A Grazing Life brings authenticity to the overused phrase “farm to table” partnering with Corner Post Meats to host summertime dinners on their sprawling property located in Black Forest. Mike Preisler began his new business venture in early 2017 out of a need he saw to connect Colorado Springs residents to their local farming and ranching community.
Preisler has experience educating locals on how to better utilize their indigenous surroundings after serving in the Peace Corps. In Kamijiji, Zambia, Preisler spent time teaching villagers about aquaculture, integrated agriculture and animal husbandry. Following his time abroad Preisler was hired at Corner Post Meats working for co-owners, Adrienne Larrew and Dan Lorenz, perpetuating his knowledge of cultivation, management and raising livestock.
“I don’t have a business background but learned a lot everyday here at Corner Post,” says Preisler. “I approached Adrienne and Dan with the idea of doing events, bringing people out, making that connection–food to farmers to consumers. I took it upon myself to start A Grazing Life to partner with Corner Post so that we work hand in hand.”
A Grazing Life will host “A Night on the Ranch” every Saturday July 8 through August 26, at Corner Post with renowned chefs, like chef Gerry Castro from Till Kitchen, chef Supansa Banker from 2South Food + Wine Bar and chef/cheesemaker Jimmy Warren from Fruition Farms Creamery. Local fruits and vegetables from Arkansas Valley Organic Growers, Hunt and Gather, and Pikes Peak Family Farms will steer the direction of the menu. Live music from five piece bands like Tejon Street Corner Thieves and The River Arkansas will take over the front porch as a rural stage.
Colorado Springs based wine, beer and spirits from distillery Axe & the Oak and Sette Dolori Winery will offer pours and select pairings to accompany the meal. With eight events total in their first season Preisler admits, “we just kind of dove in and we’ve got a pretty killer lineup. It’s a no-brainer doing events out here.”
“There was no way internally we could put this on,” says Adrienne Larrew, co-owner of Corner Post Meats. “So he spun off and did his own gig, and that’s one of the most rewarding things as a boss to see. It’s fruitful for both of us.”
“It’s snowballed into a huge local focus beyond just Corner Post Meats,” says Preisler. “We’re bringing out other businesses and using it as a platform to showcase anyone doing anything cool.”
“There’s as much producer interest as there is chef interest and then the fact that the community is coming out in droves to buy tickets is incredible,” says Larrew. “The Westin A. Price group bought out a dinner and we’re doing a board meeting and dinner for the Audubon. They want to have an opportunity to bring out their donor and their board to make that connection.”
Getting area chefs on board was seamless since Preisler was managing wholesale when he was employed at Corner Post and already familiar with their client list.
“Everyone loves what they’re doing out here, so all the chefs are like yes, let’s do it, let’s knock it out of the park,” says Preisler. “We’re letting the chefs do whatever they want with the meal. I give them an ingredient list, tell them how many people and say ‘go nuts.’ We encourage them to try and do a family style presentation so it’s more like sharing and communal at the table. It’s going to be relaxed and a lot of fun.”
They intentionally won’t publish the menu ahead of time, so that the most recent harvest can find it’s way onto the plate.
“It really is what is available and what is in season this week,” says Larrew. “It’s really going to be legit.”
The night begins at 5:00 p.m. with a meet and greet happy hour, a 60 to 90 minute farm tour on the truck/trailer, followed by dinner with entertainment until 10:00 p.m. The events can accommodate up to 40 people, and what currently serves as their front yard, will host a long picnic style table and open fire pits for outdoor cooking.
Preisler hopes that a pivotal part of the experience is that guests will see first hand how the proteins at Corner Post are properly cared for and raised, illustrating how that translates into a better product.
“We want to try to educate people on how to eat local all the time and not just at this one-off dinner,” says Preisler. “The tour, for us, is just as important as any other part of it because that’s where you’re going to see sustainable agriculture in action.”
Larew presses the point that if consumers are super excited about buying their meat, this is the perfect opportunity to come out and see it firsthand.
“Folks are diving all in at that point,” says Larrew. “It’s supporting his business, it’s supporting our business and then it’s entertaining and educating the eater as well.”
All inclusive tickets are $150 per person with discounted couple ($135/each) and group rates available in four ($125/each) and eight packs ($115/each). Children 12 and under are not encouraged to attend.
“It’s a great date night option,” says Larrew. “I don’t know where else in town you can see this level of agriculture, land management and ecosystem awareness. It’s really a culmination of bringing it all together. We want to create community and connect over quality food, recognize the impact you have to support that and see it in a beautiful place…it hits all the points you’d ever want it to.”
“The goal is for people to have a good time,” says Preisler. “So that they go and tell their friends that they need to go out to Corner Post ranch and go for a dinner next summer.”