Longmont, Colorado
Ollin Farms is on the occupied homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute people.
The only constant in life is change.
– Heraclitus
Farming is adaptation. It’s a continual dance with the land that shifts and sways with the seasons, soil, and lead of the sun. This is a story of embracing adaptability through the lens of two land stewards, Kena and Mark Guttridge, of Ollin Farms. Through their deep land observation, passion for educating youth, and genuine desire to leave the earth better than found, this dynamic duo is pioneering an effort to turn public lands back into ecological paradises where food and community are at the heart. The notion of change is the foundation of Ollin’s farming philosophy, so much in fact that the name Ollin means “constant motion” or “change” in Aztec.

As the Guttridge’s share, “The Aztec civilization is a model for sustainable agriculture. Back when organic farming was the only option, the Aztecs found ways to efficiently farm difficult locations and were able to feed huge populations by developing clever distribution systems to quickly get food from the farmer to the consumer.”

Kena and Mark integrate adaptation throughout their entire ecosystem; they established their farm to withstand the transformation of climate change, consumer change, and they work endlessly on their educational programs to foster generational change. “Sustainability to us is creating regenerative systems that can withstand long term change.”

Tucked in the hills outside of Boulder, Colorado, Kena and Mark steward over 165 acres acres of land. From the bounty of this land, they feed over 375 CSA families weekly, maintain a busy summer farmstand, distribute to restaurants throughout Boulder County, and are an integral part of the community. One cannot walk on Ollin Farms without seeing bikers, runners, and cars overjoyed to greet Kena and Mark as they pass by.

“There is community supported agriculture and then there is agricultural supported community. One of our missions is to see how agriculture can truly empower the people around it,” says Mark.

Kena and Mark’s journey to Ollin Farms is one born of transition. When Mark’s grandmother needed full-time care, there was no question that Mark and Kena would move to the farm. Soon after, they found their connection and ancestry with the land.

We all come from the soil.
“My connection to the soil comes from my ancestors. My abuelito was a farmer, and we lived on the land of the Mixteco Indians. He grew sugarcane, watermelons, and piñas. I remember walking on the granja (farm) and seeing the fruits of his labor. I get that feeling when I look at the land here. The soil runs in my blood.”

Ollin Farms concentrates on bringing indigenous and ancestral land cultivation practices while creating long-term regenerative food systems. They practice perennial planting, creek restoration, pollinator habitat establishment, and implement climate change-resistant crops such as tall grasses and native perennial plants.

People talk about sustainability and regenerative farming as something new, but this is the farming of the past. This is how my ancestors farmed and how the original peoples of America farmed. The Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Mixtecos were all doing it. We are simply returning to our roots.


Ollin Farms pulls inspiration from the innovation and adaptation of indigenous civilizations, especially the Aztec people. The Aztec people flourished between 1345 and 1521C.E. in Central Mexico, and their civilization revolved around agriculture. The Aztecs diversified their crops, resulting in one of the most culinary-diverse cuisines in the ancient world with an abundance of chilies, squash, beans, and maize. To maximize food production, the Aztecs were incredibly innovative. Similar to the Mayans, the Aztecs developed terrace farming practices to maximize land usage. However, the most impressive farming innovation was the Chinampas. Chinampas were floating garden beds that were built on swamps or riverbeds. This increased Aztec food production and land resources by utilizing what would have been unused swampland.
After years of trial and error, Kena and Mark learned to dance with the land and adapt to its constant change, just as the Aztecs did. “At first we made many mistakes, but mistakes are just a gateway to the next level of learning.” In 2013, Ollin Farms experienced an unforeseen event that nearly washed away years of land cultivation.
When it rains, it pours, and an unexpected 10-inch rainstorm flooded the creek at the base of the farm, nearly reaching the roof of one of their pavilions.” We did not know what to do. We thought about the farm, our animals, our home, and felt completely hopeless.” Within hours of the rainstorm, the community surrounding Ollin Farms gathered with buckets, shovels, and a determination to save the farm.” I remember turning around and seeing all of our community supporting us through this crisis, their willingness brings me to tears to this day.” Mark and Kena learned the importance and value of community support firsthand, and they continue to find hope within its trials and tribulations through the nurtured support of its community members.
We now have the desire to create long term regenerative systems that can withstand crisis.
“Challenges push us to grow in life. The flood fundamentally changed the way we look at farming and forced us to think long term with the land.”

