Where Your Food Comes from Matters
Do you ever stop to think about what you’re eating and where it came from? How the food you’re eating got to your table? The efforts it took to get there?
As the climate changes and impacts our communities, it is important to have a strong local food economy and agricultural system. The Roaring Fork Food Alliance, formed in 2012, is a local food coalition that is helping to expand our local food system. “Investing in yourself by eating locally produced, organic foods will reap benefits to your health and keep you out of the doctor’s office,” comments the Alliance’s Gwen Garcelon.
Our valley offers many options when it comes to local organic foods, and the benefits of locavore eating are huge: better health, better taste, fresher food, lower environmental impact, higher nutrient content and a stronger economy.
The nutritional value of our foods has been declining for decades due to soil depletion. The link between human health and food has been documented for decades, and local producers understand the need to improve our food sources.
Herbs from Osage Gardens in New Castle
Theresa Rumery, manager of the Osage Gardens organic farm in New Castle, says that “the importance of soil nutrient density is key to producing food with higher nutrient value.” Osage, which is dedicated to growing certified organic culinary herbs, is a great example of a local organic food producer that puts a serious effort into improving the soil as they grow their herbs and vegetables.
Osage has a farm store on their property that sells both their products and other locally-made items. In addition to offering winter hours and extended summer hours, they also offer a version of a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In this flexible program, a consumer can receive a produce box that allows him or he to select what the fresh produce s/he wants. (Other CSA Programs usually make up the box, choosing from their seasonal produce without consumer input.) If you make a visit, be sure to call ahead to arrange a farm tour.
Soups from Gina Cucina in Carbondale
Gina Cucina soups are made by two local gals who use locally-produced ingredients. Gina D’Orazio Stryker, founder and recipe artist, grew up in Idaho and then went off to culinary school in Italy at the age of 17. Stryker now lives in Carbondale with her husband and twin boys. Kameron Miranda, who works in sales and marketing for Gina Cucina, contributes a plethora of homegrown food production experience to the firm. She has processed coffee, cocao, yogurt, cheese and other fermented products. She has even started and sold a water-buffalo dairy, a renewable energy installation company and a citrus orchard and gardens!
Stryker says, “Fresh is a must. You do not get the nutrients needed out of the food if it is processed out and preservatives added that I cannot even pronounce! It’s better all the way around to source locally: better for carbon footprint, better for the farmer, better for the environment and your health. Know your farmer, know your food.”
Gina Cucina offers a soup-of-the-month club; members can receive two seasonal organic and gluten-free soups each month, packaged in 16- or 32-ounce sizes, via the mail. Details can be found on at GinaCucina.com.
Cafeteria Food from Mountain Valley Greenhouse
The Mountain Valley Greenhouse, located near Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs, is another local growing collaborative. Mountain Valley teamed up with Sopris Elementary to give the students greenhouse space that enabled them to grow their own food for their cafeteria. The school also secured funding for a solar heating system that both helps to reduce the greenhouse’s heating expenses and to shrink its carbon footprint.
In addition, the students interact with many of the staff of parent organization Mountain Valley Developmental, creating a bridge and inclusion of people with differences. Most of Mountain Valley’s staffers are people with disabilities, since the organization’s mission is “to encourage and support individuals with developmental disabilities.”
The greenhouse is as “green” as it gets; it includes solar heating, worm beds to develop the soil and natural fertilizers, compostable pots and zero pesticides. A store inside the greenhouse sells seasonal flowers both at retail and to other businesses. It also offers vegetables and local soap that greenhouse manager Adam Juul makes from local beeswax.
Culinary Delights from Your Own Garden
Growing your own food is worth the time and effort. For example, a $2 tomato plant can provide ten pounds of fruit in just one season.
Start by figuring out what you enjoy eating and want to plant, and get the kids involved. Some easy-to-grow and much-needed vegetables are: tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, snow peas, spinach, basil and beans. Determine the amount of space needed; containers are a great way to start. (You might want to explore indoor gardening. Local author Jerome Osentowski has written a helpful book on this called “The Forest Garden Greenhouse”.)
Locate a sunny spot for your garden; most vegetables need six to eight hours of direct sun each day, and they need nearby water. Community gardens are great if you don’t have the space in your backyard. They can be found in Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, Basalt and Aspen.
Good, nutrient-rich soil will make all the difference (compost really helps, so start composting today.) To save time digging into existing dirt, build or purchase a raised bed and line the bottom with newspaper, then fill it with nutrient-rich soil. Plant the seeds, weed and feed, harvest and enjoy the benefits.
Better ingredients make better food and a healthier you!