Red Wagon Organic Farms: Can't beet its produce!
After quitting an unfulfilling office job, Barnes decided to work on a small farm off Valmont Road near Boulder. Fast forward a year or two, and he and Tisdale had purchased the land from Barnes' former employer. Starting their own farm was tough: Barnes worked in the fields every day for seven straight months, and after paying off all of their expenses for the first season, the couple was left with just $13. "That was our entire pay for the season," recalls Barnes. "But I felt that that was what I had to do to get it to go."
"People say we work hard in the kitchen," marvels Redzikowski, who first served Red Wagon produce when he helped to open Frasca Food and Wine in 2004. "But the farmers work twice as hard. And nobody gives them the credit." And although Red Wagon now has another farm in Longmont, a CSA, successful farmstands in Lafayette and at the Boulder Farmers' Market, and the accolades of dozens of local chefs, it's never been all that easy.
"We're more diverse than anybody," says Barnes, "and it's really hard to manage all that." Red Wagon grows four other varieties of beets in addition to the wonderful specimens now at Oak, both green and purple basil ("Amazingly great," says Redzikowski), and several types of heirloom tomatoes ("Like cheating, they're so good") among over a hundred other crops. Figuring out their needs, along with wrangling with labor, regulations, organic certifiers and restaurants, while still ensuring quality, is an arduous task.
Even alpacas and llamas are raised at Red Wagon's Longmont farm.
Yet Red Wagon remains an inspiration for the local, organic food movement that's taken root in the area in the face of profit-driven corporations. "The hippies started the whole organic thing, then it got mainstreamed, and taken over by corporate interests," says Barnes. "It's all about efficiency; I don't see how it's about sustainability."