A remnant of Grant Family Farms, the large Wellington organic farm that declared bankruptcy in late 2012, has revived its community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, but on a much smaller scale.
In a CSA, members sign up in advance for a season’s share of goods from a farm’s harvest, receiving their portion weekly.
The CSA, which launched on June 17 and lasts 26 weeks, is separate and independent from the former Grant operation, but involves individuals who worked with the farm. It was originally called “Sixdog Farms,” after the poultry operation that had been affiliated with Grant, but business manager Josh Hall says the farm recently obtained the intellectual property rights to return to using the Grant Farms name, database, website and social media accounts.
Hall says the CSA currently only has a couple of hundred members, a far cry from only a year ago when Grant Farms had nearly 5,000 members and was one of the biggest CSAs in the country.
He acknowledges that the current operation is limited in its ability to grow, partially because of the small parcel of land it is using, but the new CSA has re-created partnerships with several of Grant’s previous providers. It is offering fruit shares, egg shares, microgreen shares from Raspberry Hill Farms, mushroom shares from Hazel Dell Mushrooms, and cheese shares from Windsor Dairy, MouCo Cheese and Haystack Dairy. Hall says the CSA will also have partnerships with Western Slope growers for fruits and vegetables later in the season, with fruit shares going on sale in mid-July.
For now, the Grant parcel is being used on a limited basis to grow crops like rhubarb and tomatoes, due to the CSA’s relatively late start in the growing season. Hall says the growers hope to have more produce available by the time autumn rolls around.
Most of the land previously used by Grant is now used by Localization Partners, a for-profit company launched in August 2011 by Boulder County-based Transition Colorado to help fund local food and farming enterprises. Transition Colorado gave Grant a $1.5 million loan last year to keep the farm afloat, money that was raised from investors and now must be repaid, and gained control of farming the land after Grant Farms went bankrupt. Michael Brownlee of Localization Partners says the 437 acres is being farmed by Dave Asbury of Full Circle Farms, which is now the largest organic farm operation in the state. He says the squash, spinach, cilantro, lettuce, kale, beets, chard and green beans being raised on those former Grant acres are being sold to retail and wholesale customers and are being kept local as much as possible. Brownlee says he expects it to take three years for profits from the farm operation to fully reimburse the investors who lost money when Grant went belly up.
“To get our investors paid back, we’re farming,” he says.
The new Grant Farms CSA has more than three dozen host locations, or places where members can pick up their share of the harvest, along the Front Range between Colorado Springs and Cheyenne, Wyo., and many of them are the same ones Grant used previously, Hall says. He adds that former Grant Family Farms owner Andy Grant has no financial or employment ties to the new group, but the CSA is leaning heavily on him for farming expertise and counsel. Hall says Grant is staying connected to the operation, just not the business side.
“He’s a dig-in-the-dirt kind of man,” Hall says of Grant.
The new CSA, which is owned by Sixdog Farms operator Nick DiGiorgio, jumped at the chance to get the Grant name back, Hall says, because despite the fact that it’s a brand that has been somewhat blemished because of media coverage surrounding the bankruptcy, “there are tons of adamant supporters out there” after being in business more than 30 years.
Brownlee says the Grant Farms name and trademark were put up for sale by the bankruptcy court, but Localization Partners wasn’t interested. Now that the new CSA has bought it back, it “creates great confusion now” because the lion’s share of what used to be Grant Family Farms is now being used by Asbury’s Full Circle Farms.
Still, he says, “the dust is pretty settled on the legal wranglings.”
Similarly, Hall expresses a desire to move on.
“It’s something we have to remove ourself from and step away,” he says.