Starting next week, some folks in Boulder will be able to walk down to the bottom of their driveway, or to the end of their street, and come right back home carrying produce, dry goods and prepared meals from Black Cat Farm and bistro.
Farmer, chef and restaurant owner Eric Skokan will soon start delivering staples around Boulder (sorry, Denver) from a vintage delivery truck, ringing bells to let customers know it has arrived.
Like many Colorado restaurateurs, chefs and food growers feeling the harrowing effects of a lockdown on sales, Skokan and his wife, Jill, are getting resourceful. The idea came when they went to their regular grocery store and had an “unsettling experience” trying to keep a safe distance away while shopping in a crowd.
“We knew a lot of people weren’t going to be willing to leave their houses,” Skokan said. “So we’ll be driving through neighborhoods in Boulder with ice cream bells, and instead of … Rocket Pops, it will be carrots and amazing arugula and also frozen, prepared foods from the restaurants. I have a huge amount of wheat from last year’s harvest and lots and lots of eggs, so we’ll have homemade pasta and all kinds of good stuff.”
Skokan has also opened a farmstand in Boulder. Between the farm operations and restaurant to-go orders, Skokan has already been able to rehire 17 of his 40 laid-off employees. He hopes the truck deliveries will bring back on another three. “OK, then I’ve got 20 more,” he said, hopeful. The whole fleet of spinoff businesses will likely just break even, but that’s no longer the point.
“I guess my hope is that in a really crappy time, we can get people to smile and enjoy the lemonade that we’re making out of all this,” he said.
Whether you’re still shopping for lemons or on to making lemonade, here are some alternative options to stock up during the shutdown.
Farms and farmers markets
While the Boulder County Farmers Markets has officially postponed its April 4 opening, all subsidiary markets are working on a virtual option so shoppers can order from participating farmers online and pick up their food curbside in Longmont, Boulder, Lafayette and Denver. Those pickups should start over the next two to three weeks, according to executive director Brian Coppom.
For now, BCFM has compiled a list of farmers who are selling products already this season. Black Cat is one such participating farm, out of around 20. You can access the spreadsheet at rb.gy/qgk27b.
Local butcher shops are an important link in the currently disrupted food chain, according to Kate Kavanaugh, co-owner of Western Daughters in Denver’s Highland.
“We are devoted to making sure that farmers and ranchers who depend on restaurant wholesale have a venue to sell their products and are working to increase our volume to take on meat that is already killed and at risk of spoiling,” Kavanaugh wrote over email. “We are also ordering in extra produce from distributors to sell to customers to help reduce their spoilage,” she added.
Western Daughters, 3326 Tejon St., 303-477-6328; westerndaughters.com
River Bear American Meats in Denver also offers a wide range of reasonably priced (and well-sourced) meats — from charcuterie to whole chickens and steak cuts — inside the independent grocery Leevers Locavore on 38th Avenue.
“I have been in the food (business) for 23 years,” owner Justin Brunson wrote on Instagram. “I have never felt so good about feeding a community of people in need in my life. I love the meat business and supporting local ranchers and our neighborhood!”
Leevers Locavore, 2630 W. 38th Ave., 303 433-4405; leeverslocavore.com
What were previously places to dine and gather in Denver are now functioning grocery stores, in some cases. Stop by Denver Central Market between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily for prepared boxes ($45-$135) with breakfast items, snacks, grilling essentials, Italian meal ingredients and more. Orders can be placed online for pickup or delivery.
Denver Central Market, 2669 Larimer St.; denvercentralmarket.com
On weekends, Reunion Bread at The Source partners with The Fresh Guys Produce to bring 500 boxes of vegetables and bread loaves to customers who pull up outside the market in their cars. Sales start at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday for the general public and at 8 a.m. for seniors. Along with a selection of vegetables, customers can choose from Reunion’s sourdough loaf, vegan banana bread or house granola, all for $27.
Reunion Bread, 3350 Brighton Blvd., 720-620-9336; reunionbread.square.site
Big Red F restaurants in Boulder also are working with Boulder County Farmers Market to bring pop-up farm stands outside the restaurants on weekends. On March 28, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., 40 boxes will be available for $30 each at Zolo Grill in Boulder. Each box will include a mix of cucumbers, greens, butter lettuce, arugula, mizuna, watercress and basil from local farms Oxford Gardens, Elliott Gardens and Rocky Mountain Fresh. Orders can be placed on zologrill.com this week until they run out. (Locations and farms will change weekly.)
The GrowHaus is a nonprofit organization that ensures access to healthy food in North Denver neighborhoods. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, GrowHaus is making extra emergency food-package deliveries with fresh vegetables and pantry staples.
Potential customers can place delivery orders online, or those looking to donate can feed a family of two for a week for $25 and a family of four for $50. (There are additional options for donating 100 boxes of rescued food for $500, for example, at linktr.ee/thegrowhaus.)
Growhaus, 4751 York St., 720-515-4751; thegrowhaus.org
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