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Do you know your farmer’s name, Eagle Co.?

Melanie Wong
Vail, CO Colorado
Rebecca Moidel/Vail DailyDelling and Andi Zing, owners of Freshies grocery store in Edwards, specialize in selling organic foods. Together the Zing's have eaten organically for 15 years and consider it a way of life, not just a trend.
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EDWARDS, Colorado ” Delling and Andi Zing are quite the local diners.

Lunch for today is a winter vegetable soup containing almost all locally grown vegetables, including black quinoa from western Colorado and sunchokes, a sweet, water chestnut-like vegetable grown by on a farm near Silt.

The Zings’ store, Freshies, sells certified organic foods, which means the food has been produced without conventional pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics or growth hormones, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

But the Zings take their own diets beyond organic. As much as possible, they try to buy food that is grown and produced in the region. The Zings have been buying from local farmers for more than 15 years, said it is more than a movement or trend for them, but a way of life.

“Buying locally supports our value system and beliefs. It seems that many people in this area would rather support their local doctors and physicians than their local growers. Many people have become so disconnected from the land that they have lost track of seasonal items, and they fail to associate quality produce with a high quality of health,” said Delling Zing.

The Zings could be seen as pioneers of the “locavore” culture, an increasingly popular effort to only eat food grown or produced in an area no further than a 100-mile radius from where you live.

The Zings could be included as part of the “locavore” culture, an increasingly popular effort to only eat food grown or produced in an area no further than a 100-mile radius from where you live.

That is not really possible in the Vail Valley, said Delling Zing, but he and his wife still manage to find a good deal of Colorado-based food.

The area’s old-style arugula, peaches and apples are some of the best, he said.

Local produce is a harder to come by in the winter, but the Zings still have some spaghetti squash, fingerling potatoes, black quinoa and San Luis Valley flour in their store.

The couple gets most of their produce from Peach Valley Farm in Silt.

Peach Valley is a “CSA farm,” which stands for community supported agriculture. This approach to farming involes small-scale farms that grow for their communities. Farmers ask supporters in the community to buy “shares” in the season’s upcoming harvest. In return, shareholders get a weekly share of the crops.

Eating locally grown food is more environmentally friendly, the Zings said. Knowing their farmer means they can be sure that pesticides and harmful fertilizers are not used, and that the farm land is being responsibly used.

Plus, Delling Zing said he likes knowing the name of the person who grows their food.

And relationship between the grower and the community is the point, said Ken Kuhns, owner of Peach Valley.

Fresh fruits and vegetables? Kuhns tries to get his produce to his buyers within eight to 30 hours of being picked. Organic? Peach Valley shareholders can see for themselves how the food is produced by working the fields or checking out the farm’s storehouse, which is always open for inspection.

Having a good, local source of food is a great value to the community, he said.

“You know where the food is coming from, and also you’re supporting a local business,” he said.

The cost for locally grown food is a little higher, said Delling Zing, but their $500 share in the farm gets them more food than they can eat. They end up drying and storing what is left, he said.

He knows that his share is an investment in preserving green, working space, he said.

“Sometimes people will equate local produce with cheap prices, but that’s not always true. Usually local farmers have smaller crops and that might mean higher prices,” Delling Zing said.

But the tradeoff is superior quality, he said.

“Eating locally is better for you. It’s not as processed, and it’s fresher, so it’s more nutrient dense,” Delling Zing said.

And you can taste the difference, Andi Zing said.

“It’s about embracing what’s local and fresh, what nature intended for us if we live off the land,” she said. “For example, with local eggs ” you can smell and taste it. You don’t get that sulfur smell you do with eggs from the store.”

Kuhns said people taste his crops and come back asking for more, The higher pH of the soil in the area is good for sweeter crops like fruits ” strawberries have always been popular.

Lettuces and tomatoes also fare well, Kuhns said.

“You pick something in the morning when the dew’s still on it and have it for lunch. Of course it’s going to be fresher,” he said.

Some restaurants, such as Dish! in Edwards serve local products, too.

The restaurant’s menu changes frequently to include the local, in-season products that are brought in, said Dish! owner Pollyanna Forster.

That means citrus dishes in the winter, local mushrooms in the fall, and fresh meats and cheeses from Front Range farms all year.

“It’s important for us to be able to tell people that things are directly from the farm, who made it and where it’s from,” Forster said.

Eating locally produced products not only cuts down on fuel and cost of transportation, but it saves on marketing and packaging materials, she said.

“It’s about bridging the gap between the product and your mouth,” she said.

Both Forster and Kuhns said they have seen more and more people are interested in eating local food and asking more questions about where the food comes from and how it is grown.

“In the 70s, most people didn’t even know what organic meant,” Kuhns said. “Now just look at the creation of farmer’s markets. There’s a lot of interest around here. It’s at the point where it’s difficult for me to keep up.”

http://www.peachvalleycsa.com

http://www.localharvest.com

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.


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