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Dehydrating fresh cuisine for epic adventures
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Dehydrating fresh cuisine for epic adventures

Jane Barden (Business Administration, ’12)

Top image: Farm to Summit - a fresh idea, fresh ingredients, and a lot of fresh air.

Jane Barden (Business Administration, ’12), a self-proclaimed foodie, was tired of going backpacking and leaving behind her taste for fine dining. So, in 2020, she and her partner Louise launched Farm to Summit, a company that specializes in crafting dehydrated backpacking meals. The Durango-based business keeps adventurers’ bellies full and satisfied, while focusing on procuring sustainably sourced food and sustainable packaging. With savory meals like Thai Peanut Slaw, Green Chile Mac & Cheese, and Fall Harvest Green Curry, their shared dream of providing epicurean experiences in the backcountry is a tasty reality.

Jane and Louise Barden at their market stand with packages of dehydrated food on the table.
Jane (left) and Louise Barden share the perfect recipe for their thriving business, Farm to Summit.

Farm to Summit began in the Barden’s home, but they quickly realized that the work was better suited for a commercial kitchen. The couple gained access to a dehydrator owned by the Good Food Collective, an FLC alumni-operated nonprofit dedicated to strengthening Southwest Colorado’s regional food system. In May 2021, the businesswomen piloted their product at the Durango Farmers Market. Their popularity grew among avid backpackers and the business expanded to local outdoor retail shops, including Backcountry Experience and Pine Needle Mountaineering. Farm to Summit’s first brick-and-mortar location opened in Durango’s North Main District in Spring 2022.

The business is rooted in Louise’s expertise in ecology and conservation and Jane’s lifelong interest in agriculture. Growing up on a 100-acre farm in Michigan, Jane’s affinity for the outdoors led her to Fort Lewis College and a degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Tourism & Hospitality Management. While the hands-on coursework helped her establish the savvy she needed to start a business, Jane said the most significant impact FLC had on her development was the inspiring professors. John Gadbois, senior lecturer in Economics, was one of her favorites.

“He was not only a fantastic professor in class, but he also extended his mentorship outside of the classroom by attending my soccer games and encouraging my personal development,” Jane said. “He taught me the value of working as a team to collaborate and network while being a genuine person.”

A bowl of red and purple slaw next to the Farm to Summit package
Thai Peanut Slaw from Farm to Summit

Although Jane and Louise’s appetite for backpacking and delicious food spearheaded Farm to Summit, Barden said she draws on her experience as an FLC business student daily.

“Fort Lewis gave me the proper understanding of the business world,” Jane said. “This helped immensely with the creation of Farm to Summit.”

Jane’s story exemplifies how Fort Lewis College works to cultivate a community that encourages students to blend their passions with what they learn in the classroom and carry that perfect recipe into the real world after graduation.

“Don’t just stay with that base curriculum,” Jane offered as advice for current and future Skyhawks. “Explore anything you are interested in, and just go for it!”


 

To order Farm to Summit dehydrated meals online, visit farmtosummit.com or stop by their new location at 2800 Main Avenue in Durango, Colorado.

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