Routt County CSU Extension: Mapping the Yampa Valley food system |

Routt County CSU Extension: Mapping the Yampa Valley food system

Routt County CSU Extension

Have you ever driven to an unfamiliar town without a map? It helps if you know some of the landmarks along the way, such a river, or perhaps a shopping mall. But without a map, you can still become totally lost. Without the help of a guide or map, you may eventually arrive at your destination, but you will probably spend valuable time backtracking, circling around and asking for help. It is with this scenario in mind that the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition decided it was time for a map — a food map.

Coalition members became interested in mapping the Yampa Valley food system as a result of their three-year strategic planning process at the beginning of the year.

Many of the questions that were raised about local food and feeding our residents were unknown. What does locally produced food contribute to our local food system and economy? How does food enter our valley, and how much waste are we producing? What impact can we make on food insecurity by implementing food recovery programs or community gardens?

If these questions seem familiar, it’s because we have been discussing these same issues for the past five years. Rather than rehashing these questions for another five years, the coalition decided to map the Yampa Valley foods system.

The Coalition has teamed up with experts in systems thinking at Colorado State University to begin the process of better understanding our food system. In the coming year, the coalition will be utilizing local expertise from Yampa Data Partners, Western Slope agriculture economists, LiftUp food pantry and many other community resources to create a dynamic systems model. Once we have a better understanding of the impact our food system has on the health of our community, we will have a powerful decision-making tool for future food-related projects.

Every initiative involves trade-offs, but a food systems map of the Yampa Valley will help us understand the trade-offs before time is spent and resources are committed.

The Northwest Colorado Food Coalition is a grassroots partnership of organizations, with a mission to develop and sustain a resilient food system in Northwest Colorado. Coalition partners represent agriculture, education, healthcare, local nonprofits and businesses.

If you would like to be a part of mapping our Yampa Valley food system or participate in the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition, contact Karen Massey, chairman of the Coalition and CSU Extension Director for Routt County, at 970-879-0825 or

Karen Massey is chairman of the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition, a registered dietitian nutritionist and family and consumer science Extension agent with Colorado State University Extension in Routt County. For more information, call 970-879-0825 or email

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