Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: Kilt Farm CSA catastrophe | SteamboatToday.com

Northwest Colorado Food Coalition: Kilt Farm CSA catastrophe

Charlie Preston-Townsend/For Steamboat Pilot & Today

We are more disconnected from our food than ever before. Ask most people where they get their food and they will likely reply "the grocery store." While that may be the case, it does not fully answer the question.

Most of our food still comes from a farm. That farm is likely located in a far-away part of the world, and our food has to travel great distances before it reaches our plates. Similarly, the cost of our food is unclear. The price we pay at checkout hardly reflects the effort involved in getting it there.

If you are like me, you can't help but wonder how a banana from South America can be grown, picked, packaged, shipped, stocked, sold and eaten for so cheep. In wondering these things, I've come to embrace a different model of food production. A Community Supported Agriculture) is a model that eliminates the lengthy, and often convoluted supply chain, replacing it with a direct relationship with the people responsible for the production of our food.

For two years, I have worked with the Kilt Farm to provide a CSA to Steamboat Springs. Anyone who has attempted to grow his or her own food around here knows it is extremely hard with 59 frost-free days. It was this realization that led former Steamboat resident Michael Moss to Boulder County, and myself to source from him.

The CSA model of food production works as a sort of investment. By purchasing a CSA share at the beginning of the summer, you are investing in the farm with returns in the form of a weekly share of the harvest. This investment also comes with risks. Farming is a gamble with countless variables affecting the outcome. When one of those variables results in a loss it can be devastating to a farm. The CSA model, however, offers a buffer to the farmer in the case of catastrophe.

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Last week Boulder County experienced catastrophe. Moss called it the "30 minutes that changed everything." At Kilt Farm, as a full crew of farm hands was preparing for a wonderful harvest day, the skies opened up. It started with rain, quickly turning to hail. The destructive force of hail the size of marbles — and the occasional golf ball — on Moss’s farm proved devastating.

It is in these instances that the CSA model proves most beneficial. To the customer it may seem unfortunate that their weekly shares would dwindle after an event like this. To the farmer, however, having shared the expenses, and thus the gamble, of a season of growing with a dedicated and supportive group of customers allows them the piece of mind to keep growing.

It will take several weeks for the plants at Kilt Farm to rebound from such an extreme weather event. While Kilt Farm is changing their planting plans and extending the season into the fall to try to provide a bounty for the members, certainly the members of the CSA will feel the impact.  While this may seem too great a risk to take, I find comfort in knowing my food investment directly supports the work of a dedicated farmer, and the creation of a more just, transparent and healthy food system.

Charlie Preston-Townsend is a member of Northwest Colorado Food Coalition.