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Fortified Collaborations unifies community with farm dinners

Fortified Collaborations uses beer, bikes and locally-sourced food to teach people about agriculture.

This organization hosts farm dinners, helps businesses with their branding and teaches agriculture by collaborating with like-minded people.

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A group of people hold glasses up in cheers, during a Fortified Collaborations farm dinner.
Fortified Collaborations help bring the consumer to the farmer through unique farm dinners that include delicious food and live music. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Cash)

Kristina Cash, founder of Fortified Collaborations, said Fort Collins was supposed to be a temporary stop on her way to attending graduate school at Washington State University for teaching. She paused her plans when the owners of New Belgium Brewing Company offered her a position. 

“I learned so much in the seven years I worked for New Belgium about how to truly build a brand, a business and a community,” Cash said. “It was a great connection to get into because people love to get together over a beer and talk about life.”

Cash’s next job was the director of the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Fair. There, Cash said she built connections and learn what sustainability really means.

By learning the importance of community through these jobs, Cash said she was inspired to start Fortified Collaborations. She felt this was a business Fort Collins was ready for. 

“Local farmers work so hard and need all the support they can get,” Cash said. “Our mission is to strengthen our community, local economy and the living systems that sustain us. We want businesses to understand focusing on that will help build their brand.”

a table filled with food curated local food.
Each farm dinner is unique, focusing on a different farm, brewery and distillery every time. (Photo courtesy of Kristina Cash)

Besides helping local businesses with their branding, farm dinners are a large part of what Fortified Collaborations does. Event coordinator and CSU alum Kaley Alie believes it is important for people to understand where their food comes from. 

“This is what gives people the reason to care about their environment and their neighbors,” Alie said. “At the dinners, we have a cocktail hour and then we have about 160 people seated at one long table, which is unique in itself. Over that period, we have a five course meal, where the chef can come out and talk about the meal they prepared.”

Alie says Fortified Collaborations always tries to get a different farm, distillery and brewery involved, and tries to cultivate as much local food as possible. There is a lot of pre-planning involved including connecting the brewery or distillery with the chefs, curating the menu and renting supplies.  

With each farm dinner, Fortified Collaborations connects with a local non-profit organization. These organizations help with volunteering while bringing awareness to their goals and mission.

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One organization that stays heavily involved is the Kitchen Community, which helps build learning gardens in schools around the country.

A group of volunteers and children help build a learning garden.
The Kitchen Community helps build learning gardens in schools throughout the US to instill ag education in children. (Photo courtesy of Kristen Kirkpatrick)

“Our mission is to build community through food,” said Kristin Kirkpatrick, the Kitchen Community regional director for Colorado. “Across our organization, we have over 400 learning gardens, and provide curriculum to teachers to help bring that space to life. We want to connect kids to real food that nourishes their body and the environment.”

Kirkpatrick says she is always amazed how disconnected people can get from their food. Not only are there health implications but also environmental ones. She says getting children to work hands on with gardening helps them learn more about agriculture. 

Cash hopes that Fortified Collaborations can become more than an event-based business. She wants to focus more on being a “business matchmaker,” helping local businesses build a brand that is stronger and more connected to the community and environment.

“I believe in resiliency,” Cash said. “We have to understand the systems that keep us alive and help us thrive. We all have a responsibility to this community to take care of it, and that is the main idea behind Fortified Collaborations. Doing business for good.”

More information and volunteer opportunities are available at fortifiedcollaborations.com.

Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @SarahEhrlich96.

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