Local veggie lovers will ‘bee grateful’ for Steamboat farm
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that Elkstone Farm also grows outside its greenhouse in its Ag Forest, Pond Garden and Fruit Forest.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Located just 10 miles from Colorado Highway 131, the Bee Grateful Farm lays hidden beneath several feet of melting snow, and where there isn’t snow, there is mud.
Welcome to farming in Northwest Colorado.
“We have a very short growing season,” said Hethir Rodriguez, who owns the farm with her husband, Jason. “We plant around June 11, whereas most other places are a month or two ahead of us. We focus on things that don’t care if there is some frost or if it gets below freezing here and there in the early season. What takes longer to grow, we start in the greenhouse.”
The couple moved to the Yampa Valley about four years ago and purchased 50 acres between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek. Hethir is a herbalist and nutritionist, and Jason is a chef. The idea of starting a farm began to take root shortly after they moved here.
“We were in California for 10 years, and the farmers markets there were insane,” Hethir said. “You could get anything that you wanted. When we got here, I thought, ‘Gosh it would be really great if we had some fresh local food,’ but there was hardly any local food here. So, we decided to start growing for ourselves.”
They started small — farming on just over an acre last summer and using a 1,500-square-foot greenhouse to grow what they wanted without the farming machinery used on larger farms. Jason said they plan to expand the greenhouse by 3,000 square feet in the fall, and they also are looking to increase farming operations by one acre.
“We have really harsh elements, and that’s why you don’t see a lot of farms around here,” Jason said. “The only other farm in Steamboat is Elkstone Farm.”
To meet these challenges, the couple has gone to some extremes. They start their tomato crop inside their house. They build tall fences around their crops to keep the deer out, and they cover their vegetables to protect them from pests, sun and wind.
The farm does not use pesticides, and it is in the process of gaining its organic certification.
Bee Grateful Farm produces a wide variety of greens ranging from kale to arugula, along with herbs, including thyme, basil, oregano and rosemary, and fruit. But Hethir said the one thing she is obsessed with is honey, and while the farm isn’t quite ready to produce homegrown honey products, it is currently working with a local honey producer to create tasty caramels and lollipops.
The vegetables on the farm have already found their way into several Steamboat Springs restaurants and can be purchased at the Steamboat and Vail farmers markets in the summer. However, Jason said the best way for people to ensure they have locally grown vegetables on their tables is to sign up for one of the Be Grateful Farm’s subscription.
The farm offers half-plate ($199) and full-plate ($299) salad options, and there is also a full-farm subscription ($499). Subscriptions include enough vegetables for salads, cooking and smoothies.
In addition to food, the farm also offers flower subscriptions. For $180, the farm will deliver a bouquet or flowers picked from the gardens on the farm once a week.
All subscriptions run for 12 weeks.
“Subscriptions are a great way to support community farms like this,” Jason said. “People can sign up for the program, and starting in July, we have four drop-off options, and they get boxes of their produce dropped off every single week the rest of the summer.
“It’s great because farm expenses are really high in the spring … and we don’t see any return until the middle of the summer,” Jason explained. “The community helps support the farm by saying, ‘I’m going to commit to every single week getting some of your veggies through the entire summer.’”
The last day to sign up for subscriptions is April 30. Most of the vegetables will be planted the first week May, and deliveries will begin in early July.
To start a subscription, visit beegratefulfarm.com or call 970-819-8841.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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