We could go on and on about how much we love Northern Colorado and our Fort Collins community. In fact, we do just that on Northern Colorado Speaks (and everywhere else we can). Ours is a community that values local business, regional farms, music and art, good conversation, charity — the list goes on.
Today, we’re showcasing those values by introducing nine individuals who work every day to make Fort Collins a cooler and a better place to live. Keep reading to learn more about a few of our city’s nonprofits, small businesses, organizations, artists and innovators!
Executive Director at FoCo Cafe
As Executive Director at Northern Colorado’s first and only donation-based nonprofit restaurant, no day is the same for Mallory Andrews. But, in her own words, “I can’t imagine a better ‘office’.” And her office is certainly unique. In addition to Mallory, the cafe employs just a handful of other staff members and all other work is volunteer based.
Mallory explained, “FoCo Cafe is unlike any other nonprofit or restaurant in Northern Colorado. Our mission is to build community through providing delicious and nutritious meals to all people, regardless of their means, while using mostly locally grown, sustainable and organic ingredients.” As such, the menu at FoCo Cafe is offered on a pay-what-you-can basis. “There are four ways to pay,” she said. “Pay what you would normally pay, pay it forward, pay what you are able, or pay with time, talent and volunteerism.”
She went on to say, “One of the biggest struggles we have seen is making enough through donations to cover the cost of running the cafe. Along with grants and fundraisers, we depend on the community to pay it forward so others may eat. But the average donation per plate in June was $4.99 and on average it costs $11.82 to serve.”
In addition to the cafe, the team operates FoCo Freedge which is a free, outdoor produce fridge, The Giving Tree which houses free basic need items, the year-round and 24/7 Kindness Cupboard which is a free outdoor pantry for non-perishable foods, the Little Outdoor Library, and Hydration Station which is Fort Collins’ first all-season, wheelchair accessible, year-round water fountain available 24/7 all year.
With a huge lineup of events throughout the year as well, Mallory’s job isn’t easy, but she loves it. She said, “I feel a sense of responsibility to do everything I can to support this mission, as I know many others feel as well. It’s such a special place, unlike anywhere else. I want to see it thrive and uplift more people.”
Director at The Music District
Jesse Elliott is a music lover, bike rider and people person. He’s also Director at The Music District. This Fort Collins organization was originally a vision of Bohemian Foundation founder Pat Stryker. In Jesse’s words, “They brought me, Bryce Merrill and Tom Scharf up from Denver to help put some meat on the skeleton, or add some arrangement to the song structure, however you want to put it.” Today, the ever-evolving Music District has developed into a music-centric gathering place which serves to cultivate talents, support professional development and encourage connections between musicians, artists, other organizations, fans and music lovers.
“Local music is like local food,” Jesse said. “It feels better, tastes better, sounds better to have that intimate community connection with the people making it, to help support your neighbors in doing something they love which also brings beauty into your own life.”
On the topic of his work at The Music District he said, “I like connecting people and ideas and projects. There are all these great musicians who’ve written better songs than I could ever write, and all these great businesses and nonprofits coming up with better strategies than I ever could — and I get to play one small part in putting them in the same room together, to make something even greater.”
Together with his wife Katie, Nic Koontz is the farmer and co-owner of Native Hill Farm in Fort Collins. On its own, Native Hill Farm is a landmark farm in our community, but Nic’s work goes even further than year-round, natural farming and sustainable practices at home. As Board Members at Poudre Valley Community Farms, he and Katie are working with other Northern Colorado locals to allow the community to secure land and water for our farmers who feed us.
“[It’s] an amazing organization, the first of its kind in the nation, where the community can buy threatened farmland and water then work to get local producers onto that land in a long-term arrangement to provide good food to our community,” Nic explained. “Katie and I serve on the Board of Directors as farmers to help guide the conversation and property searches and give insight into what farmers and ranchers would be looking for.”
According to Nic, the most important reasons to eat local food can be summarized as “good food and connection to place.” He went on the say, “It doesn’t get any better than a bustling farmers market or farm stand where fellow neighbors are swapping seasonal cooking ideas with each other as we all chat about the weather, the season. In an age of more devices and disconnection, good local food is a great invitation to slow down a bit, talk to your fellow neighbors, and share a delicious and healthy meal.”
“We absolutely love growing good food for our community year round,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”
Director at Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House
Wolverine Farm began as a publishing company back in 2002 in Fort Collins. According to Director Todd Simmons, “The original inspiration was to publish some of my own writing. I published a collection of short stories, essays and poems. Then I caught the bug and wanted to keep putting out literature.” When he landed in Fort Collins in 2002, Wolverine Farm took off. “It was the terroir of Fort Collins that formed the foundation of the publishing company.”
Today, the team has grown out of their old Bean Cycle bookstore into a great River District publick house that is the headquarters and home to all the community events hosted by Wolverine Farm, including readings, informal lectures, meetings, film screenings, art exhibitions and more.
“It’s been a lot of serendipitous moments over the last 15 years where things could have gone a different direction,” Todd said. “But that’s the nature of Fort Collins. It’s a very giving and supportive place. If you can stick around long enough and get to know enough people, there’s a good chance your passions will develop in some sort of tangible form.”
Todd went on to say, “One of the things that separates Wolverine Farm is that we have had a storefront almost since our inception. It’s a place where people can come talk to us and that really informs a lot of the work that we do. We have such a close connection to our community.”
