateful to do. “I’m sure anybody would say if they wake up and do what they love, it’s not a burden, it’s a joy. It’s a pretty beautiful thing,” concluded Slota.
Where: 29813 County Road 36 Holyoke
Phone: (970) 520-2385
The Lowdown: Wife and husband duo, Jason & Krystle Koberstein, run this small, high-quality beef farm located up Northeast in Holyoke, Colorado. Koberstein Farms is a family-run ranch that maintains as natural a process as possible when raising their cows, farming them humanely and feeding them a grass-fed/grass-finished diet removed of antibiotics. The cows are never sent to a feedlot and their “hay/forage is never sprayed with chemicals.”
The ranch also has a Temple-Grandin-approved USDA-inspected processing plant that vacuum seals and flash-freezes beef after butchery to maintain optimum flavor. “The animals are raised free of hormones and antibiotics. They are given plenty of room to grow and play and are treated very humanely. The animals drink water that comes from our deep wells, and there is no hydraulic fracturing in anywhere near our ranch.” said owner Roger Koberstein. Some of the Colorado restaurants enjoying their beef include The Kitchen family restaurants and Hedgerow.
Where: 125 S Miller Ave, Haxtun
Phone: (970) 774 – 7492
The Lowdown: From chicken and turkey to farm fresh eggs, Wisdom’s Natural Poultry Farm has been a standard go-to for poultry products for Denver area restaurants, markets and local distributors. This family-owned farm raises chickens and turkeys with no hormones, growth promoters, antibiotics or preservatives.
Their facilities are USDA certified and owners Jay and Cindy Wisdom ensure that the animals grow up in a temperature controlled, stress-free outdoor environment with full a balanced diet and full access to fresh well water. The Wisdoms pride themselves on offering some of the area’s freshest chicken, stating on their website, “When you buy a fresh chicken in the store, ask yourself, has it been frozen before? How do I know? How long has it been on the shelf? With ours, you don’t have to ask, you know.” Find their poultry served in restaurants such as Potager Restaurant, Gaia Bistro, The Kitchen Cafe, Cafe Aion, Dish Gourmet, Mateo, Zolo’s, Laudisio and Lucky Pie as well as at the Boulder’s Farmers Market.
Where: 14347 E. Cherry Creek Road, Larkspur
Phone: (303) 831-1962
The Lowdown: This beautiful 10-acre vegetable farm is located south of Denver in Larkspur, just about an hour’s drive. Chef and owner Alex Seidel purchased the 10-acre farm back in late 2009 and has been cultivating a relationship between land and farmer/ farmer and restaurant for nearly 10 years now. Alongside former Fruition Restaurant sous-chef-turned-cheesemaker Jimmy Warren, Seidel has been raising a variety of herbs, vegetables as well as creating some truly outstanding cheeses to serve not only his Denver and Boulder-based restaurants but those around them as well.
Various vegetables — rainbow carrots, kale, lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, rainbow beets — and a plethora delicious fresh dairy products — sheepskyr, ricotta, caio pecora, shepherd’s halo and feta — make their way onto plates at Rioja, Coperta, 12@Madison, Beast + Bottle, Basta, Table 6, and of course, Seidel’s restaurants Fruition Restaurant and Mercantile Dining & Provision.
Not only had Seidel and his team helped to define — but also — redefine the meaning of farm to table, they have made a name for themselves in the world of cheese as well. In addition to the numerous awards they have won, including several from the America Cheese Society, Seidel’s dairy and produce, farm and restaurant background have gained the attention of big players in the media world, including the beloved show Top Chef, which featured Seidel and his farm on its 15th season. With their eco-conscious cultivation and farming practices, high-quality produce and dairy products and farm-to-table ethos, it’s not hard to see why some of Denver’s top restaurants choose to serve their diners with the fruits of Seidel’s labor.
Where: Black Forest, Colorado Springs
Phone: (303) 898-0642
The Lowdown: This 1,500-acre farm is located down in Black Forest, Colorado Springs and a favorite among some of Denver’s top restaurants. Corner Post Meats — which was founded by owners Dan Lorenz and Adrienne Larrew who still run the farm today — yields some of Colorado’s top, high-quality, free-range livestock. Lorenz and Larrew work alongside their team to raise the animals with a naturalistic diet and utilize sustainable methods —fortified by the fact that the farm is built on the backbone of a wild bird reserve. “Being that we are on a wild bird reserve, all of our practices on the farm are structured for the rehabilitation and preservation of this ecosystem,” elaborated Matt Koster, the farm’s brand ambassador.
Pigs, cattle — Brahman, Longhorn and other varieties — lambs, turkeys and chickens roam freely on the reserve’s open space — all free of vaccinations, antibiotics, chemical dewormers and growth hormones. Find Corner Meat’s products at Denver restaurants such as Potager, Hop Alley, Euclid Hall, Old Major and Urban Farmer.
Where: 36730 River Frontage Rd, New Castle
Phone: (970) 876-0668
The Lowdown: Since its founding in 1999 by owners Tom & Sarah Rumery, Osage Gardens has been growing herbs through organic practices to serve the local restaurant scene, Colorado community and its surrounding areas. Osage Gardens is certified by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and has been growing a variety of culinary herbs — such as thyme, oregano, basil and mint — for almost three decades now.
While the Rumerys pride themselves and their farm on its dedication to organic practices, “just being organic” was not enough for them. The owners have constantly strived to “go beyond organic,” believing in and utilizing sustainable growing techniques to respect the environment and Colorado’s ecosystem in order to maintain its natural diversity. It is their goal to “to provide our community with an accessible, diverse, abundant and sustainable food system.” In addition to its eco-conscious agricultural process, the Osage Gardens farm encourages people to come tour the farm and learn about all that it entails — from growing cycles and beneficial insects to soil management and composting. You can find their products in various supermarkets including Whole Foods, Lucky’s, Marzcyks as well as in dishes at Root Down, Linger, Ophelia’s and Vital Root.