Community Agriculture Alliance: Local foods bring local potential

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— A Google search of “local food” produces more than 1.5 billion results. “Local food Colorado” gets about 92 million hits. Even “local food Steamboat Springs” provides more than 1.1 million results.

The takeaway? Local food is a popular topic, and whether it’s called a movement, an environmental matter, a sustainability issue, an economic choice or a personal decision, local food is a topic of interest.

Much is being accomplished in the Yampa Valley with regional food efforts. The Northwest Colorado Products program of the Community Agriculture Alliance began in 2007 with the goal of supporting, promoting and providing economic opportunities for local producers, products and retailers. The Farmers Market, a program of Mainstreet Steamboat Springs, is in its seventh year and averaged 65 booths per weekend. Farmers markets are weekly events in Craig and Hayden, too.

Deep Roots Local Food Trust, a program of the Community Agriculture Alliance, is dedicated to cultivating awareness about local food, and providing education and connections between local producers and consumers. LiveWell Colorado funded a program in Northwest Colorado in 2009 with a key strategy focusing on the availability of local, healthy food for area residents. In 2009, a planning document called “Community Ag Dialogue” included “local food on local tables” as one of the key areas of focus with many of the goals being met.

Vision 2030, the Routt County community planning document, recommended actions such as “promote local products and diverse markets for local agriculture and natural resource products.” Networking opportunities are being advanced with the formulation of a local food council. From neighbors sharing eggs to community gardens, community-supported agriculture and online food cooperatives, there is a huge interest in supporting, promoting and offering local food.

Those who want to learn more about the efforts, contribute to the discussions or become part of the entrepreneurial efforts can join Northwest Colorado Products on Tuesday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center for a continuing dialogue on local food. FoodShed IV (the fourth annual event) will focus on “Building a Resilient Food System in Northwest Colorado.” The annual Northwest Colorado Products meeting featuring the presentation of the 2011 Ann Copeland Emerging Producer Award will precede the FoodShed IV meeting.

The evening’s schedule:

■ 5 p.m. Networking and a light supper provided by Freshies

■ 5:30 p.m. Northwest Colorado Products annual meeting

■ 6:30 p.m. FoodShed IV: Keynote speaker Wendy Moschetti of WPM Consulting; panel of local producers and food-related experts; small-group discussion

■ 8:30 p.m. Wrap-up and outcomes

The event is free and open to the entire community. If you plan to come for dinner, RSVP to the Community Agriculture Alliance at 970-879-4370 by Monday. Event sponsors include the Community Agriculture Alliance, Northwest Colorado Products, Routt County Extension Service and LiveWell Colorado.

Nancy Kramer is the Northwest Colorado Products Program manager for the Community Agriculture Alliance.

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