The Connectors

Farm Runners Bridges the Gap Between Growers and Chefs

In a few short years, the delivery service has become one of the most important links in the local food chain.

By Amanda M. Faison Photography by Olive & West Photography July 19, 2020 Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Matt Kottenstette of Farm Runners delivers fresh goods to Jour de Fête in Aspen.

“We knew Farm Runners when it was just a van with reflective material on the inside and a generator in the back,” says Joel Rayes of the Fungi Institute, a small-scale commercial mushroom farm in Marble.

Indeed, six years ago, when the grassroots wholesale food distributor was in its infancy, that van was everything. Farm Runners’ founders, Emma Stopher-Griffin and Matt Kottenstette, would drive from their home in Hotchkiss to surrounding farms and ranches, pick up freshly harvested produce and meats, and zip the goods over to Durango, Crested Butte, and Aspen to customers and chefs hungry for high-quality, Colorado-grown product. By working as a liaison for these small producers, the couple freed up farmers to tend to their fields instead of worrying about finding a way to sell their products.

Six years in, Farm Runners has amassed a small team and multiple trucks that trace the by-now familiar path from local farms to Colorado customers. “Farm Runners is really who is getting us food today,” says C. Barclay Dodge of Aspen’s Bosq restaurant. “I can’t go to Paonia, I don’t have time. They have finally bridged the gap.”

The distributor also operates a popular CSA for the public. And in 2018, Stopher-Griffin and Kottenstette opened a storefront in Hotchkiss called the Station, which combines a market and a café. “What’s funny is that we moved into the building because it has a massive 40x20-foot cooler in it,” says Stopher-Griffin. “But our community kept stopping by and asking, ‘What are you doing? Can we buy some onions?’ Now we rent out the kitchen to a baker and have a little deli with all local foods.”

It’s a long way from that one start-up van. 

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