We had the good fortune of connecting with Catherine Blackwell Hess and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Catherine Blackwell, how does your business help the community?
When people think about agriculture, they most often think of the environmental impact. I think it is really important to not lose sight of the social impact too. After all, what is the human race without land? A second thought, what good is land without soil? Soil erosion has caused civilizations to collapse throughout history. Why would right now be any different? I think that’s why local farmers markets and real organic movements are growing with such pace. There is more to them than calorie production. It is about nourishing the land so that the soil is replenished with all of the vitamins and minerals we need to nourish ourselves. Farming can be one of the most extractive practices when mismanaged, so it’s important that all of us know which type of farming we are supporting if we want a life-sustaining planet.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Looking back at it all, it is curious that I ever found farming. I have a Bachelors degree in Studio Art and had every intention of getting my Masters in Education so that I could teach out of state. The summer in between I interned at Gaining Ground Farm and caught the farming bug. I’ve farmed every season since, but not without a few doubtful winters in between. My colleagues often ask if I still make art. While I’m no longer stretching canvases, I feel like I am a part of a painting every day. John Brown describes the farm as a sand mandala that takes shape, form and beauty that soon ebb away. It’s really wonderful to witness. In some ways I feel like I interact with more art than ever, and the best part is it’s edible.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
There’s so much to showcase in Colorado. A great pastry and cup of coffee always get me going, so my first stop would be Babettes Bakery. If it’s tolerable out, I love for friends to spend a day on the farm with me. You can get a lot of catching up done while you are hoeing and harvesting. We’d have to make a stop at the Front Range Mercantile and wander through, because you are sure to find a gem. If we’re lucky, we’d have enough time to catch dinner at The Plimoth. And what’s a trip to CO without some live music at the Mishawaka? I love the Poudre. Points if you camp.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This shoutout is dedicated Anne and Aaron Grier who gave me the best farm foundation to build on, Isabelle Farm’s Jason and Natalie Condon who made me feel at home farming in CO, McCauley Family Farm for dear friends, Oxford Gardens for believing I had what it takes to run a farm, and John and Felicity Brown for giving me a platform to prove it. Just as importantly, maybe beyond, the countless interns and young farmers that I have worked alongside to enrich each other and the earth. Specifically, Catherine, Dirty, Justin, Hayley, Jamie, Kyle, Eliza, Abby, Amanda, Mal, Sam, Molly, Emma, Michele, Brian, Phil, Chelsea, Maxine, Kim, Mika and Mike. To all the other farmers that got up and went to work while ashes fell from the sky, I hope you too stood in reverence. What important work we are collectively achieving. Please let me know if you ever need encouragement or a reminder. Lastly, I want to thank the Real Organic Project for painting so clearly the importance of not just supporting and buying “organic” but giving preference to farmers with sustainable practices.
Photo of “garlic harvest” and photo of “moon smoke”= Chelsea Gay