Most folks in Northern Colorado drive past roadside fruit stands or marvel at cows placidly munching grass and wonder about farm life.
It turns out it’s relatively easy getting to know the people who produce Colorado’s bounty of livestock, field, fruit and vegetable crops on 31.8 million acres—and who contributed $8.22 billion dollars in farm cash receipts to Colorado’s economy in 2021.
Many farms or ranches—or beekeepers, because we’ve spotlighted one of those, too—offer some opportunity to observe how they coax vegetables from the soil, care for their animals without cruelty and strive to promote sustainable agricultural practices. For them, it’s like show-and-tell, or take the non-farmer to work day.
Some offer the chance to get your hands dirty helping on their farms, but even limited connection with agriculture helps us learn how our food is raised or grown. These are people who rise with the sun—and sometimes earlier—to tend to their livestock and crops. That’s why tours can be limited and it’s a safe bet that you can’t just show up and ask to look around. Currently, one limiting factor is the ongoing avian flu pandemic: Farmers with birds can’t risk contaminating their flocks so tours aren’t offered for the time being.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture compiles an annual Colorado Farm Fresh Directory detailing farmers markets, u-picks, Community Supported Agriculture, farm stands and more. The directory divides the state into five sections: Northern Colorado encompasses the Northeast area and includes Larimer, Logan, Morgan, Weld and Yuma counties.
NOCO spotlights a handful of farms in Larimer and Weld counties here, but for a full list, go to the CDA website.
Monroe Organic Farms
Monroe is known for the Greeley Wonder, a legendary sweet heirloom melon that looks like a lumpy cantaloupe.
Kyle Monroe, the fourth generation to farm, recently took over after his dad, Jerry, retired. The farm’s mainstay is CSAs: customers pay an amount before the season starts in exchange for a share of food, Kyle’s wife, Samantha Caplan, wrote in an email. The money helps keep the farm afloat until harvest, when everyone reaps the benefits.
Monroe offers three summer vegetable share options from late June through October, which are delivered weekly to 25 distribution centers across the Front Range and the Denver Metro area. Customers can also pick up orders at the Kersey farm or in Greeley. Add-ons include local honey, pastured beef, lamb and pork raised by the Monroes, Greek olive oil, a mushroom share and an organic Western Slope fruit share. Stop by the farm to pick asparagus, tomatoes, chiles and pickling cucumbers. The farm also runs a winter CSA share from November to February.
Monroe discounts CSA shares for weekly volunteers who plant, weed and pack vegetables into shares.
“People really respond emotionally to putting their hands and feet into the soil that feeds them,” Caplan wrote. “It’s fruitful for children who often don’t even know what the plant that grew the vegetables on their dinner plate looks like.”
25525 WCR 48, Kersey
Mountain View Meats
Nicole Uthmann has learned a lot after marrying into agriculture. She loves working with animals, being outdoors and finds satisfaction in raising animals and food for the community. Her sons, ages 19 and 16, plan to continue working their Centennial farm: Her husband’s family has raised cattle for five generations in Virginia Dale, located between Laramie and Fort Collins near the 1862 Overland Stage Route station.
Mountain View raises beef from calves all the way to the finished product, including the processing facility in Hogsprings, Wyoming. That’s what makes their beef unique, Uthmann says.
“It doesn’t change hands; it stays with us instead of having different producers between calf to finishing out.”
A cattle nutritionist oversees a well-rounded diet of spent corn, brewer’s grains, grass, alfalfa and vitamin and mineral supplements. Processing is per Mountain View’s specifications, and they can custom cut to order. A few popular cuts are Tomahawks, Dinobones—ribs with extra meat—and a Denver steak, a marbled strip steak cut off the chuck that’s good for marinating.
Order bundles off the website or call for individual cuts, halves and whole beef.
“I enjoy being able to interact with customers. They can see the cattle if they want to, and I get to see where our beef is going,” Uthmann says.
Pickup is available in Fort Collins and Mountain View delivers to Loveland, Timnath, Fort Collins, Windsor and Greeley. They also ship nationwide.
5200 County Road 19, Fort Collins
Hanmei Hoffman is a third-generation farmer from China’s Fujian province, her husband, Derrick, says. His great-great grandparents were Germans from Russia who emigrated to Colorado in 1903 to work the sugar beet fields. Although Derrick is also a third-generation farmer, he worked in IT in education for 22 years before his wife decided in 2015 that she wanted a weekend job selling produce at a local farmers market. The couple’s original one-acre garden has grown into farming more than 100 acres that the Hoffmans lease from neighbors. They mainly grow celery, cauliflower and bell peppers.
“Most of our customer base is school systems, including a farm-to-school program where they find local produce to serve students. We work with Greeley-Evans District 6 and as far south as Douglas County. Last year, we served eight districts and one college,” Derrick says.
Hoffman Farms also sells to food pantries to target low-income people because not a lot of fresh produce is donated to the banks because it spoils. They work with Food Bank of the Rockies, Weld Food Bank and others in the Denver metro area. They also collaborate with Denver and Golden nonprofits to stock mobile trucks in areas where there aren’t grocery stores, which typically are where lower-income families live.
Reach out if your school is interested in an educational tour.
3545 W. O St., Greeley
970.978.6765 (call first)
Bee Squared Apiaries
Beth Conrey has been keeping bees for 20 years. She maintains 150 hives from Denver to Wellington and a production facility on her Berthoud property. Since she’s in the field all summer with the bees, it’s best to buy direct online. Pick-up or delivery is available. In addition to award-winning honey, Bee Squared sells hand-rolled beeswax candles and luscious soaps.
Conrey says the number-one reason to buy her honey products is her generosity to pollinator protection issues and supporting local food production. As a member of 1% For the Planet and a Certified B Corporation, which requires 2% of gross sales annually donated to a nonprofit, there are high bars for managing bees, employees and monitoring their carbon footprint. She also gives a lot of time educating the public about bees with the Northern Colorado Beekeepers.
“The bottom line is to support us because money runs in circles. We wouldn’t give away around $15,000 annually if it didn’t make sense,” Conrey says.
1617 White Water Ct., Berthoud
Tours available by appointment (call first)
Long Shadow Farm
Kristin Ramey and her husband’s grandparents farmed, but the couple only began working their six acres in 2007.
“It started off with my husband wanting us to be more self-sustaining; he thought he saw a financial collapse coming and we needed to be more resilient and grow our own food,” Ramey says. “I wanted the meat we were eating to be raised sustainably. I decided to raise animals in a nice way.”
The Rameys have 22 ewes that provide up to 60 lambs a year, 40 laying hens, 20 ducks and 40 turkeys she uses as breeders. Her daughter, who’s 13, has 20 quails for a 4-H project. They also have three cows.
Ramey likes that her animals get to live in their natural habits.
“The birds can scratch around outside looking for bugs,” she says. “They’re not in a building with a concrete floor or in a cage. They’re being their chicken-y selves. And the ewes get to raise their babies. They choose when the babies get weaned. I don’t force it.”
To get an idea of the natural lifestyle on Long Shadow Farm, Ramey says she has three generations of ewes who sleep together.
“They find each other,” she says. “They know who their family is.”
To buy directly from Long Shadow, visit the website storefront for retail cuts and bulk pricing for over 10 pounds. There is also a three- or six-month farmer’s choice subscription box, so every month is different. They offer tours on a limited basis but, because of the avian flu, that is currently restricted.
101 Bothun Rd., Berthoud
970.232.6667 (call first)
Emily Kemme is an award-winning novelist and Colorado food writer.