AS NIGHT DESCENDS, stars glitter above while sparkling snow settles on the ground that in the summer cultivates fresh food to feed the valley. Guests arrive at Elkstone Farms as Chamberlain Birch sets the mood with their Americana/Folk sound fed by the mountains of Steamboat Springs. Strings of lights illuminate the greenhouse as tables are set for a feast.
Informal dinners and master classes are a trademark of Elkstone Farms. Owned by Terry Huffington, Elkstone Farms doesn’t just tend the land, those who work there also tend to the community so the people who live in the valley have an appreciation of what farm-to-table meals are. The face of the food is Chef Russell Goodman. Goodman’s understanding of food came from growing up in a Long Island household where meals were made from scratch with seasonally available ingredients. “No product was ever better than the moment it came out of the ground,” said Goodman.
When Goodman moved to Colorado, he didn’t expect such diversity of agriculture and quickly became interested in small-scale farming. Products that don’t have to travel very far can stay in the ground or on the vine longer so they are nutritionally denser than products that ripen on the back of an 18-wheeler. Goodman’s focus on freshness brought him to Elkstone Farms in Strawberry Park.
Due to years of monoculture practices the soil had deteriorated. Regenerative farming practices were instituted focusing efforts on crop rotation, soil amendment and composting. Another focus was sequestering carbon. The more carbon that stays in the ground, the less that goes into the air and contributes to climate change.
While the farm primarily grows fruits and vegetables, a portion is leased to M&M, Matt and Mandy, who use a cattle grazing method where they rotate the cows frequently. When cows only eat the grasses to a certain depth, it simulates grass production, creating healthier crops. As the cows eat, the nutrition from the grass makes its way into the beef creating a specific flavor that can’t be found anywhere else on earth.
Growing food locally isn’t just about making a good meal. Food independence allows for food sovereignty, meaning that if roads are closed off or food supply chains dry up, the Yampa Valley will still be able to sustain itself. “We have a relatively diverse food supply for our community size,” says Goodman.
As Goodman prepares the meal for the night, he goes back to the tools he learned in early childhood. As plateds are filled the food becomes the star of the night: farm pickles with brioche and winter truffles, Elkstone spinach salad with citrus vinaigrette, ruby trout with pickled scapes, beets and herbed sour cream, Hayden Fresh Farm Pork Chop, applesauce and winter squash and for dessert, bread pudding with farm cherries and custard. AWA
ELEVATE THE ARTS: Buy locally grown and raised food at the Community Agriculture Alliance. Join the Chef’s Table at Elkstone Farms and learn the philosophy behind the food.