It had to happen eventually. As the local food scene took off in Colorado, someone was going to notice that farming — and farmers — are as sexy as fresh fruit and honey.
From there, it was only a small leap to giving them their own pinup calendar.
Fort Collins collaborators Liz Gaylor and Kelsi Nagy had been chatting up the concept for about a year and got serious about it last summer. With a few weeks of time, $15,000 in credit-card money and the help of photographer Darren Mahuron, they created the first "Farmers of the Front Range 2012 Calendar" — all in a few weeks.
"We love the farming community and Colorado, and we want to get more people connected to it," said Nagy. Bad news about industrial food, such as the "Food, Inc." documentary, makes people feel powerless, she added. "So supporting these local, living economies are one way we can take back control."
Each month features a photograph of people you may have met who produce vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, or honey, along with an epigram, a recipe, and a description of the farm and farmers. Gaylor and Nagy plan to return all or most of the profits for the 2012 version to the featured farms.
Kynan Fritschel, calendar and gift buyer for Tattered Cover Bookstore, usually gets his calendar-buying underway in February and picks 4,000-plus different titles.
But when "Farmers of the Front Range" crossed his desk in October, "I called fairly quickly to get some in" for all three stores.
"I like that it's local," he said. "We have calendars that you can get anywhere, but you're not going to find this one everywhere. It's very well put together. The photography's good; I like the look of it."
The photos, all taken on location, are farm-wholesome, but with a dash of the sexy, quirky edge Mahuron is known for.
In January's shot, for example, the hands of Shanan Olson and Rich Pecoraro loom in the foreground, huge and full of heirloom beans. The couple owns Abbondanza Seed & Organic Produce in Lafayette.
For October, Wyatt Barnes and Amy Tisdale of Red Wagon Organic Farm summon a mod American Gothic, with Tisdale cradling a pumpkin that echoes the red of her kerchief-tied hair.
Mahuron loves vintage vehicles and bicycles, so they crop up, too — including Cherry, a bright red 1951 Farmall tractor in the July shot featuring Native Hill Farm's Katie Slota and Nic Koontz.
The tractor has a story of its own, Slota says. "We bought her from a farmer who bought her from a restorer in Wellington. They called that model a Cultivision; it's made specially for cultivating vegetable rows, and lets you see the rows as you're driving. We love her; we've only had her a year."
Slota and Koontz farm on a few leased acres close to Fort Collins, close enough that shareholders in their community supported agriculture program can bicycle out to help work the vegetable plots in summer.
The couple came to farming as second careers — he was working at an engineering firm; she got her master's in environmental health, with a focus on animal epidemiology. Both found themselves wanting to make more of a difference.
"I always wanted to do more hands-on stuff to get to the nation's health issues and the world's health issues, and now I feel like I am," she said.
That sounds like a big burden for two people and a few acres, but "it's not — it's wonderful," Slota said. "I'm sure anybody would say if they wake up and do what they love, it's not a burden, it's a joy. It's a pretty beautiful thing."
The couple got engaged in mid-August. Slota thinks they'll set their wedding date for September, "because that's when all the good food is."
The calendar, $14.95, is available at bookstores (Tattered Cover, Boulder Bookstore, Firehouse Books in Fort Collins); farmers markets (the Be Local winter farmer's markets in Fort Collins, information booth at the Boulder Farmer's Markets; Denver Urban Homesteading at the Windsor Dairy booth, and In Season markets); and more outlets listed on pitchforkpin ups.com
If you buy one directly from a farmer, they reap 40 percent of the proceeds.
They might even autograph their picture.
A trivial pursuit of Colorado and, eek! zombies
Kynan Fritschel, calendar and gift buyer for Tattered Cover, found a couple of other Colorado-specific calendars — beyond the usual photography-focused ones — just for the "buy local" folks on your gift list.
"365 Colorful Facts About Colorado," $17.95, by Breckenridge's Chad Zanca, is a page-a-day compendium the CU history grad created as part of his recovery from a traumatic brain injury. For example: Which mountains are featured on the Coors Light can? Zanca names them. Who created the cheeseburger in Denver at the Humpty Dumpty Drive-In? Ten percent of online sales at thecoloradocalendar.com are donated to the Colorado Brain Injury Alliance.
"Zombies for All Seasons," $7.99, from Denver's Venturous Publishing, exposes 12 months of flesh-eating freaks doing what they do, drawn by Denver graphic artists such as Jim Stigall, Leila del Luca, Robert Elrod and more.
It's available at Tattered Cover and at venturouspublishing.com.