WHEN you think back through 2022 and the people in the San Luis Valley who had breakout years, Jessica Larriva and Jake Gefell of Tumbleweed Bread in Monte Vista quickly come to mind.
The whole-grain breads and baked delights from Tumbleweed have taken over the farmers markets and local shops in the different towns of the Valley. Ginger snaps, trail bricks, maple pecan shortbread cookies, and Tumbleweed’s signature Mountain Mama Breads have quickly become a staple in the diets of Valley adventurers.
“It’s definitely been a lot of investment in the groundwork of it and only now are we getting to the point of seeing the real fruits of the last five years,” said Larriva during a Thanksgiving Week recording of the Creative Citizen, an Alamosa Citizen podcast hosted by Hannah Eubanks.
Theirs is a story of a common devotion to Star Wars, an obligation to family, and a belief that if you have a dream and try hard enough, the San Luis Valley can be the place where it all comes together.
Larriva is a Valley native who went away to college in Portland, Ore., learned to become an artisan baker, and returned home to care for her mother but couldn’t shake the need to bake. So she started baking in her kitchen while caring for her mother, and because this state has the Colorado Cottage Food Act that allows for home bakers to sell their goods, Larriva’s baking soon found happy bellies that were delighted to ask for more.
Gefell arrived in the high desert in a more roundabout way. Originally from upstate New York, he landed with the Colorado State Patrol at its Del Norte station, performing in the job for a few years before family summoned him back to New York. Before he left he was helping out with another new venture called Square Peg, when in walked a girl who he bonded with by talking about Star Wars while he served her great beer.
She taught him the ways of her artisan baking craft, and together they’ve grown into a commercial kitchen and Tumbleweed Bread selling out of its baked goods as fast as Larriva can roll out the dough and Gefell can bag the breads and sweets and get them out to an eager market.
“I have a little bit of a control issue, so for me trying to give things away for him to do has been a test,” she confesses.
The podcast episode in two parts is a great way to listen to their story while you do your own baking and cooking during the holiday season. So go ahead and dive right in.