Local Man Creates Inclusive Gardening Experience in Loveland After Suffering Injury That Left Him Paralyzed

The Boltz family now owns and operates Boltz to Nutz Farm, a wheelchair-accessible raised-bed market garden in Loveland.

click to enlarge Yvonne (L) and Eric Boltz have launched Boltz to Nutz Farm. - Photo: Provided by Market Wagon
Photo: Provided by Market Wagon
Yvonne (L) and Eric Boltz have launched Boltz to Nutz Farm.

When Eric Boltz was struck by a car in 2015 while bicycling, the paralyzing injuries he sustained affected not only him but also his family.

But even in difficult times, great ideas can emerge.

“Our life started over at that moment,” says Yvonne Boltz, Eric’s wife.

Eric was paralyzed from the chest down. Today, he describes the first two years after the accident as part of a prolonged grieving process. Going to physical therapy and meeting other people who’d suffered similar injuries, Eric says he saw a lot of people at very low points in their lives, many with limited resources.

On top of commiserating with his fellow patients, Eric says he was subjected to some truly awful hospital food: lots of white bread and processed meats along with what the hospital kitchen claimed was jambalaya but that Eric and Yvonne recognized as Rice-A-Roni with sliced hot dogs and Ragu tomato sauce.

“I did learn you can order hard-boiled eggs to get real eggs,” Eric tells CityBeat. “Because otherwise, you’ll just get the powdered stuff.”

Yvonne, a long-time patron of farmers markets who had developed knowledge about sourcing food, decided to take her husband’s recovery diet into her own hands. She says she has always subscribed to the notion that good nutrition is the basis for health and sees this as a critical moment in the next phase of their lives. If they needed real food and herbal medicines of quality, why not source those themselves? So their quest for a wheelchair-accessible farmhouse began.

Seven years after the accident and after much healing, plenty of construction and a lot of innovating, the Boltz family now owns and operates Boltz to Nutz Farm, a wheelchair-accessible raised-bed market garden in Loveland. The couple sells their products through an online service called Market Wagon, which connects customers with more than 80 local farmers, artisans and chefs and delivers the farmers’ products twice weekly. This frees up Yvonne’s time to pursue farm tasks rather than sit at farmer’s markets hoping to make a sale, she says.

Market Wagon’s online platform accounts for 65% of the Boltz to Nutz Farm’s revenue as Eric and Yvonne expand it into a full-time operation. But fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and limited animal products aren’t all that the farm offers.

“One of the side effects of my injury is that I’ve become hyper-empathetic,” Eric says.

Now Boltz to Nutz Farm is moving into its next phase, which especially focuses on recently disabled folks. The couple soon will start offering adaptive cooking classes and retreats in a building at the farm to showcase the ways in which they’ve overcome Eric’s hurdles navigating life in his wheelchair.

Yvonne and Eric have been working to make their community kitchen more feasible for people with limited mobility or limited use of their limbs, as boiling water or moving about can be challenging. They’ve developed a few inventions they say they can’t yet disclose publicly but that will help someone to navigate the kitchen despite mobility impairments. With Yvonne’s master’s degree in chemistry and Eric’s Ph.D. in materials science, they say they’ll provide disabled home cooks – a vastly overlooked demographic – with the tools, experience and ideas to thrive.

“Having good nutrition or having access to a place where you can even just cook – because stuff is expensive,” Yvonne says. “We can all get together and cook, eat, we can all contribute to our abilities and take home five nutritious meals for the week.”

The first public introduction to their kitchen is an open house on Aug. 14. When Eric and Yvonne eventually offer regular cooking classes and sessions, those will be limited to six at a time. The couple is looking into establishing a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to fund these sessions.

“We want to be able to fund these cooking classes because a lot of people with disability or mobility issues get stuck in the Medicaid poverty trap,” Yvonne says.

The “Medicaid poverty trap” is something Eric saw many of his fellow recovery patients struggle to free themselves from. Someone whose mobility is severely inhibited as a quadriplegic, for example, will need assistance using the restroom every day for the rest of their life. If that person doesn’t have a partner or other close family or friend to help, they’d have to hire an aide at a cost that’s typically only attainable to significantly wealthy patients.

According to Eric, private insurance and Medicare do not cover the cost of an aide, so the person would have to go on Medicaid to pay for the service. That means they would need to spend their assets, which also limits how much income they can make in order to remain qualified.

One of the first recommendations Eric says he received in the hospital was to get on Medicaid, but to do so, he would have had to put everything he owned in Yvonne’s name and then get a divorce to stay financially within the program’s limits. Only then could he go on Medicaid and get anything he needed.

“The for-profit medical system really shows its flaws when you have a chronic condition because you are a ‘loss center,’” Eric says. “The best situation for the insurance company is for you to die, because they will never make money on you.”

The Boltz family hopes to share the peace of mind their farm brings, along with aiding anyone in need of assistance in the kitchen and beyond. They’re also looking into accommodating guests over weekends to get the full farm experience.

“There’s this massive tapestry of life,” Eric says. “As long as you’re spinning nice threads in your vicinity, that’s the best you can do. That’s what we’re trying to do here, and maybe people will pass it on and replicate it elsewhere.”

To shop from the Boltz’ garden and learn more about Boltz to Nutz Farm and all of their upcoming events, visit boltz2nutz.com.

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