culinary prowess

Field to Table in the North Fork Valley

The Forage Sisters turn a family farm’s abundance into a meaningful business.

By Amanda M. Faison July 19, 2020 Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Aspen Sojourner

Nicole Carrillo gathers fresh-cut flowers at Deer Tree Farm

When AJ and Nicole Carrillo bought 18 acres on Rogers Mesa outside of Hotchkiss, Nicole had just mastered the art of making peach jam. Serendipitously, the property, called Deer Tree Farm and AgroForest, included a peach orchard with 900 mature trees. Four years in, the land brims with a one-acre vegetable garden; pigs, cattle, and chickens; alfalfa; and eight acres of agroforest (where trees and crops grow intermingled for mutual benefit), in which the Carrillos planted raspberry bushes, along with hazelnut, chestnut, cherry, and plum trees.

All of this abundance spawned additional opportunity when Nicole, with friend Mirasol Gomez, launched Forage Sisters, a field-to-table catering company. Drawing on the bounty from Deer Tree and neighboring farms, the women create true seed-to-plant-to-table culinary events where no detail is overlooked.

“We bend over backwards to keep things hyper-local,” Nicole says. “When someone says we want risotto, we find dryland barley and make barley risotto. We don’t have citrus in Colorado, but you can use unripened grapes in a similar way. We make peach and apple vinegars—that’s something we figured out while bending our minds around farm-to-table.” 

“We bend over backwards to keep things hyper-local.”
–Nicole Carrillo

This year, the Carrillos planted everything on their farm to sustain Forage Sisters. When Covid-19 postponed all of their events, AJ and Nicole shifted gears, planting even more and creating a harvest fridge (sort of like a mini CSA) and a farm stand on their land. “We’ll do bread, butter, eggs, and canned things,” says Nicole. “Flowers and tea blends too—all the atmospheric beauty we put into dinners, we’ll put into the farm stand.” Forage Sisters will also create twice-weekly prepared dinners that can be picked up at the stand and from a commercial kitchen in Paonia. For details and offerings, check out Deer Tree Farm’s Instagram.

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