ELC Producer Profile: Jack Rabbit Hill Farm

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Lance of Jack Rabbit Hill Farm, a biodynamic winery and distillery, tells their story and gives his insights on how the local food movement has evolved over the past decade.

What is your story?

Jack Rabbit Hill Farm is a 70-acre diversified farm in Hotchkiss, Colorado. My wife and I (plus our two kids) moved to the property in 2001 with to create a viable estate winery. That was the original idea. We didn’t come into with any formal training or relevant experience. It was a real adventure in uncharted waters. We learned how to make wine and are still learning to make wine.

We have evolved our growing practices along the way, and we’ve also developed our business model into making spirits. Our flagship brand is the CapRock brand. We’ve kind of branched off to other areas, including ciders and other wines. 80% of our sales are to restaurants, which have helped to evolve our business. Based on our relationships with them, we learned what other products they were interested in, being spirits. In 2004, it just made sense to open a distillery because we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel by going into distilling.

How do you support a good, clean and fair food system?

Number one way is we try to practice and maintain best practices in our farming. For us, it is all about trying to produce the highest quality food because that is the tastiest food. Whether or not you agree with the external benefits of our practices, we think it provides the highest quality product. Yes, it costs a little bit more money and is a bit more labor intensive, but the market is responding.

We are getting positive reinforcement from the market for our sourcing practices. We can make great fermented and distilled products from the fruit we source from other growers because of their biodynamic and organic farming practices.

What tips do you have for folks to get more involved with their local food systems?

It’s hard. There is a lot of noise in the market. Try to research and learn. Try to peel back some of the layers and don’t rely only on marketing propaganda because there is so much of that out there. When you know your farmer, you know your food.

How do you think the local food movement has evolved over the past decade?

In the previous three years, the interest we are getting from the consumer is very different from what it was before. It tells me that people are much more conscious about how their food is grown and are researching biodynamic farming. People want to learn more. The market is changing because consumers are evolving with their producers. That is very encouraging for us. Since 2005, when we became the first biodynamic farm in Colorado because of the growing benefits, the consumer interest has increased.  Our biodynamic practices were never part of our story to our consumers, until recently.

Right now, people buy into the differentiation of our products and are willing to pay more for them. As long as they are ready, we are set. What I find interesting about the alternative farming practices is that in a lot of cases, the really good practices tend to be hard to scale up. You have to be small to produce stuff at this quality. It is not as simple as being certified organic because the quality isn’t where it used to be. So, as long as consumer remains inquisitive, we succeed.

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