We had the good fortune of connecting with Dalene Barton and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dalene, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
How much hard work and dedication from each person involved it takes from the seed breeders, the farmers, the delivery coordination to get you the highest quality locally produced food. It takes immense passion to make this business run. Yes, we are part of the food industry, but to sell 90-95% truly local food year round takes incredible people who are passionate about feeding our local economy. Networking is key and relationships are everything.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I didn’t start off in the food industry, but I did start off as a creative and gardener. I have a passion for plants and that led me to become a professional Herbalist. I have been an herbalist for 22 years and through my education came to live by ‘food is medicine’. You cannot treat any health issue without first addressing diet. I worked professionally as Senior Herbalist for The Natural Fertility Company for nearly a decade. Owner, Hethir Rodriguez, taught me a lot about marketing, labeling, compliance, branding, etc. That job gave me a great foundation for everything I do professionally. Ironically, Hethir and her husband became farmers and we work with them to this day.
5 years ago I had a little apothecary and teaching area outside of Carbondale where I met farmer Kirsten Keenan, of Wild Mtn. Seeds, now Seed Peace. I had a huge personal life change and found myself suddenly looking for a 9 – 5 job. Kirsten told me about Skip’s Farm to Market opening, where she planned on working for the winter. That’s how I ended up here. Over the years I moved from Assistant Manager, to Store Manager, to General Manager. It hasn’t been easy, as there was no framework for what we do. There was no road map, no other model we followed, we just pieced it together as we went. That can be very frustrating and exhausting. Although there are many challenges to working our hardest to sell locally produced food, it is also incredibly rewarding. I have great partnerships and in turn get to feed my family with the best food. I think it is also a blessing to get to be creative and see what works and what needs improved to make a business successful.
Building a team of people with the same passion and values makes all the difference! Everything goes better when people believe in what they are doing. That goes for all of our vendor relationships as well. I am so very thankful for all of our employees, and a huge thank you to the Store Mangers, Torin Eggen of Basalt, and Ramona Haberkorn of Fruita. Their job is not easy, it requires constant ordering and receiving. There’s hardly a break! Their own personal love of local food shows in the stores and their customer relationships. I couldn’t do this without all of our wonderful employees!
The highest quality locally produced food is where its at. You can’t beat it in flavor, variety, longevity and nutrition. You just can’t. That is what our brand stands for. We want you to feel good about what you are putting in your body, from farm to market.
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?
Great question. Torin Eggen, the Basalt store manager and I are a couple and for my 40th birthday, he actually planned out an entire Denver trip for me. It was perfect. We had a great time. I don’t think I could do it any better.
We stayed downtown in a hotel. We went out to eat at Fruition, a farm to table restaurant. We went to an art show at the Englewood Civic Center. We also went to the Nature Museum and the Denver Botanical Garden. We love plants, live music, art and great food. If it is summer when you’re there, definitely I would also go to Elitch Gardens Six Flags to get some thrills. The art museum is also wonderful. I would probably also try to go to a live concert at the Ogden Theatre or Mission Ballroom.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would like to give a huge shout out to the farmers, because without them none of this would be possible. Skip Doty, Owner of Skip’s Farm to Market Stores & Stands went from being an architect to owning a farm, Early Morning Orchard, the foundation for the markets. When he started the first store in Basalt, CO, he made it a point to involve the local farmers in process. I have been there pretty much from the beginning and what seemed so simple and sweet in our partnerships at first, then turned into long lasting friendships with many of our local farmers in the Roaring Fork Valley, North Fork Valley, Palisade and beyond. Without all their months of planning, hard work, deep love and care for farming and their community, we would not be as successful as we have become.
I want to give a special shout out to Kaye Davis, Skip’s farm manager at Early Morning Orchard. She turned that place around. Without all the amazing work she is doing, we would not be where we are today. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
All photos by Olive and West Photography, except the one of Torin and I, by Robin Waters.