Deep Roots is a local nonprofit organization whose mission is to cultivate awareness about the benefits of local food, educate the community about how to do it yourself, and facilitate connections between local producers and local consumers. On April 3, Deep Roots and a few key people in local food production and leadership roles were invited to sit down with members of the Humane Society of the United States for a dialogue about agriculture in Routt County. Bob and Holly Larson, local members of the HSUS, initiated the roundtable discussion. Joe Maxwell, HSUS director of rural development and outreach, and Holly Tarry, HSUS Colorado director, also were in attendance.
What does the HSUS have to do with local food? The HSUS is concerned that soon, consumers will have only one industrialized food option. As a result, the Humane Society is aligning its support with small and independent farmers and ranchers who employ sustainable practices. The Humane Society and its 11 million members think that small producers are better stewards of an animal’s welfare than big producers where large numbers of poultry, swine, cattle or other animal types are confined within a much smaller area than traditional pasture operations.
What does sustainable mean? In general terms, sustainable farming is about efficiency — using less land, water, fuel and fertilizer to produce a crop that taps fewer natural resources and has less impact on the environment. Local producers utilize many sustainable management practices that enhance the production of their operation while maintaining or improving soil and water resources. Sustainable management practices include the development of a Grazing Management Plan; rotational grazing (including the use of multispecies grazing); maintaining diversity of native and other desirable forage species; building soil health; determining carrying capacity of the site; maintaining or improving wildlife habitat; maintaining or improving riparian and upland area vegetation; protecting stream banks from erosion; and managing the deposition of fecal material away from water bodies.
A Grazing Management Plan is ideal because it is an amalgamation that balances forage availability with animal needs; provides adequate rest or deferment to protect the health and vigor of forage plants; provides adequate ground cover to protect soil, water and air resources; and provides no or minimal wildlife habitat degradation.
If you place a high value on safe and nutritious food raised in a sustainable manner, I encourage you to visit the Deep Roots website to find the local producers in our area. If you have questions about how the food is raised, ask the producers or visit the operation and see for yourself. Consumers vote every day with their dollars. Demand for locally grown, sustainable food is growing. By casting our vote for local food, we’re doing our part to help ensure a sustainable food production system is used to grow food in Routt County, which in turn will affect the market as a whole.
Kristen Rockford is a member of Deep Roots’ board of directors. For more information, visit www.deeprootsco.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.