Smart Energy Living - May 2011

Save Food Miles and Add Smiles:
by growing and eating local foods

By: Lisa Greim

As the price of fuel soars, food prices are climbing too. No surprise, since petroleum has a lot to do with dinner. Our average produce travels roughly 1,500 miles by truck or air, and many items come from much farther away - think Chile and New Zealand. Eating food grown closer to home saves energy in the form of “food miles.” 

Beyond that, eating local keeps revenues and jobs in our community, and reflects the uniqueness of our environment. In Colorado, the choices include  potatoes from Carbondale, Palisade peaches and bison raised on the Eastern Plains.

Not only that, it’s just good food! Once you’ve enjoyed your first homegrown tomato or fresh-picked strawberries, the stuff from California and Mexico pales by comparison.

Are there degrees of local? If we accept the farmer’s market standard that anything grown in the state of Colorado qualifies as local food, then farms within your own city limits are local-er, and chow from your own back yard is the local-est food of all.

Here are some things you can do to nurture the locavore movement in Colorado, while nourishing yourself and your family.

Get your hands dirty: Even a condo balcony or tiny patch of yard can produce edible things. Experts at your neighborhood garden center or CSU Extension  understand the unique challenges of our state’s lousy soil, crazy weather and short growing season, and can steer you toward the plant varieties that are most likely to thrive and the products you’ll need to coax them along.

How to do it: Classes and workshops at the Denver Botanic Gardens offer something for everyone, from total beginners to horticulture pros ... the Colorado Nursery and Greenhouse Association rounds up resources for the home gardener, including a workshop calendar and monthly checklist of garden chores.

Join a CSA: It stands for “Community Supported Agriculture,” and it’s booming in Colorado, with, by last count, 95 CSAs all over the state. Your early payment helps small farms cover expenses in the off season. In exchange, you get supplied with produce, meat, farm-fresh dairy and other products. Colorado farm shares come in varieties to suit every household size, budget and dietary preference. Some ask for a contribution of farmwork as well as cash.

How to do it: Several organizations, including Colorado CSAs, Local Harvest and the Rocky Mountain Growers Directory offer lists of farm shares that can be searched by location and products.

Garden with neighbors: Maybe your yard is small, or nonexistent, or your dog has different ideas about gardening than you do. Seek out a community garden where you can share a plot of land, water, seeds and stories with fellow diggers.

Resources: The GrowHaus expects to launch its indoor, hydroponic garden this summer to provide food and teach sustainable methods to residents of the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood ...
Denver Urban Gardens has more than 100 plots all over metro Denver.
Feed Denver: Urban Farms & Markets creates farms in the city where people learn to grow food in Denver’s climate and develop entrepreneurial skills. 
Grow Local Colorado promotes local food, local community and local economy.

Choose local at stores and restaurants: Once the exclusive practice of high-end places, highlighting local food sources has gone mainstream. As the growing season ramps up, you’ll find Colorado-labeled food products on display in many places, from the largest King Soopers or Safeway to In Season Local Market’s two tiny stores in Louisville and Denver. More and more restaurants are featuring local food and diners can support the movement by asking to eat local.

Resources: The Denver Handmade/Homemade Market happens the second Saturday of each month from April through December at Green Spaces, 1368 26th St. ... 
Slow Food USA now has 10 convivia across Colorado, from Fort Collins to Telluride, each promoting their area’s farms, stores and restaurants.

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