Fresh Kale from Strawberry Park is proudly displayed on a shelf at Bamboo Market in downtown Steamboat Springs. The city and several community organizations are talking about the possibility of creating a local food and product processing hub at the vacant TIC campus.

Photo by Scott Franz

Fresh Kale from Strawberry Park is proudly displayed on a shelf at Bamboo Market in downtown Steamboat Springs. The city and several community organizations are talking about the possibility of creating a local food and product processing hub at the vacant TIC campus.

Empty TIC campus eyed as potential hub for local food producers

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— Casey Earp was driving by the massive and vacant TIC campus in Steamboat Springs a few weeks ago when an idea suddenly came to him.

Why couldn't this place, currently one of the largest pieces of available industrial land in the Rockies, become a new hub for food producers in the Yampa Valley?

At the hub, food could be grown indoors year round, processed and sold all in a place that is easily accessible to the community.

The idea would be to get several non-profits and producers working together at the same property.

It also could help smaller food growers and producers overcome the bureaucratic hurdles they face when they're out there on their own, including the fact that the nearest USDA-certified beef processing facility is in Craig.

“The opportunity (at TIC) is pretty much endless,” said Earp, an economic development intern for the city. “There's a lot of open space. There's room for an open farmer's market. There's room for solar recycling and maybe a shared commercial kitchen. We have a huge potential to have a huge economic boost through local agriculture production.”

With more than 20 acres and 45,000 square feet of office space included at the site, the TIC property certainly would be large enough for a new local food and products hub that would include processing and distribution centers.

But it could be too large, and too expensive.

Earp said while the TIC campus remains a “pie in the sky” type of idea, the fact that it's even available has spurred a new dialogue among local non-profits and food producers about finding a way to make a new hub a reality somewhere.

He's hopeful the dialogue will continue, and food producers here can market and sell their products as well as they grow them.

“I think the coolest thing about all of this is it brings together so many people in the community,” Earp said. “There's a ton of interest here (to open a food processing facility) in the community, and I don't think it's ever going to go away.”

He pointed to other communities, like Asheville, N.C., which have found success in developing a shared commercial kitchen for local food producers.

Locally produced food is proudly displayed here in places like Bamboo Market, where fresh kale and carrots grown in Strawberry Park were for sale on Tuesday.

On the other side of the store, packages of meat from local beef producers Yampa Valley Farms and Rockin J Cattle were running low.

“I think a lot of people out there are talking about what economic development means,” Earp said. “To me, it's about fostering the things we have here in the community already. It's about local business, local production. But a lot of people don't understand how many hoops these local producers have to jump through to get their products to the market."

Groups that Earp has contacted so far to help further the dialogue about developing a new food hub here include the Community Agriculture Alliance, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, Colorado Mountain College, the CSU Extension office and Yampa Valley Farms.

Marsha Daughenbaugh, the executive director of the Agriculture Alliance, said she was excited when Earp approached her with the idea.

“It would be really exciting if we could find a way to consolidate all of the different products that are made here and to help these producers get to the market,” Daughenbaugh said. “They're great at growing; what we're having issues with is marketing and retailing.”

Community members who want to jump into the dialogue on local food can call Earp at 970-871-8218.

“Maybe it isn't TIC,” Earp said. “But regardless of what happens in the end, the conversation that is happening right now is beneficial.”

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10

Comments

jerry carlton 7 months, 4 weeks ago

City and County should start a MMJ grow operation and they could eliminate all taxation in the County. Oh, thats right, government entities never lower taxes!

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John Weibel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

It might be better to make several smaller "hubs" throughout the region, helping out Oak Creek, Hayden, Yampa, etc.. In the summer people can drive through the valley see some of the farms pick up some of what they have locally and then head to a hub in Oak Creek that might be a charcuterie, a regional bakery/flour mill in Hayden, etc.. With a centralized distribution hub in Yampa so that we can export our agricultural products to the I-70 corridor. That synergy might just help to draw in some skiers who fly into Vail/Beaver Creek to come here because it is something that they could never recreate.

Trying to fight nature and grow food indoors is probably not the best idea. It is probably more sustainable to use row covers to extend the growing season and then can, pickle or store root vegetables in a large distribution center that is not in Steamboat Springs as land costs are too high.

Turn the TIC campus into apartments as housing is still cost prohibitive and if you can help revitalize the outlying communities through agriculture, then that affordable housing will most likely go to those working in those communities.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 4 weeks ago

This intern is an embarrassment.

The mj industry is trying to get away from growing indoors under lights as being too costly and environmentally unsustainable and get permission to grow in greenhouses on agricultural land, but this intern suggests the warehouses on commercial land for growing food? Is he willing to pay $20 a pound for tomatoes if grown in SB buildings?

Instead of invoking socialist communal fantasies for a parcel at the intersection of two major roads, how about tasking the intern to learn what sort of uses comparable cities have seen occur to similar parcels? And ask those governments if they think certain government policies helped or hindered the development of that parcel.

I know the idea of learning from others is stridently opposed by city staff, but let's be nice to the intern and help him to become competent so that he might ever get a job somewhere else. City staff could easily call that research as "work product" and not give his results to the city council or the public in order to try to maintain control of their vision of how the parcel should be used.

