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Greener Pastures: Want to eat more local food?

Cassie Pence
Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

On a random Monday evening, I found myself walking around downtown Carbondale with time to burn. So I popped into a few different stores and checked out the local yoga studio and consignment shops, and what I discovered is that Carbondale has a thriving local food scene.

As an outsider – someone not seeking it out – I could have easily fashioned an entire meal from local food just by shopping in a couple of downtown stores. The food co-op sold local greens, onions, potatoes, radishes, eggs and even locally grown greenhouse tomatoes from Eagle Springs Organic in Silt – a sight that made me crave for the days of summer and farmers’ markets. There was cheese from Basalt’s Avalanche Cheese Co., and for dessert, the co-op sold chocolate truffles made by a woman in Carbondale.

Down the road, I could have bought hamburgers to grill on this perfectly balmy March evening at Crystal River Meats, a retail store dedicated solely to selling 100 percent local meats, including grass-fed beef, chicken, heritage pork and lamb. Crystal River Meats operates a collection of ranch properties leased from local landowners within a 200-mile radius of Carbondale. Here, I could have also picked up a couple of loaves of bread baked locally.

I continued to walk, checking out the menus hanging on doors and windows, and the words “locally grown” appeared again and again.

When it comes to local food, the grass sure looks greener in this little Roaring Fork Valley town. Why can’t it be this easy to eat local food in our Eagle Valley?

Before you business owners start firing angry emails at me (“I sell local cheese!” “We carry honey from Palisade!” “We have meat from local ranches, too!”), don’t get me wrong, you can find local food in our valley – but it’s not as easy as a stroll downtown.

In other words, we need to increase our access to local food in this valley and strengthen the local food shed. Right now, there is a group of dedicated “locavores” striving to do just that.

Colorado Mountain College, home to the sustainable cuisine degree, and the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability have partnered with Slow Food on Campus to host the inaugural Local Food Expo from 3 to 7 p.m. March 20 at CMC in Edwards.

Presented by the Vail Daily, the event is designed to increase access to local food in the Eagle Valley by connecting local food producers with local buyers. Farmers, ranchers and local food businesses will gather to showcase and sell the fruits of their labors – everything from veggies, community-supported agriculture shares to milk, cheese, raw honey, elk, eggs, grass-fed beef, lamb, bison, chicken and heritage turkeys.

For those of you who are interested in eating more local food – including chefs and institutional buyers who wish to serve more local food – this is your opportunity to make connections with a rancher to purchase a cow share, for example, or find out what it really means to be a community-supported agriculture member on a farm. At least three farms that offer summer CSA shares – Borden Farms, Osage Farms and Grant Family Farms – will be there.

MM Local will be there, too, a company that partners with Front Range farmers to preserve and can produce at the peak of ripeness to sell at specialty food stores, such as cut. in Edwards, or in a “harvest share” program, similar to a CSA share. It’s a unique company that helps us eat locally year-round.

Local experts also will present “mini workshops” throughout the Local Food Expo on various food-centric topics, including farming, canning, tomato growing and organic labeling. There will be plenty of sampling and food for sale at the event, as well.

I could wax on and on about the benefits of eating locally, from the economic reasons to the most simplest of pleasure reasons – yellow Roma tomatoes in July taste like heaven. But as you mark your calendars for the Local Food Expo on March 20, think about these three reasons as to why you want to be there:

• Reduce your carbon footprint.

• Add nutrition and taste to your life.

• Stabilize your source of sustenance, combating the current fragility of our global food system.

Freelance writer Cassie Pence is passionate about living a more sustainable lifestyle, and she’s working hard to bring you the Local Food Expo. She owns Organic Housekeepers, a green cleaning company, and is actively involved in the Eagle-Vail Community Garden, the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability and Slow Food Vail Valley. Contact her at cassie@organic

housekeepers.com.


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