Traumatic Grief And Overwhelming Gratitude

Dear friends,

Eric and Jill lost their magnificent son Kelsey in a vehicle accident on Friday night. The accident occurred down the street from the family home, just as Eric, Jill and restaurant staff were preparing for the evening’s farm dinner. In the car with Kelsey was his older brother, Ian, who survived the head-on collision with a dump truck and is now with his family. Following the crash, the truck veered off the road and ran into the Skokan’s house, where it destroyed Kelsey’s bedroom. In the photo, Kelsey is the young man seated on the far left.

The family — Eric, Jill, their daughter Morgan and sons Ian and Avery — is devastated. They all are together now, along with extended family that flew to Colorado from different states to grieve with the Skokans. 

The Boulder community has responded with astounding generosity. 

Emails and phone calls began at once from people volunteering to help — to harvest and clean vegetables, to temporarily adopt lambs that needed to be bottle-fed, to move fence lines, to work at farm dinners, the farm stand and the Farmers’ Market.

Area chefs offered to cook meals for the family.

Colorado Chautauqua donated the temporary use of a large cottage for the extended family, as the Skokan’s farm house is damaged from the truck.

A Boulder friend started a GoFundMe campaign, to help the Skokans manage costs associated with the accident and to help support their 425-acre farm while the Skokans take a break from work to stay close with family.

The Black Cat family is flooded with gratitude for the surge of benevolence and sacrifice. It is humbling.

Kelsey Skokan cut hay for one of his summer jobs when he was growing up. This photo is from 2015.

The Skokans have devoted their lives to Black Cat Organic Farm. What began as Black Cat Bistro in 2006 morphed into a restaurant with an ambitious home garden, then two restaurants with a few acres under cultivation, to today: two restaurants; 425 acres of USDA Certified Organic vegetables, legumes, grains and herbs; hundreds of pigs and sheep, all heritage breeds; a grain mill to transform grains into flours; a Boulder County Farmers’ Market stand; a daily farm stand at 4975 Jay Road; three trucks filled with vegetables, meats and provisions that tour Boulder streets; and a spectacular farm dinner space at the family homestead.

Black Cat Organic Farm is a spectacle of vibrant life. And like all thriving farms, it does not rest. The day after the tragedy, Boulderites bought Black Cat vegetables and meats at the Farmers’ Market and the farm stand. On Sunday, farm employees erected new fences to permit sheep access to fresh pasture. The Black Cat restaurant team hosted a farm dinner. Today, farm staffers harvested wheat.

Tomatoes ripening last week at Black Cat Farm. By now, these have probably been harvested and either sold at the Market or farm stand, or transformed into culinary gorgeousness at a farm dinner.

One way to support Black Cat is to visit the farm stand throughout the week. The fields now are just beginning to yield what will amount to mountains of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumber, squash, corn and much more. As we begin to enter the heart of the harvest season, it is vital that the farm finds homes for its organic produce. With COVID-19 shuttering Black Cat Bistro and Bramble & Hare, the farm enjoys fewer outlets for its abundance.

In addition, Black Cat Organic Farm produces gorgeous cuts of lamb and pork, all from heritage breeds of sheep and pigs that graze on USDA Certified Organic pasture in Boulder. As with produce, the restaurant closures have diminished the number of outlets for these glorious meats. If you savor and value local meat from animals treated with immense care, please consider visiting the farm stand or the Farmers’ Market stand on Saturdays and picking up delicious cuts of meat.

Eric at a farm dinner last week doing one of the things he most loves: talking food, farming and more with guests.

Farm dinners continue, every night of the week. This morning, we open seating for next week’s dinners. Black Cat’s farm dinners have been selling out rapidly. If you desire an evening of dining while the arc of the sunset decorates the horizon, please make reservations now for next week. These dinners offer immense privacy for diners, complete with staggering views of snow-capped mountains and full immersion in a flower-filled pastoral idyll: fields under cultivation, roaming chickens and ducks, fruit trees, historic farm buildings.

Thank you, friends, for your bountiful generosity — for your hearts and love, your selflessness and passion, your devotion to community. You astonish us. You enrich us. Just as our world crumbles beneath our feet and we begin to fall, you strengthen and support us.

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