In 2014, Benton McKibben stepped away from his metal band, Moth, and music altogether to fully invest in growing his own organic food, which he had been dabbling with as a hobby. With a spacious back yard and a background as a certified chemical applicator, he figured he could cut chemicals out of his food from the comfort of his home.
The decision wasn't easy; leaving music was painful and akin to “ending a relationship,” he says. As it turns out, he could accommodate both his passions.
McKibben’s home is now the site of Neoteric Farms, an organic urban microgreens farm, and he uses his basement to lay down vocals for his new metal band MIRE. Through much trial and error, the farm is now full of vegetables that are served in restaurants throughout Denver, and MIRE has released a new album, Shed.
Known for producing vibrant green peppers, giant tomatoes, radishes and cilantro, the year-round farm is known in Denver for its consistency. Veggies from Neoteric have been served in restaurants such as Mas Kaos, Grind Kitchen + Watering Hole, The Preservery and Meadowlark Kitchen. A special dehydrated honey that McKibben produces is used to rim glasses at Ohana Grille, much the way salt is used on a margarita glass.
McKibben also hosts a farmers' market outside his home every Sunday. It’s not only a chance to feed his neighbors in Lakewood, but an opportunity to connect with others — which the gregarious farmer and musician tries to achieve in his lyrics and his interactions with customers.
“A lot of people are very much like plants, and I think I find a lot of similarities in that relationship and the relationship of us just connecting with the Earth, being a part of the Earth, and with the plants," he says.
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After being contacted by Ryan Glisan, formerly the guitarist of the metal band Allegaeon, McKibben felt that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to jump back into music, even though he thought he was done with it. And the slow wade back into scene has proven to be more fruitful than he could have imagined.
The band's new album is full of powerful analogies, like ripping skin to represent revival, thunderous double-bass drums, badass guitar riffs and McKibben's screaming and singing. It's approachable for people new to metal, but quality work that longtime fans of the genre can appreciate.
There is an odd sort of congruence between McKibben’s farming and music. Both passion projects have been successful for him, and both are life-giving despite their time commitments. McKibben’s perspective on the world is through the lens of a farmer, with people and plants often intertwining.
“I’d say a huge amount of my lyrics are very nature-driven," he says. "They cross through the different processes that nature goes through, whether it’s the seasons or the plants or the interactions between soil and plant.”
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While it’s inconceivable for Neoteric Farms to be much larger than it currently is — an urban farm that provides for a handful of restaurants, neighbors via farmers' markets, and for McKibben and his family — it has steadily grown, and McKibben has even hired farmer and Denver metal-scene veteran Jordan Ament to help tend the land.
Growing to be a large-scale version of what they’re doing now isn’t of much interest to McKibben or Ament, anyway. The goal is to provide healthy food in a sustainable environment with the hope of inspiring others to do the same.
“A lot of people say organic farming cannot feed the world. I completely disagree with that. It’s all just a matter of how many people are doing it and how many people are into it,” says McKibben. “I know that we could never serve all of Denver and all the restaurants, but at the same time, we don’t want to, because our quality would go down — because all we’re reaching for at that point are numbers.
“With what we do, being a two-man farm, the man hours and the time that it takes, we can create a living for us, a sustainable amount of income, while still providing quality food," he says.