Eric Skokan, Chef & farmer
Just an hour after buying the farm he stalked the property, picking up rusted farm machinery and dreaming out loud about the barn-turned-country-inn and talking with a degree of relish about the challenges ahead.
The smile did not leave his face.
Q: What is your most treasured possession?
A: My pickup truck, which I learned to drive on. My dad bought it new. It’s this old, beaten pickup that I use every day for farming.
I have no memories without this truck. It’s the antithesis of flashy and sophisticated and it’s the epitome of sentimental utility.
It’s a 1965 Ford F-100, baby blue. The floorboards rusted out a few times. My dad and I rebuilt the engine once and we rebuilt the
transmission once. My dad was a motorhead when I was growing up, and a farm-boy mechanic who can and does fix anything and everything.
I was fortunate to grow up with a yeoman engineer as a dad.
Q: What is your greatest extravagance?
A: Movie-theater popcorn. Movie- theater popcorn reminds me of watching “E.T.” in the theater with my mom and I love my mom so much, and I love the childhood I had with my mom. “E.T.” is the epitome of all movies for me, growing up, and she and I shared this tub of popcorn that was bigger than we were. Whenever I see a tub of movie-theater popcorn, that image arrives, and it’s so good.
Q: What is your most obvious characteristic?
Q: What is your favorite journey?
A: When I was in college I drove across the country for the sake of driving across the country. I did a giant loop around the whole country and spent several weeks by myself in a car, seeing little towns out in the middle of nowhere. Having the ability to digest the country we live in, digest our society, quietly and by myself, over the course of several weeks, was an incredibly valuable growing and learning experince. I think if I had gone with other people it would have been a waste of time.
Q: What is your greatest fear?
A: That I’m going to stop learning, that I’ll plateau. The thought of spending my life doing things without learning new things along the way sounds like misery. It was one of the reasons I loved learning to cook, and then running a restaurant, then being an owner, then doing all of that all over again with being a farmer. It’s hard to see the end, that point in the end where there won’t be anything new to learn. If I become a know-it-all in farming, maybe I’ll pick up brain surgery. I’m a learning junkie at this point.
Q: If you could choose an object to come back as, what would you choose?
A: A library.
Q: What is your current state of mind?
A: I am feeling very focused. We have been looking for a farmhouse where we can conbine the farm and the homestead all in the same place, and that has been an incredibly challenging thing. If all of this were happening in western Nebraska, real farmland country, it wouldn’t be an issue. But urban sprawl has wiped out a giant chunk of the farms, so the number of possible places to farm is small. We need year-round water for animals, good ground for vegetables. We had to be in a good proximity to Boulder.
Q: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Q: What historical figure do you most identify with?
A: Thomas Jefferson. (Skokan is a University of Virginia graduate, and ol’ TJ created the college). He was someone driven by a big-picture ideal of good, who was crafty and genius, a great thinker, cared deeply about farming, gardening, the natural cycle of life and wanted a life that was connected to the natural world, as opposed to keeping the natural world at bay. I have an issue from the switch from yeomanship to expertism. During Jefferson’s time the ideal was the yeoman farmer, one who was completely self-sufficient. Intelligent, educated, wise, able to start a farm, homestead and carve out a life in a very self-sustaining sort of way. Not an expert in any one thing, but generally pretty good at everything. And now we live in a world of absolute expertism, where we hire people to do almost all of the mundane functions of life for us because they are experts. When I compare our society to the ideal the Founding Fathers put out there, it’s very different now.
Q: What do you most value in your friends?
Q: Who are your real-life heroes?
A: Jen Dossett, a midwife and friend. Through Jen’s hands have passed such a large number of healthy babies and babies who would
not have been healthy if not for her. And not just the babies, but the families themselves. She’s a very clear-thinking, professional,
incredibly smart woman who has dedicated her life to making sure these families that pass through her hands are taking their first
steps as a familiy in a really good way. She makes peanuts for it. She does it for the good.
Q: What is your motto?
A: Get your money’s worth every day. Waste no moment, waste no day.
Interviewed by Douglas Brown: 303-954-1395 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Original Article can be found at http://www.denverpost.com/2012/03/07/boulder-restaurateur-and-locavore-eric-skokan-is-a-do-it-yourself-kind-of-guy/Type your paragraph here.
But Skokan, who taught himself to do electrical work by reading books, seems to thrill to the prospect of yet more labor: laying thousands of feet of fence line, rewiring the house, plowing, eventually turning the old (maybe 1920s) main barn into a country inn.
For a guy with so many roots digging with such vigor into the Front Range, finally having his own stake in the land where he farms, ranches, runs businesses, and raises children and a family is a big deal.
He grew up in Virginia, cooked in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, but planted himself in Colorado more than a decade ago.
Eric Skokan, 47, is the most ambitious do-it-all-yourself chef and restaurateur in Colorado, and among the most accomplished in the nation. In terms of the blossoming “locavore” or local food movement, Skokan is a leader.
Skokan grows or raises 85 percent of the food served in his Boulder restaurant, Black Cat Bistro, and plans to do the same for his upcoming place, Bramble and Hare, also in Boulder.
The husband and father of four has a busy stand at the Boulder Farmers Market, where he sells vegetables and meat
he runs a community-supported agriculture operation; and he also manages a prepared-foods business.
Depending on his own land for most of his larder takes a lot of work.
Skokan leases about 200 acres in Boulder County, where he grazes pigs and sheep, and grows vegetables.
He raises chickens for meat and eggs — last year, he went through more than 1,200 of the birds for meat alone.
Sleep isn’t a commodity in Skokan’s world; it’s precious. It’s the same for his wife, Jill, a key partner in all of the efforts.
His favorite spot along the Front Range is also a new place — just a few years ago, Eric Skokan bought a farm.
He and Jill had rented a house, and land, for the gardening and ranching endeavors, but now they have a permanent homestead
on nearly 3 acres, between Boulder and Lyons. Skokan already has leased about 40 acres of surrounding land, so when he wakes up
every morning his animals — many of them, at least — will be outside his back door.
The atmospheric triangle of land, with its scattering of aging (or falling-down) barns and outbuildings, and its staggering views of Front Range
peaks (they seem to hang over the place), seems custom-made for Skokan.
That is, it needs work. The three-bedroom house (his four kids will have to share bedrooms; this doesn’t make them happy) lacks running
water. The electrical work is ancient and dicey, the septic system questionable.