Kati Zybko and her boyfriend, Zach Weakland, share a vision. The pair, who have been partners for five years, are the newest residents at a five-acre farm, 5129 CR 50E in Bellvue.
When Zybko was 13, her single mother started a residential landscaping business in Fort Collins and mother and daughter worked together to make it successful. “I always wanted chickens and goats but Mom said we didn’t have time to care for them,” Zybko said. As a conservation biology major at Colorado State University, Zybko built a chicken coop in her back yard. Four years ago she and Weakland, who as a CSU natural resources graduate has values that parallel Zybko’s, got the first “legal” goats in Fort Collins. They turn the goats’ milk into yogurt, cheese and caramels.
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Until a couple of months ago, they housed their chickens and goats on a cramped property close to CSU. “We were looking for a place when the opportunity to move here came up,” Zybko said.
Now known as Sunnyside Farm, New Belgium Brewing Company founder and former owner, Jeff Lebesch, purchased the 5-acre farm at the base of Pleasant Valley and agreed to lease it to Zybko and Weakland. The couple have now added a bee hive to their goat and chicken operations and have planted a large vegetable garden.
The details of their business plan are set down in a proposal submitted April 9 to the Larimer County Planning Department. “Our primary use of this property is as a working farm in the Forest Farm style as explained in Mark Sheppard’s book, Restoration Agriculture,” Zybko said. Because it will take several years for the farm to mature and become profitable, Zybko and Weakland propose to establish a coffee/tea shop, community hall/events center, and “The Bingham Still,” where fruit and honey grown on site will be used to produce small batches of liquor available for sale and to be used during events at the community hall.
The coffee/tea shop will feature locally baked goods, sandwiches and other food items. Pick-your-own flowers and products from the farm will be sold at an indoor market stand.
The community hall will provide a venue for weddings, farm-to-table meals and other events. The coffee shop will use the same facilities but at different times of the day.
Zybko and Weakland are committed to respecting the rural nature of the land, serving the needs of the community and being good neighbors. “We totally understand why neighbors have some concerns,” Zybko said. “The last thing we want to do is destroy the rural nature of the place. We live on the property and we place a high value on privacy. We will never allow the place to become crowded. No amount of income will ever be worth sacrificing the quiet rural atmosphere. Our intention is to make it more beautiful and to share it with other people.”
There will be no outdoor sound system and the community hall and coffee shop will not be visible from neighboring homes. The facilities will be open year-round with about 40 customers per day anticipated during the summer and far fewer during the winter. Planned coffee shop and market stand hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week. Events will close by 9 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays and 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There will no more than 125 people at any event.
The existing garage will be enlarged, a shed will be converted into a bridal preparation room, the driveway will be widened, and a greenhouse will be added. Parking will be on the property.
Former owners Roy and Mary Kahler, now residents of LaPorte, will watch with interest as their home of 41 years is transformed. “It’s going to be exciting to see what the place is going to be like in three years,” Mary said.
Faithful stewards of their property for many years, the Kahlers say it was time to let it go and they have no regrets. “I’m just thankful I don’t have to do all that work any more,” Roy said.
Zybko and Weakland plan to create a peaceful destination for the community and for visitors to enjoy delicious, locally-grown or sourced foods and drink, and experience a great view of the surrounding hills and mountains at a beautifully landscaped, productive farm.
“We will go out of our way to be sensitive and cooperate with our neighbors and the community’s needs and concerns. We are striving for this to be a place that benefits the community of Bellvue and Northern Colorado as a whole,” Zybko said.