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  • Homegrown Retreat gets aggressive

    Local-food gathering’s purpose is to bring more consumers into the tent

    Warshawer Enlarge photo

    Warshawer

    The Student Union Ballroom at Fort Lewis College will host the fifth Homegrown Retreat, an effort to interest or involve more people in the local-food movement, starting Friday and continuing most of the day Saturday.

    Admission is free to the event called “Dig In & Branch Out: Expanding the Reach of Local Food in Southwest Colorado.” Preregistration is requested for the Saturday session.

    Keynote speaker Steve Warshawer from La Montańita Cooperative in Albuquerque will talk Friday evening about extending the reach of local foods, barriers to extending that reach, and about existing distribution systems throughout the Four Corners.

    The Montańita Cooperative is a four-store, consumer-owned grocery chain. About 16,000 families in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Gallup, N.M., have a share.

    In a telephone interview, Warshawer said he isn’t a radical out to destroy global markets. He advocates a happy medium where each food producer does what he or she does best.

    Producers should partner with the market that best serves their skills, Warshawer said. For too long, he said, small agriculture was marginalized by the emphasis on global markets.

    That global focus was epitomized by Earl Butz, who served as secretary of agriculture under presidents Nixon and Ford, Warshawer said. Butz’s mantra was “get bigger or get out,” he said.

    Small growers can succeed, feed people and, at the same time, protect the environment, Warshawer said.

    “We’re all part of the food system as a whole,” Warshawer said. “We all can have a rightful place.”

    Katy Pepinsky, the director of the sponsoring organization Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado, said the group has three goals: “We want to educate the public about current food topics, facilitate connections in the food network and inspire people to get engaged in the network.”

    Homegrown Retreat themes change each time. The first conference was held in 2007.

    “This year we’re focusing on getting local food out to the community,” said Joshua Jackson, general manager of Durango Natural Foods, a local food co-op. “Among topics we’ll hear about are distribution, what it takes to produce more food locally, how to increase efficiency and how to get consumers to become local-food advocates.”

    The Saturday session will start with a panel discussion on what has been working in the distribution of locally grown food and how to expand the network.

    Workshops, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will delve into eating local food year-round, how to become a local-food advocate, the farmer-chef connection, backyard beekeeping, soil improvement methods and food safety on the farm.

    Growing Partners has 16 supporters and sponsors: Fort Lewis College Environmental Center, Cooking Matters, Colorado State University Extension, Local First, Healthy Community Food Systems, Twin Buttes, Southern Ute Community Action Programs, Healthy Lifestyle La Plata, the Garden Project of Southwest Colorado, Turtle Lake Refuge, Zia Taqueria, Sodexo Food Services, Durango Natural Foods, Namaste Health Center and KSUT-FM radio.

    daler@durangoherald.com