Chef Alex Seidel's impact on Denver's food scene goes beyond his first two restaurants, Fruition and Mercantile Dining & Provision; beyond his James Beard Award for Best Chef Southwest in 2018; beyond his partnership in Chook Charcoal Chicken. Seidel has helped shape the way we see food on the plate through Fruition Farms and Creamery, the Larkspur enterprise he launched in 2009 to produce artisan cheese and raise meats and produce for his restaurants.
But last week, Seidel announced that he's selling the ten-acre farm and creamery, ending more than a decade of stewardship. "It's a little bittersweet," he says. "But it's time to look at what's ahead and become more efficient."
Seidel says that for the past year, he's been completely focused on reopening and running his restaurants during the pandemic, and the farm became more of a distraction than an integral part of the operation. While the volume of production was never enough to significantly impact the menus at Fruition and Mercantile, he says that the farm was still a worthwhile endeavor because it helped him and his employees understand the value of locally grown food and the food infrastructure in Colorado.
The farm, located at 14347 Southeast Cherry Creek Road in Larkspur, was in good shape when Seidel purchased it. "The soil has been worked really well; it was owned by a master gardener before me," he points out. And Seidel and his team, including Ilsa Meyer, the farm's horticulturalist and grower, and Jimmy Warren, Fruition's cheese maker, made plenty of improvements, so the property includes greenhouses and hoophouses as well as a functioning creamery (and a small farmhouse).
"We learned a hell of a lot, and we provided a hell of a lot to the community," the restaurateur adds, pointing out the many charitable events, farm dinners, educational tours and other happenings that kept the farm in the public eye. "But it's been a long year, and it's been tough on everyone's psyche."
Seidel hasn't given up on the idea of cheese production; he says he's looking at ways to bring the dairy closer to home and has had his commissary kitchen, Füdmill, approved for dairy handling in case that proves to be the best solution. As for potential buyers of the Larkspur property, he's already told them he'd continue purchasing produce from the farm.
"Mostly, I will miss the honest, direct connection to agriculture and sharing those experiences with cooks, my teams, growers, students, young people, and our community," Seidel wrote on Facebook when he announced the sale of the farm.
Even without his own farm, he adds, the farming community will remain important to Mercantile, Fruition and Chook, and Seidel will continue to build his network of producers and advocate for small Colorado farms.
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