Front Range-based farmer hopes to inspire innovation in Yampa Valley

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If you go

What: Talking Green event

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Creekside Cafe and Grill

Online: www.yvsc.org/talkinggreen

We often hear about “closing the loop” when it comes to environmental practices, but what does that mean exactly, what’s a loop and why are we closing it?

The loop can be looked at as the cycle of something — the cycle of life, economics and sustainability. When the loop is left open, waste occurs. Wasting energy, time and money — all things no one likes to waste — all expended and never returned.

However, if you enlist some simple practices that capture these expenditures and put them back into the cycle, the loop is closed, and waste is eliminated.

Brendan McCrann has taken this concept to the fields, literally, and will be speaking at the next Talking Green event from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday. Talking Green is a long-standing adult educational series program hosted by the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council.

Together with co-owner Phillip Griffith, McCrann started the Future Pointe Farmin May 2011 in Rush. They hit the ground running, and through their diverse programs, they’ve turned agriculture into a tightly closed loop with minimal waste. From food waste diversion to urban gardening, McCrann has become an expert on the topic of closing the loop.

Future Pointe is a small homestead and farm that connects waste, agriculture and people on the Brett Gray Ranch, established by the Nature Conservancy in 2007 to protect and preserve undeveloped prairies and to conserve the habitat of a wide-range of species that live in Eastern Colorado.

One of these close-the-loop programs that McCrann will be discussing at the Talking Green event will be the Care and Share Zero Waste program. Future Pointe receives 4,000 pounds of food waste per week from Care and Share, the Colorado Springs-based Food Bank, and transforms that waste into pig feed, chicken feed and garden compost. Pork, eggs and fresh produce grown from this waste go back to the Food Bank — closing the loop.

“It’s totally possible, springboarding off this waste resource, to transform waste into food and to strengthen the entire farm operation,” McCrann said.

But you can’t open 4,000 cans, boxes and cases of food on your own — it takes a community. And Future Pointe is big on “live learning” to promote their practices — teaching urban farming and agriculture. Their Lab for Life program works with at-risk youths from the Dale House Project, www.thedalehouse.org, and Regis University interns from the Teilhard de Chardin Homestead. Participants learn to integrate waste interception, agriculture and at-risk people to educate on the “intentional community” concept, a truly live version of the closed-loop concept beyond just collecting food waste.

“The vision was to experiment,” said McCrann, “to live off the land, use water pumped by a windmill, grow food and experience solitude.”

From total scratch, they build a sustainable community in just two years.

McCrann consults with nonprofits on all of his many zero waste concepts, and YVSC’s hope is that McCrann inspires a broader connectivity to promote further reduction in waste in the Yampa Valley.

Food waste occurs in countless quantities from kitchens across the valley — from food banks to medical centers and care facilities, to the 100 restaurants and cafes in town — that could be recovered by backyard farmers and ranchers alike, that drastically would cut down costs on both ends of the stream. The farmers would save money on feed, the businesses and nonprofits would save money on waste pickup. Nearly 40 percent of America’s food is wasted, and nearly 40 percent of America is food insecure. What if we closed that loop?

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

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