Fort Collins Poet Laureate 2018
Natalie Giarratano is a poet, a mother, a freelance editor, a feminist, an activist, a music-lover and an outdoor enthusiast. And, in addition to this long list of labels, she is the 2018 Fort Collins Poet Laureate. Selected by a team of professionals, writers, artists and peers through Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House, the Fort Collins Poet Laureate hosts free monthly workshops, readings and other community events serving as an advocate for art and poetry in the community.
Natalie explained, “I’ve several readings in the works, some for which I’ll read — in September at Wolverine Farm and in October for the FoCo Book Fest — and others that I’ll host. I hope to highlight a variety of voices throughout the next year. The September reading will be all Colorado women poets. I’m also hoping to start a regular reading series featuring underrepresented poets.”
Speaking on the topic of poetry and its importance in our community, she said, “I think, like all art, that poetry is necessary, especially during times in which many of us are daily outraged by the human lives and environment taken for granted. Art for me is the energy within us that keeps us going and that hopefully keeps us listening to each and our better selves.”
You can learn more about Natalie and see her published works on her website.
Executive Director/Curator at The Center for Fine Art Photography
Hamidah Glasgow is one of the powerhouses behind The Center for Fine Art Photography. In her own words, “The Center is dedicated to fine art photography and shows a wide range of work from around the world. What you will find at any given exhibition is artwork that is insightful, thoughtful and conversation inspiring.” And, ultimately, that’s what C4FAP does right here in Fort Collins: they inspire art, conversation, culture and the people of our community by providing a dedicated space for all of the above.
“When people from the coasts come to an exhibition that the Center is hosting, they are amazed we’re in Fort Collins,” Hamidah explained. “And they say they don’t have the same quality of exhibitions at home. Having a nationally and internationally recognized nonprofit photography organization in a city the size of Fort Collins is a rare gem.”
But, even so, funding doesn’t come easily. “As a nonprofit arts organization, funding is always a challenge,” she said. “It’s a fact that arts and culture build economic stability for communities and the only way for arts and culture to flourish is for the community to support them financially.”
You can do this simply by treating yourself to an art break and visiting C4FAP, attending one of many events hosted by The Center, becoming a member, volunteering and even donating directly.
According to Hamidah, “Many people have a mindset that they know what fine art photography is, but when they come to an exhibition at The Center they realize the reality is very different from their expectations. Usually, they’re pleasantly surprised. The work we show is not your everyday photography. This work is exceptional, inspired and often mind-blowing.”
Climate Program Coordinator at The City of Fort Collins and designer and founder of Treeline Dezign
Together with the team behind The City of Fort Collins’ Climate Action Plan, Carrie Frickman works every day to make Fort Collins a better, a cooler and a greener place. She explained, “In 2015, our City adopted our updated Climate Action Plan goals and we are currently implementing the 2020 Climate Action Plan strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the community. Our goal is to achieve a 20% reduction from 2005 emissions by 2020, 80% by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.”
Specifically, Carrie provides logistical support for various teams and projects, coordinates many of the community outreach and messaging efforts, co-manages the City’s Electric Vehicle (EV) planning, and even incorporates her art into her work. But she’s not the only one who can make a difference. “Even small actions, like riding your bike instead of driving, or buying locally produced food, if done by the majority of people, really can add up to a big impact,” she said. “The key is choosing the things that are a good fit for you and not trying to do everything at once. Taking those small steps might feel challenging initially, but eventually will become just a normal way of living.”
It’s easy to tell Carrie is passionate about the environment and the efforts we can make here in Fort Collins — and that passion is even showcased in her side hustle, Treeline Dezign. “I make wooden earrings from fallen branches that I collect on my adventures and travels. So far, I have been primarily selling these to friends and family, but in the coming months I hope to launch a revamped website, as well as get my earrings in a few local Fort Collins stores!”
Summarizing, Carrie said, “I strongly believe that if everyone embraced actions that supported our local economy, cared for our Fort Collins ecosystem and, most importantly, treated those around us with compassion and kindness, this mentality can have a great cumulative impact that will spread beyond our city.”
Owners at The Timber Line
Of all the reasons we love Fort Collins, its thriving and supportive small business community is at the top of the list. And no one understands that support better than Justin and Stephanie Garrison. “We love supporting local because we know it’s supporting not only the business but most likely the family and more,” Stephanie said. “It’s helping fuel someone’s dream while bringing a more personal feel to your shopping experience.”
Earlier this year, these two embarked on a local business venture of their own. They premiered The Timber Line with their first product: a sleek 64 oz. insulated travel growler. “This product fits well with the lifestyle in Fort Collins and really could expand to anywhere,” said Stephanie. “Of course that means craft beer, but also water! I drink an absurd amount of water every day, am always on the go, and this growler meets hydration needs and offers the flexibility to share.”
In the future, Justin and Stephanie plan to expand The Timber Line product gallery to encompass all things kitchen, campground and outdoor adventure to fit an on-the-go and active lifestyle. And, after settling here in Fort Collins, they’re confident they will do so.
Stephanie said, “The Fort Collins community is very supportive of local businesses and the people behind them. We relocated here from the Washington DC area and immediately fell in love with the people and the lifestyle.”
In the comments below, tell us about a Northern Coloradan who is making our community a better place!