Nestled away from the main roads of Loveland lies an 11-acre parcel of land studded with tilled fields, fishing ponds and raised garden beds. It isn’t odd to see chickens milling about, and don’t be surprised if two massive, fluffy Great Pyrenees bound up to meet you when you arrive. Boltz to Nutz Farm is a singular oasis outside of the hustle and bustle of everyday life—and everything here exists to provide accessibility to all.
In 2015, Yvonne and Eric Boltz’s life turned upside down. While out on a training cycling ride, Eric was struck by a negligent driver, changing the path of his life forever. With a damaged spinal cord, Eric found himself paralyzed from the chest down, learning to cope with the lasting side effects of such an injury while finding ways to navigate the world from a wheelchair.
“The nutraceuticals idea came out of experiences from Eric’s journey with pharmaceuticals,” Yvonne says of the first half of the Boltz to Nutz business model. With Yvonne a chemist and Eric a materials scientist, the two decided to pursue a path manufacturing nutraceuticals derived from hemp they grow themselves on their property. “Fifty percent of spinal cord injured people have chronic, fairly severe pain—but it’s neuropathy, so not treatable with opiates. Opiates can make you not care about it, but don’t get rid of the pain. CBD does a much better job at both, treating neuropathy and also spasticity, without the sedating effects of some pharmaceuticals,” Eric sums up.
Through their for-profit nutraceuticals company and private donations, Eric and Yvonne developed the next branch of their business—the nonprofit BoltzStrong farm. Everything on this farm was built with a mindfulness for those who would not normally have access to them—in essence, it’s a teaching farm. A learning place. A liberating space. All of the paths are wheelchair-friendly. There are raised garden beds so those in wheelchairs or anyone who cannot bend easily can reach them. There’s a beautiful, full-fledged accessible kitchen, which means, first and foremost, that everything has roll-under access. “For 10 years I wasn’t able to use an oven because of accessibility. Now that I can roll under it, it’s liberating having a little bit of normalcy back,” Abby, a Boltz to Nutz employee and the first person to cook in this glorious kitchen, elaborates. The cooktop sits on a counter with a switch that allows it to be raised or lowered to the user’s desired height, a feature all the counters and a set of cabinets have built in. “Eric and Abby don’t have core strength due to their injuries, so they have to lean,” says Yvonne, which is why the Boltzes installed an induction cooktop, which transfers heat into certain materials, leaving the surface warm to the touch but not hot enough to damage skin. Soup to nuts, everything in here was carefully, and thoughtfully curated to create a user-friendly experience.
So what exactly is this big, beautiful kitchen here for? Accessible cooking classes. “We don’t make it easy, we make it possible. The cooking classes we do, the students leave exhausted,” Yvonne promises. BoltzStrong sets their students up for success with all the tools they need, providing beautiful produce, herbs and eggs from their farm. From modified knives with arm holds to cutting boards that help grip the food being cut, no detail has been overlooked. With limited range of motion and minimal muscle strength, it takes some creativity and stamina for these students to get their end result, but this kitchen provides new opportunities to some who haven’t cooked for themselves in a long time. Eric explains, “You may learn from these classes that you don’t want to cook very often because it’s such a pain, but at least you’ll know how.” And that’s what these students get to take away from the BoltzStrong kitchen—the skills to do something profoundly normal again. To regain independence.
At the end of each class, the students and able-bodied volunteers come together to share the meal they’ve created. “We end each class by eating the food we make, and if it’s something that isn’t going to be quite done by the end, then we actually make it ahead of time, because sharing a meal here is important to us,” Eric states, proof that these classes are more than just learning skills and adapting—they’re creating a community for anyone who comes through the door. In fact, cooking classes are free and open to anyone (including kids)—check their site for info.
At the end of the day, the Boltzes have created a safe space full of compassion and understanding, where everyone is encouraged “to be authentic, to be present, to be themselves.”
“Pain is something you can cope with, and maybe it causes suffering, but a lot of people learn to deal with it. This is an outreach for people who are suffering—you’re not alone, you can do new things, you can be engaged. And that’s the best thing you can do to combat it—you can change things.” - Eric