Saturday, June 14, 2008

A few words about despair

Yes, sometimes I despair. Don't we all? Oil going up. Food prices going up. Foreclosures going up, with a mountain of credit card debt hanging over people. Crop failures all over the world due to unpredictable weather events.

I read a good article on Fake Plastic Fish blog this morning, worth sharing. . It's worth while
to read the very thoughtful comments on this article too.

I hope Rosa does not mind me quoting her comment. It has a lot to say to me, and hopefully to you too.

"One thing about about this movement is that there is a place for everyone in it.

"If you're a homemaker, you can do the Riot 4 Austerity thing. If you're a commuter, you can bike or find transit or carpool options. If you are a researchy, internet-y person, you can have a blog and share that talent. If you like to be in-your-face with people, you can go sing with Reverend Billy (we did that a few years ago at the Mall of America, and it was a blast.) If you are secretly a mad scientist, you can build bike-powered things.

"Everything needs doing, so anything you love to do, you can do it as a way to change the world. Because it all needs doing, you can choose to do the parts that feed you and keep you going."

That's why my DH and I started the 100-mile diet, and why I started the LoveLandLocal Food Buying Cooperative. This is the "part that feeds me", and the marvelous thing is that it feeds a lot of other people too. We have over 70 families in the cooperative now, ordering over a thousand dollars worth of organic food every month: produce from Colorado, and staples from the western U.S.

Without the food cooperative, April and May would have been too difficult for us on the 100-mile diet. Not that we would have starved, but two months without fresh vegetables is pretty hard to face. We couldn't get through a case of butter lettuce by ourselves, but with help from other members, together we can polish off two cases easily (that's 48 heads of lettuce). Ambrosia!

The Colorado vegetables are coming in. Many CSAs have started already. We can buy spinach, three kinds of lettuce, parsley, fresh herbs, snap peas (!) from our organic suppliers. And I'm finding radishes, and hothouse tomatoes, cukes and peppers at the Farmer's Markets. Our CSA starts next month.

I'm going to stop criticizing the Farmer's Markets. It is very time-consuming for produce farmers to wash up their stuff, drive it into town, and sit there for three hours not making very much money. And the non-produce stuff there IS really very good. Solutions for late-spring veggie lack include 1. bulk buying, 2. season extenders (so I can grow my own), 3. putting up more stuff when it's in season (which I also plan to do).

Or, 4. for the larger solution:
As a community, I'd like to see us foster a business with orchards and greenhouses like Jerome Osentowski's in the Carbondale area. His greenhouses pump hot air deep into the soil from the daytime sunshine, and reverse and pump it back out at night. The fans are solar-powered. Almost no supplemental heating is required, even on the hills above Basalt where he lives.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Strong Food Infrastructure for Carbondale; how about here?

I received a flyer recently about the CSA Farm School in Carbondale proposal. You can read about it in the Aspen Daily News. From the flyer:

Short Version of what we plan to do

  • "Build a network of CSAs and farms to help make this valley independent from national and international food supply chains, starting with a working CSA and market farm in Carbondale, Ute City Farms in Woody Creek, and including the already established Peach Valley Farm CSA in Silt."

  • "These farms will serve as the campuses for a CSA farm school, which will supply the valley and greater area with farmers, farm workers, and knowledgeable citizen gardeners."

  • "The nursery, located on site, will also provide the area with fruit trees and edible landscaping plants to help people start growing in their own backyards."

Why this needs to happen now

"Through a perfect storm of energy cost increases, global food and fertilizer shortages, and a growing global population... we are at a crucial juncture in human history, especially as regards food. The creation of a strong food infrastructure that does not rely entirely on outside sources of supply is the best step we as a community can take to ensure our safety, security, and survival..."

They plan to have 10 acres in vegetables, and 5 acres for orchard, plant nursery, and greenhouses. They have a number of partner organizations, and significant seed money to make this happen. I'm impressed!!

I see no reason why we can't do something similar in Weld and Larimer Counties. We already have a nucleus of wonderful CSAs, dairies, and livestock growers. If the Carbondale people can keep orchards in the mountains near Aspen, we can certainly keep orchards here. In fact, Loveland used to be a big cherry growing area, and with climate change, we have gained a whole zone in plant hardiness (previously 4/5 to 5/6 now).

What would it take to bring Larimer and Weld people together for a local and sustainable food system? With the costs of transportation skyrocketing, food from other continents will become more and more expensive. If we want food security in the future, we need to build a partnership of interested farmers and community organizations, with the clear intention of becoming 80% food-sustainable (and working toward 95%).

Please, if you read this post, respond with some ideas for putting something like this together. If Carbondale can do it, we can do it!

Month 7: May, not out of the woods yet

This will be a short post, since I've already discussed May problems recently. We broke down and got outside our circle, even
for fresh produce. We've been practically living off the organic butter lettuce (from Newcastle CO) and spinach (CO growers), and
Honeyacre hothouse tomatoes, cukes and peppers from Wiggins. I'd have been forced into the Safeway for the anonymous greens (California if not farther away), if I hadn't started the LoveLandLocal food buying cooperative.

As always, high quality meat, eggs, and dairy products are not a problem to find locally.

Finding staples also required going outside the circle; some are available from Colorado: quinoa, millet, several kinds of beans, hard red winter wheat and flour, but others are coming from the Rocky Mountain West.

Myrto Ashe tells me that Boulder is bursting with fresh local produce, at the farmers markets, and Jay Hill farm which will put together an order for you. Unfortunately Weld and Larimer County growers haven't got their late-spring act together yet. It's a chicken and egg problem: they won't go to the trouble of bringing in the early-season vegetables, because it's a lot of work and we won't buy them. Many people don't go to the farmers markets because the vegetable-to-other stuff ratio is so low. How can we turn this into a "virtuous cycle" instead of a "vicious cycle"?
Ideas? (see next post too)