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59 days is our frost free period. The growing season for hardy vegetables stretches from early May to early October. Something like 150 days and season extenders can add a month to the frost free period. We actually have an ideal climate for growing cool season veggies. To me "sustainable" means a method that works, doesn't deplete the resources used in that method, and can be repeated in perpetuity.
I agree that truly "sustainable" is more important than just local. The problem with transporting food long distance to market is that it necessitates an extremely large scale model that lends itself to unsustainable practices so "local" is inherently more sustainable. This is a broad generalization and I realize that if I lived in Iowa "local" could be industrial scale monoculture and cafos which are obviously unsustainable and that truly sustainable products make their way here from elsewhere.
There is no regulation on the usage of the word sustainable. Just because something says sustainable on the package doesn't make it so, but you can visit my farm and see my practices for yourself. That's an accountability you can only get with the local food model. As far as milk goes we have some of the best grass/hay anywhere and I would say that the energy used to put up the hay and feed it out is far less, I'm guessing less than a quarter, than that used to import milk over mountain ranges.
As a local producer I can say that there are people who really do want local food. I've never come home from the farmer's market with much left over and I would bet if City Markup were filled with local product, that is what people would eat. Especially if someone where making frozen pizzas with local ingredients.
Cost is a major factor. Microwave dinners are cheap, fruits and veggies are less so. The only reason that this is so is because the true cost of the cheap food has been externalized. Federal subsidies pay large scale monoculture producers (corn, wheat, and soy which make up most of the products in the center aisles at the mega mart) to sell their yields for next to nothing. Without this government support the price of these items would double or triple. Fruits, veggies, and other whole foods would look cheap considering their superior nutrition.
Routt is generally highly educated and educated people make educated decisions no matter which side of the aisle they fall. Living in Steamboat is not unsustainable in and of itself, just living here sustainably may take a bit more work and sacrifice than it would elsewhere and growing our own food is a part of that equation. It's the post-industrial lifestyle that is unsustainable. Without going back to traditional pre-industrial lifestyle, none of us will be 100% sustainable. I think feeling good about one's self is important and even small things can add up in the big picture.
Help Wanted: Creating a more vibrant and sustainable future.
Community surveys have identified what is important to people here when they make food choices. These include cost, convenience, safety, freshness, nutrition, sustainability, supporting local producers, and supporting local businesses. Local agriculture if done right can accomplish all these goals. It has been proven over the years that Routt can produce really great food. Greens, veggies, some fruit, grains, dairy and meats are all possible. However several obstacles stand in the way of a local food system here.
First is a lack of infrastructure. As the tourism industry rose the ag industry faded and many key pieces of infrastructure fell by the wayside and were replaced by the industrial ag system. Institutional memory of traditional agricultural techniques is close to gone. We produce tons of wheat but there is no mill to turn it in to flour. Livestock is our bread and butter but we have no slaughterhouses to turn it into meat for the local market. There are lots of farmers and aspiring farmers here but no cooperatives to consolidate crops into a reliable local supply or pool equipment and land.
That brings us to the cost of land. At a 1/2 to a million dollars for 35 acres a farmer could never expect to be able to pay for a productive parcel on farm income alone. Add to this a cost of living that makes getting affordable help impractical. Not to mention a short growing season. These factors discourage young aspiring producers from seeing farming as financially sustainable.
There is also the issue of education. Many people aren't aware of the health benefits of eating locally, the health issues that arise out of the industrial model, and that the true cost of cheap food has been externalized leaving the environment, the taxpayers, the lower class, and the third world holding the bill. The education system is also bent on turning our best and brightest into bankers and lawyers and such instead of focusing their talents on our most basic human need, sustenance.
The good news is that these problems are solvable. Where there is a will there is a way and the first step is education. If you care about your health, your community, the environment, and/or the future please take the time to educate yourself on where your food comes from. The next step is involvement. By taking an interest in local food you can become a part of the solution. Then there is action. These problems aren't going to fix themselves. Your actions are what will make a more sustainable food system possible.
I'll take a racquetball court.
Mark, Still not sure I'm getting it. You are arguing against government planning and interference in the "free" market and at the same time arguing for an agricultural system that is only still viable because it is propped up by government subsidies? The same subsidies that prop up ethanol?
The beautiful thing about sustainable ag is that it is not static. It is not tied down by quarter million dollar grain silos and chicken houses and can change as the market dictates.