COVID-19 was another growth point for Ollin Farms. With the global pandemic revealing how fragile the U.S. food system is, Ollin Farms felt empowered to provide fresh produce for the community. “Last year, you would enter the grocery store, and the food aisles were completely empty. The community turned to us and supported us as we supported them.” Community support is an integral aspect of Ollin Farms’ ethos and ecosystem. “One of our biggest lessons from the past 15 years is that there is power in the people. Every time we experienced severe challenges and didn’t know what to do, we looked back and saw our students, neighbors, and community supporting us. Just as nature has its symbiotic relationships, so does the farm and its community.”

These symbiotic relationships can be understood through the term reciprocity: the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. Kena knew that beyond providing food, she could offer a great service to the community that supported her – educating the youth. With a background in education and teaching, Kena decided to lead educational programs and help the next generation connect to mother earth.

I realized that we needed to share our knowledge and love for the land. We started with a little group of niños. We try to connect them to Mother Nature and where their food comes from. Within a week, they learned about closed loop compost systems from seed to harvest.
Ollin Farms now runs an annual high school internship for students interested in agriculture and land stewardship. Last year they had 17 students learn the foundations of farming and assist in their CSA program. “People always talk about leaving a better planet for our children, but nobody ever talks about leaving better children for our planet.”

Kena and Mark strive to make farming accessible to the community. In addition to their youth education programs, they have annual farming-focused festivals. These educational festivals revolve around earth regeneration; whether it’s their infamous bee festival or their carbon sequestration festival, these events gather the community to learn how to become conscious stewards and consumers.

“We love to throw educational festivals. Our first festival 14 years ago had only four families, but the community started to get more involved throughout the years. They are hands-on educational experiences, with some festivals reaching hundreds of people. One of our most popular is the carbon sequestration festival and compost festival. We invite all kinds of guests to speak from regenerative farmers to scientists and other experts in their fields.”

When looking at the future of Ollin Farms, Kena and Mark strive to refine their current regenerative systems and move toward stewarding public land. Their most recent endeavor is Project 95. In 2020, Ollin Farms began leasing an additional 135-acres of Boulder County Open Space. They acquired the property in need of restoration with irrigation ditches needing repair, large amounts of weed pressure, and soils showing signs of degradation. They’ve partnered with Boulder County, Natural Resources Conservation Service, local universities, and community volunteers to regenerate the earth and bring vitality back to the land. “We believe in order for more conservation practices being implemented on public lands, we need a collaborative approach of skill and resource sharing between farmers and the community, a grass-roots approach to having a positive impact on our local ecosystems.” 2021 Project 95 goals include planting 2,000 perennial shrubs, 300 fruit trees, on-farm compost trials, partnering with young farmers on rotational grazing, and experimenting with more pollinator-friendly cover crops. Ollin farms have also partnered with local Universities for soil testing, nutritional density studies, and water retention rates to create a model for other farms.

Mark and Kena believe that the future of farming is collaborative. It will take the contribution of policymakers, farmers, universities, and the community to create incentives and a cultural shift towards a regenerative food system.

We are finally at a place where citizens don’t want cheap calories, but want to rebuild ecosystems. This will take policy, education, consumer change, and a new generation of farmers to shift the cultural narrative of where our food comes from.”

“We are finally at a place where citizens don’t want cheap calories, but want to rebuild ecosystems. This will take policy, education, consumer change, and a new generation of farmers to shift the cultural narrative of where our food comes from.”

Just like the name Ollin, the future of food is in constant motion.

Ollin is change;
it is music.
We are Ollin,
our stories are Ollin,
and the way we listen to the land is Ollin.

& Their Efforts:



Farmside chat: LIVE with Mark & Kena

August 18th at 12p PT / 3p ET

Join Kena and Mark for an intimate conversation and Q&A as they dive deeper on their journey at Ollin Farms and their experiments with how agriculture can support the community.


We believe in a regenerative cycle of storytelling. This begins with us listening to the most powerful narrative of our time – the farmer’s story. We’ve learned one of the most impactful ways we can be of service to farmers is by providing marketing tools, expertise and resources to expand awareness of their work in the world. This not only allows farmers to find their voice and story but gives them the power to share the history of their journey, farm, family, mission, progress, struggles, and future vision. This allows us to propel that cycle further by sharing the stories they tell, from their lens and lived experience. And when it all comes together, the ultimate story becomes the collective documentation of today’s land stewards and their wisdom. We are here to let that reverberate far and wide, to touch as many people as possible, planting seeds and stories of change.

*This story represents one of millions of varied walks of farming lives and does not reflect every farmer’s journey or regenerative agriculture in its entirety.

This feature was written by Maya Harrison, contributing member of the Farmer’s Footprint Writer’s Circle.
Video and photography by Leia Marasovich.