Benton McKibben never intended to be a farmer, at least not at first.
He grew up just outside of Wheat Ridge with his five siblings — three sisters and two brothers. They had a veggie garden, but it wasn’t the focus. His mom homeschooled them, and she owned a homeschooling resources bookstore. While both of his brothers grew up and became marines, he rebelled against his upbringing and found solace in heavy metal music.
“My family was super musical growing up,” he explained. “Every sibling plays at least one instrument. I had a lot of frustration, and metal became a great outlet for me. It’s angry, loud and aggressive — it got me going and got me amped. I really got into it… It gave me a place and people to relate to.”
He focused on his music, serving as lead vocalist with various metal bands at night while paying the bills through a job with the city of Lakewood — rocker by night, landscape maintenance man by day.
He worked as a certified chemical applicator for almost 15 years, learning about basic plant nutrition and healthcare while spraying chemicals on Lakewood’s public parks and vegetation.
“About six or seven years into it, I got really interested in food and what’s going into it while it’s grown,” he explained. “That’s when things changed.”
He bought the lot across the street from his parents, ditched the chemicals and started his own organic farm — Neoteric Farms.
McKibben explained that his job with the city helped him understand why some areas require chemical spraying, but that’s not what he wanted to do with his farm. His initial goal was to grow food for himself, just so he’d know what was going into it.
“Being in that industry for a long time, you get a very realistic idea of what chemicals are doing in that industry,” he said. “A monoculture doesn’t happen organically [in] nature. Think about a golf course or pristine grass — you can’t do that in just a natural setting so it requires some human assistance to thrive. I’m definitely not for chemicals, but having this background in that, I have a much more precise idea of where these problems are coming from. I’ve heard both sides.“
When his former band broke up, it gave him time to take the farm up a notch. The farm now occupies 4,000 square feet of his half-acre lot. The name “Neoteric” is meant to embody that shift.
“Neo means a new wave, or new way of doing something, and -teric means of the land,” he explained. “We wanted a name that embodied what we’re doing. Instead of just having a lawn, we’re using the land around the house as something that’s productive for the community.”
On the land, you’ll find microgreens, salad mixes, spring mixes, arugula, lettuce, bees, perennials and a few varieties of fruits and vegetables. He’s all about the low-cost, quick turnaround produce that can be sold to the community around him through a roadside stand. He also makes mead and sells honey to Black Sky Brewery to make its honey ale — which competed in GABF last year. He hopes to expand to serve restaurants and CSAs in the future, but right now he’s focused on building infrastructure and investing time in his other business Propagative Extensions — a cannabis cultivation equipment consulting company.
“I’ve always had this super hardcore connection to nature,” he explained. “The landscaping job with the city really was a good job. I learned a lot, but I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wanted to pursue those things. I was really just a one-man farm until this year.”
Making Time for Music
With all of these new passions, you would think McKibben has put music on the back burner, but that’s not the case. His friends call him #TheMetalFarmer.
“I was pretty much out of the metal game and had gone full urban farmer until I got a call from Ryan Glisan,” he said.
Glisan was a guitarist in Denver metal band Allegaeon, and he wanted McKibben to help him record some tracks for a new project they’re calling Mire. And, just like that, he was making music again. Their six-song EP will release later this month.
Confused by the juxtaposition of it all, we asked McKibben if he too finds it odd to love two things that are so different — the peaceful nature of farming and the grit of metal.
“As I’ve grown up and matured, I’ve found a balance between the two worlds,” he explained. “Caring for the plants recharges and recenters me… But, like anybody, I’ve got my frustrations with the world at large, and metal is a good way to release that in an artistic way. When I was a kid, I found metal and it kind of saved my life. If I can help someone else who’s lost find that, then it’s worth putting the time into both.“
Both are releases for him in different ways. When he comes home from work, he asks himself, “How do I want to let loose today?” and chooses, but they’re never totally separate. He said now, if anything, farming helps inspire his music.
“Tons of my lyrics are about natural occurrences and natural energies, and they come to me while I’m out doing my thing on the farm,” he added. “When you’re creating music, you’re at your optimum when you aren’t actively trying. It’s best to be open and let the inspiration come through you. Farming helps me create the space for the musical muse to come out and express itself through me.”
Unless noted, all photography by Brittni Bell Warshaw.