‘Beyond organic’ is food security tactic
Vail, CO Colorado
CARBONDALE ” Brook LeVan is normally a pretty cheerful guy, but get the founder of Sustainable Settings talking about the prospects for the United States in the near future, and he becomes almost grim.
LeVan, with his wife, Rose, operates Sustainable Settings on a small ranch just outside Carbondale, where he is engaged in a campaign to revive small-scale farming.
With his combination research center and demonstration project, he is raising what he calls “beyond organic” vegetables, fruits and livestock, selling the produce at area farmers markets and out of a small shed on the grounds of his ranch.
And on Saturday and Sunday, he will hold his annual Harvest Festival, featuring speakers on a variety of topics related to his work. LeVan will give a talk on, as a brochure puts it, “the consequences of our choices and history, and what we can do to build a durable future.”
LeVan is an advocated of eating foods raised locally rather than transported great distances. “We’re looking at the collapse of a lot of systems that govern our lifestyles,” he said. “Our national food security is incredibly fragile.”
For example, he said, twice last year, blizzards shut down transportation systems on the Front Range, and, as a consequence, grocery store shelves in the some parts of the mountains went empty for a while.
Another example, he said, was the food scare last year when contaminated spinach sickened consumers around the country. The spinach, LeVan said, was fertilized with cow manure that contained a strain of E. coli. And that strain of bacteria, he maintained, was a product of corporate-scale livestock systems and the types of feed that cattle get in those systems.
“It’s not just about taste,” he said of organic, locally produced foods, “or even just about nutrient density. It’s about trust and food safety. I don’t think it’s a fad. I think people are scared, frightened about their food.”
He said that among the things his research has shown is that small-scale farming is possible even in the Roaring Fork Valley, where a development boom has eaten up vast amounts of acreage and drastically reduced local agriculture.
Since the price of land is beyond the reach of most agriculturists, he said, it’s possible to strike deals with wealthy landowners to use some of their fallow land for food production, which in turns qualifies the landowner for tax breaks. In the case of landowners with fruit trees, harvesting the fruit can be seen as a free pruning service, he said.