*Written By: Maggie Vander Pol*
As I walk up to meet with Michael of Kilt Farm in Niwot, Colorado, I hear the gentle directives for the remaining afternoon tasks, spoken over sandwiches and fruit that make up lunch, “irrigation”, “chard”, “paper pots”, “greenhouse”, “finish up that hole”. Work never ends.
As we walk toward one of the main greenhouses, Michael tells me he started on a ½ acre six years ago and has worked his way up to 30. He started with a small CSA clientele before growing the acreage and selling whole-sale to grocery stores, restaurants and GoFarm. Though he’s had to overcome obstacles along the way. Soil health and management is his main focus since prior to him farming the land, it was overworked for hay production and the weeds grew larger than the crops.
Michael combated this by getting the soil tested, rectifying mineral imbalances, and fixing the soil biology with “compost tea”: a mixture of sea salt, kelp, and molasses that brews biology back into tired soil. The increased soil vitality has allowed the crops to improve year over year. Michael explained that biology within the soil makes important and nutritious minerals available to the crops. But getting the soil biology perfect isn’t something that can be nailed down, it’s an ongoing process to tweak and solve.
Along the path of nurturing healthy, nutrient-dense soil, he also has to weather acts of nature (like hailstorms) and manage employees in a notoriously expensive area. All while cultivating over 100 different varieties of crops every year.
The newest addition this year: Baby Ginger, which is currently sprouting as I walk by. It will be ready to harvest in September and the stalk can be used for ginger beer. Yum!
As we head back to the road Michael reflects on his relationship with GoFarm and how they’ve scaled together over the past 3 years. Being paid in the spring and then repaying with produce throughout the season provides him with some safety net, and he’s excited to continue partnering.
Michael wants to make sure we all understand that growing food …. is hard. Cheapest is not always best. And paying more for high-quality food makes sense when it lasts longer in the fridge and is healthier for you, your family and the environment.
PS - in case you were wondering, Michael was wearing a kilt when we met, just like he does everyday! It’s a workman’s kilt so he can keep his tools in it, and stand out from everyone else. Which is something he and his delicious produce have in common.