The Squeaky Bean Farm + Table restaurant in Denver has long been adored – first from their start in 2009 in their lower highlands space, and then their transplanted, latest location in lower downtown that reopened in 2012. Known for the innovative cuisine and funky style, they’re pushing the envelope again, with a new venture focused on agriculture.
For the past year, the Squeaky Bean has worked in collaboration with Warren Tech High School in Lakewood, to operate their organic, bio-dynamic farm, Acres. Josh Olsen, Squeaky Bean partner/chef and farmer manages the three acres of organic farmland, which includes two 6000-square-foot year-round greenhouses.
Warren Tech is a well-known vocational school in Jefferson County offering a range of programs from audio production to culinary arts. Rooted in what they call SSTEM curriculum (science, sustainability, technology, engineering and mathematics) the partnership with Squeaky Bean is inspiring. Both parties get hands-on experience in science and culinary education. Squeaky Bean cares to educate people of all ages about the journey from soil to plate, and Acres is a prime sounding board for doing just that.
L-R: Squeaky Bean Co-Founder, Johnny Ballen’s hand-printed, vegetable Squeaky Bean suit | Squeaky Bean Co-Owner/Chef/Farmer of Acres, Josh Olsen | Sprouting produce at Acres
I was surprised to learn the Warren Tech greenhouse program was long defunct prior, and the revitalization between business, agriculture, and culinary programs, is a great addition for both parties. The new program they’re reinstating also helps the Warren Tech students build greenhouses as local elementary schools, where they will teach the younger students to plant and grow their own harvest.
Farm Dinners at ACRES:
Started this year, on the first day of Spring in March, the Squeaky Bean is now offering year-round farm dinners every couple of months, featuring the produce grown right there. Warren Tech culinary students help setup, cook, serve and clean. And although all the other programs are for credit, for these farm dinners, the Warren Tech students that participate, are doing it because they love it (volunteering their own time) and the exclusive experience they get with great local chefs. This work also helps focus on the community, “to marry industry and education.” We even learned Squeaky Bean have hired a few grads from Warren Team to work in their restaurant’s kitchen – bringing it full circle.
L-R Vibrant tomatoes | seating for the farm dinner inside the greenhouse | in true Squeaky Bean fashion, a disco ball alongside Hall & Oats music spins in the corner next to the hanging shovels in the greenhouse
Even in winter (they have a farm dinner scheduled in November) you can sit in the middle of the farm, inside the greenhouse, alongside the towering tomato plants, and eat food that was just picked that day which is undoubtedly a special experience.
The farm dinners are Sunday in May, July, September, October and November at 5:30 p.m. and are $60 per person, for four courses of “vegetable forward” dishes served family style, paired with non-alcoholic, but innovative “mocktails” (it is after all, a high school campus).
In addition to the farm dinners, The Squeaky Bean restaurant and other local Denver chefs will be using the produce from the farm to serve their hyper-local menus. They’re also going to have a booth at the Union Station Farmer’s Market in Denver. Any vegetable scraps from Squeaky Bean will even be transported back to the farm and composted, which saves hundreds of gallons of scrap from the landfill. Olsen plans to release hundreds of praying mantises to manage the grasshoppers that ravaged last year’s bean harvest.
Chef Chris MacGillivray of the Squeaky Bean calls what they do: “transfarmative cuisine: big, authentic flavors from organic, non-GMO plants, grown right here in our own backyard. Plus, our bar and our kitchen share ingredients to make the ultimate food and drink pairings.”
Partner Johnny Ballen also calls what they do as being:”dirt driven.” The connection to food is something that takes work to preserve, but that effort and dedication comes through full blast from the Squeaky Bean and Warren Tech partnership. Their farm dinners let you be part of that connection.
- Acres Farm Dinners by Squeaky Bean Farm + Table: Sunday at 5:30 p.m. May 15th, July 17th, September 18th (*annual fundraiser), October 16th and November 13th.
- 60 guests per dinner, $60 per person, four-courses “vegetable forward” dishes and paired mocktails
- Warren Tech: 13300 W 2nd Place, Lakewood, CO 80228.
- Farm dinner reservations: 303-623-2665.
*Annual fundraiser is $85 per person, plus tax. Benefit of proceeds to benefit Warren Tech.