This blog is the first of a series featuring farm-to-fork stories. Several great family-owned farms operate in the Fort Collins community. We purchase food from these local growers because it’s the best for our customers, our environment, and our economy. If you are wondering where Jeff finds his delicious ingredients, look no further than local farmers. The following feature comes from one of the most successful local growers in the community, Native Hill Farm.
Native Hill Farm, A Commitment to Fort Collins
Why farm? For Nic Koontz and Katie Slota, founders of Native Hill Farm, farming is a way to fill a deeper need in the community. The husband-and-wife team describes their interest in food production as a commitment to building a strong community, in an environmentally sustainable way, while making an economic profit. Katie calls this innovative business model a “triple-p bottom line: people, planet profit.”
Although Native Hill Farm is in its 7th season, getting into farming was not easy. Neither Katie nor Nic originally come from farming backgrounds or from Colorado. Katie is originally from Madison, Wisconsin. She completed her undergraduate work in microbiology and earned a master’s degree in environmental health from Colorado State University. Nic grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and studied biosystems engineering at Clemson University. Katie describes the first three years as the most challenging in regard to learning the idiosyncrasies of growing food while establishing a market for Native Hill produce.
But through the trials and tribulations, Katie and Nic have established a strong farming business that truly makes a difference in the Fort Collins community. According to Katie, community buy-in has been one of the most rewarding aspects of growing their farming operation. Native Hill Farm sells their product mostly through direct-to-consumer marketing. Part of this marketing plan is a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program where participants can purchase fresh produce directly from Native Hill Farm. Katie and Nic have also started a shared-share program, where each member of their CSA has the ability to purchase Native Hill produce for those who can’t. Currently, this shared-share program is large enough to feed 7 – 10 families who would otherwise not have access to fresh produce.
Want to get your hands dirty? Native Hill Farm also offers a working member program. This allows those who can’t afford to purchase produce, or just want to experience the joy of growing their own food, the opportunity to help bring in the harvest in exchange for their share of fresh vegetables each season.
In addition to the people aspect of their “triple p” business model, Katie and Nic also work toward more sustainable growing practices each year. According to Katie, taking on large projects to promote green production practices might not be economically practicable all at once. Implementing eco-friendly farming practices as it becomes financially feasible is all part of Native Hill Farm’s long-term sustainability focus. Katie describes the best path moving forward as “the middle ground.” For Native Hill Farm, it comes back to a balanced business plan – the triple-p bottom line: people, planet, profit.
Next time you are in the Café enjoying a locally grown meal, think of Nic and Katie. They may have produced that delicious vegetable salad and soup just for you. As one of our patrons recently said, “Great hospitality and love abound. Top quality cuisine with top ingredients.”
Native Hill Farm is part of Katie and Nic’s effort to make the community a better place. An enthusiastic quote from Katie sums it all up, “if everyone gives a little, we can do a lot.”
To learn more about Native Hill Farm and their involvement in the community visit Native Hill’s website at http://nativehillfarm.com. Information on CSAs and pick up information in Fort Collins can be found at http://coloradocsas.info/csas/pickupCity/Fort%20Collins.