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Tracy Barnett 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Scott, As usual, your comments are unproductive. What is your idea for that property? Any? While the idea is a suggested use for that parcel, the idea is not necessarily a bad one. True, this is a prime location. Maybe its not the right location, but the idea of a food hub is not a bad one. Maybe a portion of the property could be used in this way. There is a lot of local food available here in the valley (and the county). It is important to know where your food comes from. If this isn't the place for it, where is? We need a local meat processing plant. We have producers who could produce more given the right facilities.

The point here is that there are people out there trying to produce healthy products that are sustainable. Rather than criticize, as you usually do, what do you suggest to make local products more available here and beyond? Casey is at least trying to make a difference. What are you doing to benefit the community other than bringing up the negative?

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mark hartless 7 months, 3 weeks ago

I wonder if it ever occurred to some of these folks that if an "idea [was] not a bad one" then market forces would transform that "idea" into a reality.

Whether someone is trying or not; whether they are producing "sustainable" products or not; whether they are sincere, well-meaning, insightful or ahead of their time is all irrelevant.

The only "sustainable" that matters is whether or not the free market will sustain their operation. If it will then, by definition, we do not need to incubate... especially with taxpayers hard-earned money.

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John Weibel 7 months, 3 weeks ago

The issue with meat processing is that there is a large amount of product available in the fall to be processed and then the supply for the processor falls off a cliff in the winter time.

Really that is the problem that needs addressed first and foremost. The -42 down the road -30 here this morning makes it awful difficult for anything to gain weight, which is needed to ensure product quality. While it appears that the problem is lack of processing, that is simply a symptom of the problem and how do you address that problem? If you can solve the problem of an inconsistent supply of meat or figure out a way to use the processing facility in multiple ways then maybe additional capacity should be added.

Shoot if the county wants to make more local products available, maybe they should take steps that Boulder and Larimer counties have done to allow farms to engage in the processing/preparation of their own farm products on farm as an agricultural activity and not an industrial or commercial wholesale one. If you want a food hub, you ought to at least allow/encourage people to prepare their products on their farm to gain some economy of scale prior to developing a food hub.

The county was willing to change the rules for apartments in multi-use structures (according to what the building inspector stated yesterday), however, they are unwilling to forego a structural analysis of a sound barn (everywhere still level). I hopefully will no longer be in debt to my eyeballs soon and feel confident in taking some small risk.

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Tracy Barnett,

I do not presume to own the property. I have no expectation of purchasing the property and thus do not expect to have any say in the future use of that parcel as long the future use conforms to current zoning.

From what I observed in Silicon in my youth, I have concluded that more a city "directs" the use of a parcel or attempts to find a "suitable" tenant then the worse the results. Cupertino did not ask a young Apple Computer to move into nondescript commercial space. Los Gatos did not ask a new dvr mail order company called Netflix to move to their town. The valley is literally full of companies that were nothing 5, 10, 20 or 30 years ago. The big companies 35 years ago were Lockheed and HP which have a far smaller presence now. Apple's proposed massive space ship used to be one of HP's main research centers.

San Jose did ask and subsidized United Artists to be the anchor tenant at the redeveloped downtown movie theater. That subsidized competition nearly drove out of business the locally owned downtown art and foreign film movie theater. But when the subsidizes ran out then UA literally left in the middle of the night taking all of the expensive projectors and other valuables. Only then did San Jose offer the downtown theaters to Camera One to operate showing standard commercial movies.

As I have posted before, there is a reason that area is called Silicon Valley and not San Jose Tech. San Jose has all the way along been far behind the neighboring cities of Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, etc at attracting top tech companies. And the lesson should be is that those cities never "attracted" their successful companies. They welcomed new companies regardless of how crazy their business appeared and then were nice when the companies took off and applied to grow.

Thus, the best that the city of SB could do is not mess up the plans of the people with the money to do something with the TIC parcel.

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mark hartless 7 months, 3 weeks ago

"From what I observed in Silicon in my youth, I have concluded that [the] more a city "directs" the use of a parcel or attempts to find a "suitable" tenant then the worse the results. "

Bam!

What I can never understand is why Scott has such insight into how government screws things up one moment and yet proudly supports the most strident big government ilk the next...???

Just about the time you start making sense, Scott you fall off the wagon and defend those who spearhead the dumb ideas you clearly see have failed over and over and over and over......

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Scott Wedel 7 months, 3 weeks ago

Mark,

The commercial property market is a well established market which government attempts to control or direct requires better expertise than the best businesses.

There are other situations such as health care where societal values prevent the free market from working well. Society has decided that people without health insurance and unable to pay will not be denied emergency medical care. It would be as if commercial property owners had to provide free space to whatever struggling business asked for commercial space. Then the commercial property market would not work well. Thus, when societal values distort the free market then there becomes a role for government to figure out the cost effective means to achieve that societal objective.

I do not believe that SB has decided that locally grown food or local outdoors manufacturers are such critical social values that it justifies city government distorting the commercial property market. And thus, SB government should not be trying to select new tenants or uses for the TIC property.

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