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Passionate about produce

Caramie SchnellVail CO, Colorado
AE Organic Food SM 3-13-07
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Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series about eating and buying locally produced food. In Thursday’s Arts and Entertainment section, find out why people are choosing local over organic food, and how you can join a community supported agriculture farm on the Western Slope.EAGLE COUNTY – The last thing on four-year-old Ella Dunn’s mind when she’s eating strawberries is where the strawberries came from. If you asked her, she’d probably tell you the fridge in the kitchen. This summer though, her mother, Shannon, has plans to show her where those fruits and veggie’s she’s munching on grew – specifically Peach Valley Farm CSA in Silt – about an hour west of their Eagle ranch home. CSA stands for community supported agriculture, and that’s just what Peach Valley is – a small-scale farm that is supported by its members. People pay an annual membership fee, which helps cover the production costs of farms, and in return, individuals and families receive a weekly share of the farm’s production during the growing season. CSAs increase the relationship between the people and the food they eat.”You can go down and help them pick stuff for a day and collect the eggs and such. I want Ella to be able to participate in that,” Shannon said.The Dunns tried a lot of new vegetables they’d never eaten before last summer, she said – greens like kale and young lettuces. Ella, a fruit lover, would “inhale” the fresh fruit each week, Shannon said.”The strawberries were the best strawberries I’ve ever had. We got a ton of basil and I made fresh pesto, and I made apricot jam with all the apricots – which I’d never done before. Their produce just tastes different – everything is sweeter. Once you have this, you never go back, unless you’re forced to because it’s winter.”Edwards residents Maria and Dan Piliero have three children between the ages of 6 and 2 and a fourth on the way. This upcoming summer will be their fourth year being members of Peach Valley CSA. Each week the children get excited about the produce delivery, most of which was picked not more than 24-hours prior. “They’re like, ‘what’s going to be in there this week?’ I wonder if they’ll be more plums? I love seeing them get excited about vegetables and fruit,” Maria said. Maria grew up on a small farm in Ohio, and it’s important to her to feed her children the same things she grew up on, she said. Plus, she enjoys that the produce is fresh, organic and grown locally. There’s also a real sense of community that comes with being a member of the co-op, she said.”We can go to visit the farm, our kids can gather eggs and hold the baby turkey’s and chickens and help with the farm chores,” Maria said.Produce with prideThe first CSA farms in North America started in the mid – ’80s. Peach Valley has been a CSA for 17 years and have grown on their five acres of land for the past 28 years, owner Gail Kuhns said. The farm feeds about 80 households, 10-15 are those are in Eagle County.Shannon heard about the co-op last spring from her friend and neighbor Caroline Haines. She decided to split a share for the summer season with Haines, mainly because she wanted to support local crops she said, as well as feed her husband and children organic fruits and vegetables. A “share” grows as the garden does, Kuhns said. In June and early July the share takes the form of a bag full of fresh produce (3-5 pounds), by August and September a 25-35 pound box of fresh produce is delivered to the Edwards drop off location (last summer it was at Freshies) every Thursday. “Last spring was my first time doing it and I was extremely happy with it,” Shannon said.Shannon was so pleased she decided to go in on a share with Haines again and she’s also ordering a share of the fresh flowers and twice a month, she’ll get an arrangement compiled of flowers like cosmos, sweet peas and sunflowers, medicinal and culinary herbs like lavender and rosemary and flowering grains and grasses (total of 12 arrangements is an additional $210).Year-round ediblesThough Peach Valley has winter and springtime shares available (check out http://www.peachvalleycsa.com) – they only deliver to Eagle County during the summer, Kuhns said, mainly because of bad road conditions during the winter and spring months. There are other options for people looking for year-round organic produce. Vail resident Jennifer Harrison discovered a Denver-based company called Door to Door Organics last summer at the Minturn Farmer’s Market and started subscribing to the companies weekly delivery service. Each week she gets a “bitty” box of vegetables delivered to her work (you can also opt to leave a cooler outside and have it delivered to your doorstep, she said.) The cost of the box, which includes 4-5 different vegetables, is $22 and well worth it, Harrison said. “The veggie’s are really good – way better than the grocery store,” she said. “The cost is pretty reasonable, I think it’s a little more than the grocery store, but it saves a lot of trips to the grocery and the quality is better.” Harrison liked the service so much that she recommended it to her friends. Now six of her close friends have fresh produce delivered every week as well. “You get an e-mail on Fridays saying what veggie’s are in that week and then you can substitute if you want,” Harrison said. “The lettuce is really good – I’ll usually get three lettuces, carrots, tomatoes, avocados, spinach, and broccoli.” You can also order specialty add-ons each week, Harrison said, things like organic peanut butter or fresh seafood. When the company can buy Colorado produce, they do, owner David Gersenson said. That’s not always possible, though. Tropical fruit, for example, comes from the Dominican Republic, but from American-owned farms and the fruit is USDA organic certified.The quality of the food source continues to be a hot topic. These families and individuals who sought out alternatives to global-based agriculture are just part of a movement to return to the basics.Caramie Schnell can be reached for comment at 748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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