Ian Gilbert left his 25-year stint as a Summit County ski bum about three years ago to work on the family farm.
His uncle, Peter Forte opened Forte Farms in 1972. Today, the “boutique” orchard specializes in growing a large variety of peaches, plums, apples, apricots, cherries and more.
Gilbert is Forte Farms’ sales manager and market supervisor. But his job isn’t necessarily inside an office, he said. The nature of farm work has everyone pitching in on a variety of tasks.
“You are pretty much involved in everything,” Gilbert said. “If the water system breaks down, you all end up pitching in to fix the pump — basically helping out with whatever needs to get done. It’s really hard work.”
Summit County community members can enjoy the fruits of Gilbert’s labor — along with an assortment of foods grown and made in Colorado — at a harvest dinner on Friday.
The fifth annual High Country Conservation Center harvest dinner fundraiser will be held on Oct. 4. The locally sourced four-course meal will feature gourmet seasonal dishes prepared by chefs from Vinny’s Euro American Restaurant in Frisco.
Forte Farms donated a case of apples and pears for the dinner.
“They give us such fantastic, fresh, ripe fruit,” said Cassidy Callahan, High Country Conservation Center’s programs coordinator.
Gilbert said Forte Farms tries to donate to the community whenever it can, averaging about 12 charitable donations each year.
“It’s part of my job to make sure I have enough product, and when there is extra, to get it to people who can use it,” Gilbert said.
Forte Farms’ donation is one of several from Colorado food producers that will be used to prepare the harvest dinner, Callahan said.
Jumpin Good Goat Dairy, De La Chiva Dairy, Growers Organic and Higgles Ice Cream are some of the other producers donating ingredients for the dinner.
Harvest dinner guests will also be treated to produce grown in Summit County’s community supported gardens, as well as donations from Uncle John’s Farm Stand in Frisco.
Chris Brower, owner of Uncle John’s, said he has developed relationships with farmers around Colorado to provide high-quality locally grown products at his market.
“I tend to pick up stuff from smaller farmers, and those who have growing practices in line with being stewards of the land,” he said.
He said locally grown produce stands apart from the products sold at large chain supermarkets.
“I think if you taste it side by side you really notice the difference,” Brower said. “It’s just top quality. The food I get is usually picked that morning, but food that goes to the big grocery stores are picked before they are ripe.”
That food doesn’t have the time to develop nutrients, he said. On top of that, it tends to sit for longer and goes through a handling process.
Autumn is a good time of the year to eat fresh, locally grown food, he said. “It’s time to enjoy the bounty of the summer.”
The ingredients donated by Colorado food producers will be transformed into a variety of dishes that will appeal to vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike during the harvest dinner, Callahan said.
“Vinny is a fantastic chef and really gets creative with what he brings to the table,” she said. “He brings all the ingredients together and creates beautiful dishes.”
Callahan said she hopes participants in the HC3 fundraiser will not only enjoy the harvest dinner, but also gain a greater appreciation for locally made food products.
“It’s a great way to represent Colorado farmers and connect them with consumers in Summit County,” Callahan said. “We want (harvest dinner participants) to realize where their food is coming from not only that night, but on a daily basis, and incorporate more local food in their life.”