Grant to fund food production study

Community Agriculture Alliance partnered with Craig’s Planet Yampa

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— A $50,000 grant awarded to the Community Agriculture Alliance will study the feasibility of creating a sustainable food production system that is intended to become the model for similar projects in rural areas across the country.

The study will examine whether 12 greenhouses stretching 800 yards by 400 yards could be located in the Yampa Valley, given challenges such as climate and altitude. The greenhouses would use hydroponics, or water-growing techniques, powered by clean energy sources to produce fruits and vegetables that also could be made into other food products.

The Agriculture Alliance partnered with Planet Yampa, of Craig, to apply for the Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“My vision long term is to be able to take this company and be able to replicate this project to other rural communities across the country to help them grow their economies as well,” Planet Yampa owner Marilynn Hill said.

In addition to creating a sustainable food production system, Hill said the project, estimated to cost $140 million, would create as many as 700 jobs while providing educational opportunities.

Hill said the request for proposals to conduct the study should go out soon with the hopes of starting it by late August. She said the study would take four to six months. Afterward, Hill said she would start looking for investors for the project based on the results.

Nancy Kramer, Northwest Colorado Products project coordinator for the Agriculture Alliance, said this would be a new effort for the valley.

“We’ve never been in a position to test, at least on record, producing more food in the area,” she said.

Kramer added that with the public’s desire to know where its food comes from, the project fits the locally grown product niche.

The USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program supports development of small and emerging businesses in rural areas. Five grants were awarded statewide, said Alex Obregon, spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, who announced the grant this week.

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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