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The Metal Farmer: Benton Mckibben Interview

27 March 2018 No Comment

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When metal musician turned urban farmer Benton McKibben isn’t working on his mysterious new musical endeavor, you can find the former Moth frontman at Neoteric Farms. Benton took a moment to talk with us about his venture with microgreens and beekeeping, but kept his upcoming music project under wraps.

What’s your background? Who is Benton McKibben?

I grew up in Colorado. I was home schooled, so I didn’t exactly have the typical daily experience I think a lot of kids have. I did a lot of traveling around the Midwest. I spent a ton of time outside, so I think that had a big impact on me and why I’m really into farming and nature itself. It was also a very musical environment. Lots of piano players in my brothers and sister;, my sister Kelly did a lot of Broadway musicals in high school so my exposure to different types of musical performances was pretty vast.

How, or why did you start urban farming?

Neoteric samplesI got started with it all mostly because I was concerned about the quality of the food I was eating – knowing it’s nutrient value and where it came from, and how long it took to get from the harvest point to my stomach. So I jumped in head first and grew all kinds of stuff just to figure out how it all worked. I had lots of success and even more failures. With farming – or with anything – I feel like I’ve learned a lot more through the failures. You have to stop and really assess why you failed, which really helps you understand your process. After a few years I decided I wanted to try and make it what I do for a living. I’ve been headed in that direction since.

Outside of farming veggies, you’re a beekeeper and your honey is used in local bars and restaurants. Can you talk a little about that?

Yeah I got into beekeeping a short while after farming. I was going for the homestead/produce-your-own model and bees made a lot of sense for pollination, honey production, and of course mead-making. I collaborated with Black Sky Brewery in Denver and we did a Neoteric Honey Ale which has been a big success. We offer local honey in liquid form as well as dehydrated with no additives of any kind. Being a metal guy, it’s been great working with people like Black Sky. We’re all local folks concerned about quality products. They do a great job of supporting not only local music, but in my case, local farms.

What does “organic” mean to you? Why does it matter?

I feel like that term has been somewhat washed out these days. Neoteric is not a “certified organic” farm, but we like to think of our methods as “beyond organic.” There’s a lot of methods in the certified realm I don’t think really represent what people perceive it to mean. We grow with 100% organic methods. No synthetic chemicals, nothing that can harm pollinators. We utilize compost teas and organic fertilizers. And we don’t use chemicals or antibiotics with our bees as many people do these days. There are ways around those routes if you’re determined and meticulous.

What’s up with the whole microgreen thing?

I started the farm on microgreens. It’s a great way to have a low input/quick turn around product all year: you harvest weekly and the price per square foot is unmatched. Microgreens are an easy way to add greens and nutrition to lots of meals. They’re also a great way to give aesthetics to your meals and make them look amazing. They have a strong flavor profile, as well as a huge nutrient profile. If you visit somewhere in Denver like The Meadowlark Kitchen, you can see the amazing effect they can have on a meal. They definitely know how to utilize these greens.

Where did the name “Neoteric Farms” come from? What does it mean?

To keep it short and simple, it basically means “ a new way of viewing the landscape.” We run a half-acre farm. It’s not huge by many standards, but we have changed what you can do with an urban plot. It’s a new way people can view what they do with a front or back yard.

What are your goals with Neoteric?

Basically to work with like minded passionate people, and to feed quality food to my community. We’re expanding operations this year and are seeking more relationships with chefs in the area. We’ll also be running an on-site farm stand this spring and summer. We just want to feed as many health-minded people as possible and continue to do what we love, which is farming.

You are a musician as well. How does that tie into what you do and does farming mix with the emotions you put into your music?

The nature side of things definitely comes out in my music. Whether it’s instrumentally or lyrically, nature and my connection and frustration of always trying to be more a part of it comes out. It’s a driving force for everything I conceptualize about. It’s a big part for sure.

So with all that said, this is how you’ve become “the metal farmer,” right?

Haha, yeah I guess so. I can’t remember if I labeled myself that, or if it just came on through friends, but I jam metal all the time while I farm. Music has been my biggest driver since I was a kid. It’s been a fun niche to fill in the community. I’m happy with the title.

You’re working on a new music project right now, correct? What can you tell me about that?

Benton micYeah, I have a new band I’m working with. It sort of came out of the blue. I basically dropped off the map after my last project, but couldn’t say no when this project came along. I can’t give out a ton of details just yet but there’s definitely some familiar faces involved. I did a lot of vocal development with Shane Howard at Sawn & Quartered Studio. We recorded at Flatline Audio with Dave Otero and the mix/master is being done right now with Danny Castleman. We’re really excited for the release. It should be somewhere around March.

What would you say to someone that wants to start farming?

If your trying to do it as a business or living, start small. Get really good at each thing your working on before you try to tackle everything. Grow like eight crops and get really good at those. Track your numbers, your inputs, outputs, etc. Start to learn about tracking, taxes, marketing. You have to wear 30 hats being a business owner and it’s not easy. It’s fulfilling, but it’s not easy. If it’s for personal production, have fun and study a lot. There’s so much info out there anyone can do it and produce great food. It just takes time and effort.

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