In 2009, Krisan Christensen had a good job for a studio art major: she was the art director for Women’s Adventure magazine, in Boulder, after graduating from the University of Colorado. “I loved the people I worked for, but eventually I didn’t want to sit at a computer all day anymore,” she says. “I was looking at other people’s adventures all day long, and not going on any of my own.” Restless and seeking, she trained as a pastry chef and joined the kitchen at a health foods store, but it was her side job as a gardener that ultimately steered her toward her future.
Krisan was a server with a roving farm-to-table dining service—“it was like joining the circus”—when she first heard about Stone Barns Center. She came in 2013 as a month-long volunteer and stayed for two and a half years for a greenhouse apprenticeship and to run our plant propagation work. Krisan was hooked on farming. Today, on a half-acre just outside the Boulder city limits, with “a clear view of the Flatirons against the Front Range,” Krisan now runs a diversified vegetable farm, modeled in large part after the systems she worked with at Stone Barns.
Given the well-established local food scene there, many of Krisan’s potential customers already have their go-to farmers and markets. Rather than compete with her experienced farmer-neighbors, Krisan is finding ways to add value to the community and fill niches that others have not. She does contract garden work and manages a flower farm; she drives west to high-altitude Nederland to sell her veggies, rather than into the city. Taking a cue from the seed trials she worked on at Stone Barns, she’s also growing out several seed crops for a local seed company and trialing heirloom grains for the Noble Grain Alliance.
Krisan’s winding path to farming is typical of many who farm today. She wasn’t born a farmer; she was determined to become one. Finding land required a creative arrangement with landowner-friends. An off-farm income has been essential during her operation’s start-up phase. And, as a farmer in the Intermountain West, her gorgeous views come at a price: water supply and rights are uncertain, as is securing capital to build irrigation systems to help her manage water efficiently. Supporting beginning farmers like Krisan as they work to overcome obstacles is vital for their future as farmers.
Not that Krisan is one to shy away from a challenge. “If I’m learning something, that’s all I need,” she says. “I just want to keep learning.” Find Krisan and her produce at Salto Coffee in Nederland on Wednesdays.
Originally published on June 21, 2017