Community Agriculture Alliance: Making the most of the season

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As part of National Agriculture Awareness Month in March, local food was a hot topic, and many Routt County groups teamed up to spread the word.

There are 800 to 1,000 farmers and producers growing and raising food in this historic, agriculture-rich valley. Routt County also has more than two dozen local providers of meat, cheese, eggs, vegetables and fruits, including a hydroponic tomato farmer.

It all can be done here despite our limited growing season. When growing their own food, longtime locals with backyard gardens know to extend the season by fostering plants indoors in the spring and protecting plants as they mature through colder nights in the fall.

If you don’t grow your own food, you can find farm-fresh produce with a low carbon footprint year-round at Bamboo Market, Natural Grocers and through Yampa Valley Co-op (www.yampavalleycoop.com). During the growing season, shoppers can find local produce at Sweet Pea Market, the Mainstreet Farmers Market and at traveling food stands.

Many wonder why someone would go the extra mile or spend the extra dollar to buy local or grow their own food when commercial grocery stores are filled with every item under the sun, including a variety of organic products.

Two words: sustainability and resilience.

When consumers buy local, local prices drop, local food options expand and the system unfolds into a sustainable and resilient future. And when our children learn the benefits of growing their own food, the resilient future expands even further.

The movement didn’t start overnight, but the topic of local food is re-entering the mainstream after several decades of dormancy. Local food historically is a Routt County staple, and it’s only during the past few decades that residents have been removed from the local food stream.

To keep the public informed, the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council has launched a resource page at www.yvsc.org/food to help coalesce the stream of information. The council has partnered with food experts, including CSU’s Extension Office in Routt County, Community Agriculture Alliance, LiveWell Colorado, Northwest Food Coalition, Yampa Valley Co-op and local farmers and producers.

The Extension Office is a one-stop shop for local food knowledge if you want to know more about making the most of a short growing season, how to use your land wisely, your water rights and how much your vegetables need or the laws surrounding growing your own food.

Proving that the topic of food is a hot one, more than 80 community members tuned into the Sustainability Council’s Talking Green event last week. Booths and panelists educated the group about the opportunities and some of the barriers in the expansive topic of local food. Great discussions, ideas and projects are bubbling out of this group, so to stay informed, join the Sustainability Council mailing list at www.yvsc.org.

The Sustainability Council will be continuing the theme of local food throughout the year with a tour of Elkstone Farms on July 23 and a Talking Green event about genetically modified organisms Aug. 27.

Andy Kennedy is the program director for the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

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