LiveWell Northwest Colorado: What’s Happening with Local Food? Our 7 Ps
Community Agriculture Alliance has taken the lead on local food issue in the Yampa Valley, but by no means is it doing it alone. Many community partners work to help support local food efforts in different ways. CSU Routt County Extension is a critical partner in providing education and resources dealing with local food production. It provides leadership and coordination for the Northwest Coloraod Food Coalition and continues to bring tremendous resources from Colorado State University to our community.
Most recently a group of CSU professors have been working on a systems model for local food in Routt County with potential impacts for local beef producers. The Master Gardener program, part of CSU Extension, is another tremendous resource in our community. It offers office hours and site visits to help with gardening questions, problems and resources. Whether you’re a back-yard gardener or anyone with questions, The Master Garderners are the go-to resource for plant, tree and gardening information.
Did you know there are close to 100 local food producers in the Yampa Valley with almost 1,000 different products? Our local producers are your neighbors, friends, community volunteers, parents and fellow tax payers, and most of them work off the farm orranch. They continue to work in agriculture and/or produce local food andproducts, because they love it. They genuinely care about the land, animals and environment, because they live here, too. They are stewards of the land and provide the beautiful landscapes and vistas we all appreciate. Local producers believe in what they are doing and stand behind their products. If you want to know where your food comes from, how meat was raised or what’s in a product … just ask. They are happy to share what they do and why and how they do it. The slogan “know your farmer, know your food” rings true when buying locally.
There are more local food and products made, grown, raised and produced in the Yampa Valley than most people realize. Yes, we are challenged to grow a wide variety of fruits and vegetables here. Our climate and environment make it difficult, but seasonal vegetables are available. Cool season crops are what grow best. Think kale, collards, lettuces and root vegetables.
While there are many choices at a regular grocery store, local produce is going to be much fresher and simply better. Choosing to grow your own vegetables or seek out local, seasonal produce to buy is absolutely more work, time and can be inconvenient, but it’s worth it. Eating fresh, just-picked produce will ruin your taste buds in a good way. The same holds true for local meat, honey, baked goods, bread, jelly/jams and sauces.
Many people think local food, especially meat, is more expensive than grocery store prices. That is simply not true. Local producers work to price products fairly, and because they are selling directly to you, the end customers, they don’t have to pay as much for marketing, sales and distribution costs. The economic impact of buying local should also be considered. When you buy from a local producer, 100 percent of that price goes to the producers and helps them continue growing, raising, farming, ranching and producing.
During the past several years, the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition and Community Agriculture Alliance worked with Routt County to create a streamlined process for new and potential food-related businesses. The work group created a simple document that allows new businesses to have their initial plans reviewed by related county departments for informal feedback and guidance as business plans are developed. This form and the beginning process starts with the CSU Routt County Extension office. It’s another great collaboration and opportunity to help new producers. This group also worked with Routt County to clarify regulatory language around seasonal extension greenhouses and hoop houses. This collaboration continues to exemplify Routt County’s commitment to supporting local agriculture and food production.
There are many ongoing, new and emerging projects related to local food in our community. LiftUp and Yampatika are continuing work on gardening projects and more growing within their programs. Community Cultivation, a program of Yampa Valley Autism, not only grows produce at its grow dome, but has also partnered with Steamboat Springs High School on a variety of growing related projects.
Innovative Ag, a local micro green producer, is expanding its production to include mushrooms and other greens. Its products are grown in shipping containers and trailers using new technology for year-round production. CAA partnered with LiftUp last year to purchase a walk-in freezer that is being offered as storage for local meat producers. Most likely, there are many other projects and new endeavors related to local food. If you have a new project or want to learn more, contact Michele Meyer at Community Agriculture Alliance about our Local Food Task Force. All are welcome.
Why should you buy local food and products? Why does it matter? From the perspective of the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition and CAA (and many others), it does matter. The economic, environmental and community impact truly do matter.
When you buy locally, it makes a difference to the producer and the wider community, and hopefully, it matters to you, the individual customer or consumer.
Finally, it’s easy to buy local. You can shop online at caamarket.org with weekly orderings and pick up your order in downtown Steamboat at CAA offices. Or, contact your neighbors, friends or any 4-H kid. Buy their eggs, meat and vegetables directly from them. It does matter, and you’ll be glad you did.
Michele Meyer is local good coordinator for the Community Agriculture Alliance and member of the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition.
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