If you don’t believe in God, then what you are about to read will undoubtedly sound “unbelievable” or at least “more than slightly embellished.” I guess if you are an atheist, you could attribute it to fate, but that would take more faith than I have, and we would have to end up changing our name to “In Good Fate.” If you do believe in God, then you can chalk this one up to Isaiah 55:8-9….
We really didn’t plan in advance to start an Orchard or a vineyard. No, really, we didn’t. There were no savings set aside in the hope that it would fund a TBD business venture, no long-term planning, not even previous experience to which base any reasonable judgement.
It started with us buying a bank owned plot of land near Steamboat for pennies on the dollar, and wanting to build a weekend getaway. In order to fund the weekend getaway project, we decided to sell our 3,000 square foot cracker box (and I DO mean that in the literal sense) in south Fort Collins, at what appeared to be the height of a real estate bubble or frenzy. Our “great idea” was to buy something “smaller and cheaper” in Fort Collins so we could take any left over sale proceeds and start building our dream weekend cabin. Except, in Fort Collins for our price range, smaller house were available yes, but smaller AND cheaper houses, NO! Ooops.
After reaching this realization, and the fact that we had to find something (anything!), we started frantically searching on Zillow for properties close to our needed specifications. A house that we had looked at 4 years previous was once again on the market and popped up on the side of our Zillow searches as a side-bar ‘click-bait’ teaser. It was a small farmhouse about 2 miles northeast of I-25 and Mulberry. We previously decided against buying it at the time, because it would have cost too much to retrofit it for a family of 6. I can hear you say “Wait, that’s not where you are at!” You are most correct, grasshopper. However, that farmhouse, which was out of our price range and whose owners had since reduced it’s plot size in favor of selling to a greedy $1M-per-home developer, prompted us to ask our realtor if there were any other farmhouses available. “Why yes there is! There is one that just came on the market!”
So, through a click-bait picture on the side of a Zillow search is how we were led to buying a house we never heard of, never really noticed the 11+ years we had driven past it up on our way to Horsetooth, nor had any idea was on the market. Just plain weird.
We are located about 150 yards west of Taft and Harmony, have a lovely view of JJ’s storage entrance, and watch all the campers, boaters, Harley’s, and Triathletes practicing for their next race ride by.
Both Faith and I took one look at the place and plot of land on which it sat, looked at each other and said “Orchard!” Orchard? Really? Front Range Northern Colorado? Seriously? OK, it sounds stupid, but actually, if you read this, you will see that before 1965’ish, this area boasted the largest cherry orchard west of the Mississippi. So fruit can grow here, albeit, with a bit of faith and no weather wrath. Which ties into the name of our Orchard, “In Good Faith” (which also ties to my wife’s name). Get it?
Now, it gets REALLY interesting. Originally, after closing on the farmhouse in 2014, we had planned on starting small and slow, ramping up the orchard over a 7 year period. Prudent business decision, since we had to fund 100% of the capital expenditures from our “left-over” cash (ha!), and had no experience in “tree husbandry” or growing fruit. However, in 2016, my employer of 17 years decided to embark on a “human resource action.” That’s a sterile way to explain how the CEO woke up some morning and said to himself “You know what, I think I’ll ruin somebody’s day today!” He announced a 10% reduction in workforce (after giving himself a $25M bonus, and announcing to Wall Street how profitable the company was). I had seen this coming for over two years, tried to move out of the way into someplace “safe” in the corporation, but some corporate weenie trying to impress their superior had me in his (or her) sights, and wanted me gone in the worst way. After being poked in the eye with some annoying new job requirements, and a bit of bribery in the form of a ‘separation package’, I jumped from my 8′ x 8′ lovely grey cubicle into the abyss of finding a job at the age of 55. By the by, if you still naively believe that large corporations don’t discriminate against over-50 employees, I have some beach front property I would like to sell you…
Anyway, after 5 months and 100+ annoying job applications that went no where due to the fact that I had apparently “lost my cool”, and was now deemed “utterly worthless” by the very industry that claimed just a few months earlier that I was working on ‘cutting edge’ technology, I gave up. Instead, I decided to attempt to ramp our business (while holding down some part-time side work) as quickly as possible before our 401k evaporates.
The plan (at least right now, in 2017) is to become a “value added producer” for agricultural products (as defined by the USDA), and offer fruit based products, honey, lavender based products, hard and “soft” sparkling cider, juices, and… if what CSU claims is theoretically possible, red and white wine!
Do we have a business plan? Yes. Will it work? We have no idea, but it sure is fun trying!
See there, pretty unbelievable story, right?