It is an otherworldly drive down South Turkey Creek Road, where the creek guides the tight curves of the street and the trees seem greener somehow. Last summer, it was the path back in time as we journeyed to the Medlen prairie school camp. Somehow, we did the same last weekend, me and my girls, time traveling to Milky Whey Creamery. I enjoy this sort of outing on any Saturday morning, but especially now, with our present lives in an uproar, it feels like a privilege to step back into something simpler. Of course, even the sweetest things are made up of layers of questions and truths and personal discoveries.
I met Colby Accacian and Charlie Funk a couple of months ago on my first visit to the small farm on 23 acres in Morrison. Neither are native to Colorado, but both have varied and extensive experiences in farming and intentional community, which led them to their current project.
“I started farming in New Zealand and went there without knowing anyone,” Accacian’s story began. “I would go to farmer’s markets and ask to trade labor for a place to stay and food—a work trade.”
Funk’s story originated at college in Boston, where, studying environmental analysis and policy, she began to take stock of how she was consuming. “I became incredibly obsessed with reducing my carbon footprint. My whole life revolved around that,” she said. Funk found this easy to do in a city where she would ride her bike and shop the farmer’s markets. “It was the beginning of simplifying my life in an intentional way.”
While Accacian met the Land family in New Zealand, whose lifestyle echoed the rustic approach of the Amish, Funk got an education in the costs and motivations of farming across the country, from Vermont to Hawaii to Washington State and, eventually, to Coyote Family Farm in Penngrove, California. Accacian, once back in the States, helped to establish Coyote Family Farm. “We had the initial intention of a meditation community. Sitting together and starting a farm,” he explained. “I was there for five years and helped get the farm running, which included getting the farmer’s market and the CSA [Community Supported Agriculture].”
Many values-based communities, once they become organized, once they encounter growth, must make a decision to adjust and expand or to remain steadfast and find a way to quietly survive. As Coyote Family Farm followed a growth trajectory, Accacian and Funk found their personal values and their desire to hold fast to them aligned with each others’. “I was ready for a different relationship to work and lifestyle that was more in line with the needs of the land,” Accacian recalled. “A shift away from production agriculture. Even with generous intentions to feed our local community, we were asking so much of the soil each year, pushing the limits of how much we could grow, of how much product we could extract from the soil in order to sell and generate income.”
“I didn’t like the hustle of that,” Funk added. “It was too much to ask of my personal body, to ask of other people’s bodies. I understood why the culture on that farm was the way it was, why the pressures were so high, but it was not how I wanted to live in relation to the land.”
Then, an opportunity manifested. Accacian’s parents offered a plot of land in the Rocky Mountains for the purposes of farming to live and to share. Over the past year, Accacian and Funk have transformed windows into a greenhouse bursting with tomatoes and tomatillos, overgrown fields into pasture for milking goats and a few sheep, and a flat piece of earth into a garden yielding seasonal greens, vegetables and flowers. To both farmers, the accomplishment looks a lot more like what they set out to do. They make breakfasts from eggs and plants raised on their property, drink the milk from the goats they tend—and can even pick out notes in the milk from the different goats as a wine connoisseur can uncover the flavors of different grapes. “We have a safety net,” Funk explained, nodding to their family connection and community. “It helps us to live more lightly on the earth.”
Of course, humankind is connected to each other and to the spaces in which they reside, however delicately. Though they have worked more closely to their deeply held values, Accacian and Funk have also realized how necessary is compromise. “It feels like we are constantly making compromises,” said Accacian. “For example, we said we didn’t want to buy any plastic. We’ve ended up buying drip tape because that’s a way to save water, which feels like a more important resource.” Funk told me that they drove over an hour to find alfalfa that hadn’t been contaminated with herbicide, and how she had to weigh the use of fossil fuels to get to the product against not having clean product at all. In a quest for pure living and work, there are still paradoxical obstacles—questions of greater good.
I asked what would be the ideal—the least invasive. Funk laughed. “Gathering berries? Eating wild greens?” she mused. “Up here, the climate is very dry—it would be hard to forage enough for a healthy lifestyle. Especially if more people were to engage in this, which is a dream of ours. This feels good for our set of values, but if everyone did it, then we wouldn’t have it! And that’s crazy!”
Amid the murmurs of, “We all have to do the best we can,” I wondered, what is the most important goal? What has the greatest impact in a positive way rather than negative? “I think about living in community,” Accacian said, “which has been a common thread in both our lives leading up to living here. I want to include more people and harness others’ energy and enthusiasm and interest to create more here. That’s my dream and aspiration.”
While cognizant of limitations in resources and abilities, Accacian and Funk established Milky Whey Creamery with community as the cornerstone. As much as their time and their land allows, they offer an invitation. Perhaps it’s tasting fresh goat milk. Perhaps it’s to visit and learn about the land. My own daughters like to pet the goats and then boast to their friends about the salsa we made from those tomatillos they picked. Honestly, it was the first time I’d ever handled a tomatillo, and we delighted at peeling back the husk, our fingers sticking to the smoothness underneath.
There is always something underneath. The plants dig their roots into the soil, and what are they encountering there? We craft value statements and goals for living, and as we root in, what will we find is beneath our ideologies? Milky Whey Creamery exists for these questions. Yes, you can tour the farm and pet a goat and get some produce. Do so with the willingness to exist in a tense and important place of awareness and reliance. Stop and determine value, the worth of a leaf of kale, the worth of a person cultivating the earth, the worth of that personal exchange when consumer really meets creator.
“Different people have different strengths and hold different pieces,” Accacian told me, “and this is how we posit our connectedness positively: interdependence. In community, you’re harnessing the strengths of all the different people. It can be that simple. Coming together. Caring about each other. Helping each other out—that doesn’t feel so transactional. When you owe somebody, you’re connecting with them. There’s a magical connection in owing people and understanding your dependence on them.”
To learn more about Milky Whey Creamery, contact Colby and Charlie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I firmly believe that providing excellent financial planning and investment management in order to create financial margin is critical and foundational to achieving True Wealth, but it is not sufficient. This financial margin must also be directed to fuel growth in the other critical dimensions of wealth.
I had the honor of hearing pastor Rick Warren at a conference back in 2013, and he relayed an experience he had talking with Bill Gates, who was the richest man on earth at that time. Bill told Rick that he likes to spend money to save time, which is brilliant since we all have the same 168 hours per week to use. You can always make more money, but you can’t make more time. Many people value experiences and use money to build their experiential, social and family wealth. I feel very good about spending money to save time and on facilitating experiences, especially ones that can be shared with the people I care most about. I also spend guilt-free on acquiring knowledge and on having fun with my family and friends.
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Sean Wood is an Investment Advisor Representative offering Financial Planning, Investment Advisory and Insurance Services through Stewardship Advisory Group, LLC; an SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Securities offered through United Planners Financial Services, a Limited Partnership, Member FINRA, SIPC. Stewardship Advisory Group, LLC, Stewardship Colorado, LLC and United Planners Financial Services are not affiliated companies.