Our View: Sharing the harvest


When we learned this week about the new “Grow a Row” for LIFT-UP of Routt County program initiated by the Northwest Colorado Food Coalition, we were intrigued with its simplicity and potential.

Steamboat Today editorial board — May to September 2014

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  • John Merrill, community representative

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Grow a Row seeks to leverage the increasing interest here in producing food locally, to generate a seasonal supply of fresh produce that would be channeled to low-income families. LIFT-UP Executive Director Laura Schmidt told us that her organization’s food bank clients are eager for more fresh food in place of the packaged foods that are the staple of many food banks.

And that’s a good sign. The national media have widely reported the perplexing problem of the urban poor who live in neighborhoods that are far removed from modern supermarkets. Denied access to fresh produce, many families on the edge of economic sustainability turn to inexpensive meals of fast food or highly processed food.

A March 2013 Time magazine article that included an interview with the author of the book “Salt, Sugar, Fat,” pointed out that Americans poor and affluent know they need to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables, but that goal is not attainable for the working poor.

Author and New York Times journalist Michael Moss told Time that when low-income shoppers weigh the cost of a small container of fresh blueberries, for example, against the cost of processed energy bars that include excess sugar along with blueberry filling, it presents a difficult choice. Essentially, families living just below the poverty line are pushed in the direction of processed foods that offer poor nutritional value.

The problem isn’t a scarcity of food, but the prohibitive cost of healthy food, Moss explained.

“Everyone is convinced that the government subsidies that support processed food need to be shifted over in some way to fresh fruits and vegetables or it’s going to continue to be hard for even people who want to eat better to do so financially,” he told Time.

The new Grow a Row program here can’t solve similar challenges in the Yampa Valley — the growing season is short. Local gardeners can’t produce enough fresh vegetables and fruits on a year-round basis to truly alter the diets of our working poor. But gardeners willing to grow an extra row of salad lettuce for LIFT-UP, or bring in a bucket of root vegetables, will be overcoming the high costs of fresh foods while reinforcing their benefits to people who might otherwise feel compelled to make less healthy choices.

Local gardeners who want to up their game in order to produce food for LIFT-UP can easily access the Master Gardeners fostered by CSU Extension in Routt County for advice. They will be found at the Saturday morning Farmers Markets beginning June 14 and continuing through Sept. 13. At least one master gardener will staff a booth at the market on Seventh Street and will welcome questions.

And LIFT-UP is in talks with another nonprofit in the region, LiveWell Northwest Colorado, about establishing a container garden where LIFT-UP clients who choose to, could get their hands in the soil and raise a crop of their own.

We can easily imagine that some LIFT-UP clients — single parents with two jobs, for example — already have their plates full (in the metaphorical sense). But for people who have the time, we think the healthy benefits of growing food locally would quickly expand to include improved self-esteem, a sense of ownership, and of accomplishment.

Not to mention the satisfaction community food growers will realize from sharing their crop. We applaud these healthy initiatives on the part of the local food community.


Lisa Marxuach 2 years, 11 months ago

I have to tell you all the story behind this initiative! It's an initiative that's close to my heart! My friend, Lynne Garell, was a co-founder of the group Deep Roots with my husband and me. We all met 6 years ago &, at that time, she hosted an evening at her home for the group of us who were all quite passionate about everything "local food" related! While there, I found myself feeling so touched by the sweetness that was evident in the relationship she & her husband, Dale Morris, shared. It was very motivational and inspiring on many levels. They talked about their dreams to have gardens where lots of the produce would be donated to Lift Up and we agreed that organic fresh produce shouldn't be available to only those who can afford to purchase it. Lynne eventually stepped away from Deep Roots when Dale was diagnosed with brain cancer. Sadly, Dale passed away in January of this year and it was at his celebration of life where my husband and I, not surprisingly, had some discussions about local food production - our favorite topic! Lynne mentioned how Lift Up doesn't get much home grown produce, shrugged one shoulder, looked at those who she was speaking with and nonchalantly said "Plant a zucchini for Lift Up." Zucchini - the gift that keeps on giving in the plant world! I was awed by yet another brilliant idea of Lynnes (she has lots) and took the idea to the next Local Food Task Force meeting, as I had recently begun delving into volunteering again in the movement here in town. It was so simple and achievable - not an idea that would feel daunting to anyone wanting to grow something. One plant. Lots of produce! Brilliant!! The idea wound up getting tabled but at the quarterly meeting where all the different organizations came together, despite Laura from Lift Up sitting all the way on the other side of the room from me, I felt the compulsion to blurt the idea out to see if it would get any traction. It's a good idea - too good to be tabled! (maybe I'm not a good team player?!) Anyway - I was thrilled when she immediately said she loved it too! I feel this is a round about way of honoring the memory of Dale and the plan he and Lynne hadn't had the opportunity to accomplish with producing gardens that would feed the "under served". Lynne also is thrilled this is a movement that is now in motion! Lets feed our community!


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