Morales Farms: ‘You can taste the love’
June 5, 2009
Few people are as passionate about vegetables.
Carol Morales can talk for hours about the blessings that sprout from turning seeds into sustenance.
Her energies are tapped from an endless wellspring, a profound allegiance to the land.
Husband Joe’s family has been working Grand County land since 1944.
Although the challenges in high-elevation ag production are plenty, with shortened growing seasons, cold snaps that can eat up whole sections of the field at a time, and rising labor and utility costs, the rewards far outweigh it all, Carol said.
“You’re just so close to God, you can’t get any closer to God than when you’re working out in those fields watching things grow,” she said.
Where the altitude creates a disadvantage in the growing season, it also can create “the most flavorful produce you’ll ever eat.”
Carol guesses something in the cool nights elevates sugar content.
“We definitely try to use everything Morales makes,” said Head Chef Debbie Lewis of Deno’s Mountain Bistro, Winter Park. Lewis has been ordering Morales products at the restaurant for 10 years.
The restaurant tailors its menu items around what’s being harvested. At the end of the growing season, the restaurant stocks up on autumn produce and freezes it for winter dishes.
“It’s wonderful to be a chef and to have something like this,” Lewis said. “We put on our menu that the products couldn’t get any fresher unless they were still in the ground. … You can be so proud of what you’re serving – to have product that is so fresh and so superior.”
Cultivating 70 acres of row crop vegetables, Morales farmers hoe and harvest everything by hand.
“I hope the legacy we leave behind is that we’ve shared in the knowledge of what it takes to grow produce up here,” Carol said. “And that we protect the farm.”
Last year, the Morales family put 50 acres out of 176 into a conservation easement, with a goal of one-day committing the rest.
“The farm has provided us a good life. Everything we do goes back into the farm,” Carol said.
This summer, Morales weekends will be spent at local farmers markets, such as Fraser’s and Granby’s. On Saturdays, Morales produce will be available at a stand at the Middle Park Meat Co. in Kremmling.
It’s the Morales way of bringing locally grown fresh produce to the community – call it “Community Supported Agriculture,” Carol said.
Morales continues to have its vegetable stand at the farm itself – with spinach, asparagus, green onions and rhubarb available now. This year the stand is located in a garden room on the east side of the Morales home where customers can find a refrigerator stocked with produce straight from the fields.
Produce not sorted, trimmed, rinsed or bunched gives consumers a chance to save money, Carol said.
And the farm is always open to “You Pick,” where a person may walk the field and pick his or her own produce, an experience granting a chance to commune with the outdoors.
As many as 52 varieties of Morales-picked vegetables, herbs and berries can be found at grocers such as Mountain Food Market, Winter Park Market, City Market and Kremmling Mercantile. The farm also delivers to 40 restaurants throughout the county.
“Our focus is 100 percent Grand County farmers markets, Grand County restaurants and Grand County,” Carol said. “Restaurants are a major player in the success of our farm.”
Success: Alternately defined by the green in kale, the juice of gooseberries, the crunch of carrot, the crimson stain of beets.
“It’s heaven on earth out there,” she said. “You can taste the love in that produce, you really can.”
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.