MINTURN – When Gerlinde Debie moved to America at age 19 from Belgium, she gained 30 pounds, which she claims was largely due to her diet of processed foods.Debie grew up in farm country outside Brussels. As a child, she would stick her little hand through neighboring fences to pull carrots fresh from the ground and take a nibble. Her family would go daily to markets and buy fresh produce. Moving to America threw her off a bit from natural living, but Debie has returned to her farm-fresh roots.She recently opened Purple Sage Organics. The business is two-fold. It’s a home delivery service of organic produce, groceries, fresh baked bread products, dairy products and more. She markets to restaurants, second-homeowners and property managers, filling kitchens with organic goods for people traveling to Vail on vacation. Purple Sage Organics also serves as a food co-op for individuals and families who can order customized produce boxes and pick them up weekly at the warehouse in Minturn. She also mans a booth at the Minturn Market Saturdays until Sept. 10, selling organic produce, natural foods and baby clothes made from recycled fibers.”Everyone says organic is a trend, but for me, it’s a way of living,” Debie said. “Things taste so much better when you know where it comes from. We need to be re-educated.”
It was when Debie became pregnant and had two kids that she first began eating organic again. She began buying only organic and preparing her own baby food.”I used to make monthly trips to Whole Foods in Denver and spend $600,” Debie said. “For me, organics taste better. Food is more alive and has more nutritional value.”It was about this time she met a local woman who had organized an organic cooperative of about five people. They were ordering cases from Rainbow Natural Food, a wholesale distributor of natural and organic products and the same vendor Whole Foods uses. The woman was moving away, and Debie decided to take over her position. When she did, the co-op began to grow from the humble five to about 50 and then eventually it expanded into Purple Sage Organics. Debie began talking with local farmers and ordering her products from them. She buys her flower hanging baskets, culinary herbs and flowers from Anderson Farms in Longmont. She also deals with Peachvalley CSA in Silt, Ella Farms in Hotchkiss and other even more local vendors. Debie said she loves talking with the farmers because they are “truly alive.””When she took it over, Gerlinde made it better,” said Christian Farr of Wildridge, a member of the original co-op and current client of Purple Sage Organics. “She was more organized, she brought more people into the co-op and made her storefront in Minturn. She made sure people took turns helping her every week.”
Farr orders bulk organic greens, household items like natural cleaners that aren’t petroleum based and fresh produce from Purple Sage Organics. She said Debie can order items you can’t find at City Market, like spelt berries, which Farr uses to grind her own flour.”The reason we buy organic is because it doesn’t have pesticides and herbicides,” Farr said. “We did it because of the health issues that were rising when our first child was little. We wanted to support her immune system the best we could. We could only do that buy buying organic.”Debie, who also works at the Vail hospital as a nurse, strongly believes eating organics can improve health, especially in children. Debie’s seen the cancer rate rise first-hand, she said.”I think a lot more people are getting sick. There are a lot more childhood illnesses,” Debie said. “I think all those things are related to what we put into our bodies.”
Purple Sage’s motto is “Save Time, Save Money and Save the Earth,” and Debie tries to live by the credo by offering a wide variety of products at competitive prices as well as making the order process an easy one. For example, she offers pre-made produce boxes ranging from the “itty bitty,” 8-10 items for $25, to a “super value box” for the entertainers for $55 and Debie said you will be up to your ears in fruits and veggies. Debie chooses what goes in the box picking only the in-season items. For example in the winter, boxes will feature more root vegetables, but she also works with farmers who have greenhouses. Customers can specify preferences, such as a love for peaches or an allergy to strawberries.”People like to be surprised,” Debie said. “Plus they have to cook with what’s in the box, so it’s really fun.”Customers have the option of joining the co-op by paying a small yearly membership fee for which they will receive a discount, and customers can volunteer their time with Purple Sage, stocking shelves or unpacking product, to receive a discount, as well. You don’t have to be a member to shop with Purple Sage. She is also currently working for paid help. The store also offers fruit, personal care, snack, dried fruit and nut, gourmet and new baby gift baskets.For more information, log on to Purple Sage’s Web site at http://www.purplesageorganics.org or call at 471-2293. Or visit its booth at the Minturn Market today from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Arts and Entertainment Editor Cassie Pence can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 618, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Vail, Colorado