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Longmont farmer diversifies income to protect staff

Christina Manning Lebak at 100x Farms offers a range of options to the community to learn about gardening
Christina Manning Lebek tends to carrots in her greenhouse

Christina and Jochen Manning Lebek have a passion for growing your life outside. It is a concept that fuels the couple’s desire to help the community through farming. 

When the couple’s children — Junie, Emma and Lucie — were small, Christina Manning Lebek sought a way to keep them busy and outside while also reducing her own stress of being a mother and a full-time student. She joined a community garden and fell in love with the practice. 

While working in the garden, Christina Manning Lebek was able to learn from gardeners from multiple cultures and she soaked all the information in. She was hooked and knew that one day she wanted to do nothing but farming.

“It just helped a lot to be able to get my hands in the dirt and that’s when I really began to learn how much being in the outdoors would fill my sourl,” she said. 

However, life delayed her dream as she worked at a corporation as a recruiter and moved to Europe and back again. Finally landing back in Colorado, Christina Manning Lebek knew it was time to live out her dream.

But things weren’t just that simple. Farming is difficult and expensive and at the mercy of Mother Nature. There is a lot to go wrong and often not much money to be made, she said. 

“All the things we are doing are to support people getting outside or eating fresh food that was grown outside,” she said. 

Prior to growing full fields of food, Christina Manning Lebek decided to think outside the box and create other businesses that support the farm. Her first endeavor was to consult with residents and local chefs to build raised gardens and help them learn to garden. Some of these gardens hold perennial flowers while others grow carefully selected produce fit for delicious entrees. 

Two years ago Christina Manning Lebek was able to begin 100x Farm. The produce grown on the farm is sold in CSAs, or community supported agriculture. Over 100 members are WIC — a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children. Senior centers and food banks also receive food through the CSA program. 

This year, 100x Farms partnered with Dry Land Distillers, located at 519 Main Street, to host a downtown farmstand on Thursday nights from 4:30-6:30 p.m. The stand not only allows CSA members and the public to pick up some nutritious, organically grown produce but also provides a twist on the drink offerings at Dry Land.

The distillers have promised to make a cocktail using some of the ingredients from the farm for a signature drink each week.

The weekly farmstand popup will also invite other local vendors on Thursday to support other local businesses, Christina Manning Lebek said. 

But the diversity of the business plan doesn’t stop there. Christina Manning Lebek plans to host events out on the farm. On June 24, 100X Farms will host a gardening workshop that allows locals to learn how to work in their own gardens. 

The events don’t stop there as the summer continues, Christina Manning Lebek hopes to host other workshops, women's groups, foodie events and kids' events. Fresh produce straight from the garden will be available to be purchased at each event. 

While it may seem like a lot for a single farm, all of the revenue streams provide security and peace of mind for Christina Manning Lebek. 

As a recruiter, Christina Manning Lebek was privy to some difficult conversations about people’s employment. It gave her an appreciation for hard-working employees. Farm work is sometimes a thankless job with long hours and little pay. Also, since the industry depends on the weather, incomes can be unpredictable at times. For Christina Manning Lebek it is vital that her employees feel a sense of job security and by offering multiple opportunities she has been able to provide that.

“I was always looking forward to a time when I could do this full-time because this is my passion,” Christina Manning Lebek said. “In all of my years in corporate life I saw the disparity between a farmer’s life and the life of someone who has more of a desk job and I always felt is was really unfair because people who are growing food for our community really deserve the same level of income and insurance and 401K …”


Macie May

About the Author: Macie May

Macie May has built her career in community journalism serving local Colorado communities since 2017.
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