The reason you don't see such sustainable practices as cows and chickens around yet is that because of these government subsidies, factory farmed meat is still cheaper. You say that the market is always right. So is the earth. The more closely a model can follow the natural systems that have evolved over millenniums to exist sustainably on this planet, the more sustainable it will be.
Just as the power plant is required to not externalize it's costs by shoving the burden of cleaning up it's own mess on downstream users, the same should be expected of any business such as farms that treat crops with toxic pesticides that contaminate water supplies.
I'm certainly not suggesting any sort of legislation to fix this problem. Just and end to the legislation that is causing it and let the market do it's thing. As the founders of this nation did, WE the people can use economic pressure though our consumer choices as leverage to bring positive change to an unjust system.
Sustainability by definition is a system that works in perpetuity. Industrial ag is not sustainable.
I may have much to learn about economics, but I don't think you can convince me that pouring toxic chemicals onto our food and water supply is a good thing.
I definitely agree that good intentions can have disastrous consequences for a nation. The "green revolution" of the 1950s that brought about our current industrial agricultural system is a perfect example of your point.
It is not true that industrial ag can feed more people. Sustainable ag is certainly more labor intensive and requires a lot more farmers per acre, but side by side it has comparable production per acre using less water and energy with higher profits. ,http://rodaleinstitute.org/our-work/farming-systems-trial/farming-systems-trial-30-year-report/
If people 100 years ago insisted on sustainable practices, the worlds population would still be at a sustainable level, or sustainable innovation would have come forth to meet that need.
I think Charlie's point is that as individual consumers we hold the power to create a more vibrant local food economy. Thus increasing our food security and health.
Sorry, I did not mean to get preachy there...
but I for one cannot in good conscience knowingly contribute to a system that's goal is to use up all available resources as quickly as possible for the monetary gain of a few.
"We" are a community. Without a plan there is no goal and achievement is impossible.
The Market works as long as there is supply and demand. Two sides of a coin. If there is no supply (or no demand) there is no market.
80% of all fresh water usage in the U.S. is agricultural. Our current rate of usage is draining reserves (aquifers) 60% faster than the rate of return. Supply is dwindling. Demand is soaring. What happens when there is not enough to go around? Only those who can afford it get it?
The industrial model denudes the soil, while small sustainable farms build the soil up making it more fertile and drought resistant, able to produce more food with less water.
The Market works right if it is truly free, which ours is not. Though there is a (farmer's) market that allows me to choose the sustainable model, I have to pay more as the industrial model is heavily subsidized and it's costs externalized. That's not a level playing field and lessens my purchasing power.
As for "Buy Local", I think it can certainly jive with tourism in a "when in Rome" kind of way. I doubt the "Buy Local" campaign has convinced anyone not to come here. In fact the draw created by Steamboat's ranching heritage as promoted by Ski Corp. could be considered Agri-tourism... local, sustainable agriculture as a draw to tourists. Just sayin'.
Ag and water are, simply put, the most important issues facing the world today. The industrial model is beginning to fail and and it is urgent that we develop a more sustainable model.
Please read this and decide if your local farmer might be using resources a little more wisely than Monsanto, DuPont, Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, General Mills, and Bunge.
Sorry if this is a bit of a downer. Responsibility can be cruel. Luckily we do have the resources (water, soil, sun, game, and livestock genetics) to feed ourselves here, thought it will take a concerted effort.
The local food question is much more than an economic one, it is also one of morality and social responsibility. Our only real vote is in our pocket book and consumer demand drives future production. Of all our consumer choices, the one that we are constantly making is what we eat. It can and should be our vessel to making a difference, to being a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
The real value in knowing who makes our food comes in knowing that we are not supporting Monsanto controlled multinational conglomerates and big box bullies who routinely lower costs by cutting corners at the expense of worker safety and pay, the environment, quality, and (gasp) our tax dollar subsidies. Not to mention that the fresher it is the more nutritious it is.
By making the small sacrifices of going out of our way to find and purchase locally grown whole foods, paying a little more than we're used to, and taking the time to get educated on true costs of industrialized food we can all make a big difference. See you at the farmers market.
Yes, I understand that a gun is meant to kill. So what? They are never retailed to be used for crime. That is an invention of the criminal mind. Still not sure what you are arguing. I am arguing for responsibility.
Last login: Friday, October 18, 2013
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