Local food. To some, the concept entails what you grow - your backyard, your fields, your animals. To others, local
food" is what you buy at your neighborhood grocery store.
Then there exists the third group, those who use the ideas of local food as determined by a food shed," and take into
consideration concepts such as food security, availability, seasonality and the distribution and production of
This last week, I was fortunate to take part in two events that examined aspects of local food" - availability,marketability and maybe most importantly, security.
Don't forget, Durango is about 150 miles from the nearest interstate (read: do you think the major trucking companies
look at our area as a primary destination?); extreme weather patterns can and do occur throughout the growing season;
and the cost of productive agricultural land with water is often financially unattainable.
Still think our food system is secure?
Both of these events - a Local Food Connection and a Food Collaborative Retreat - looked at food from different, and
equally important, angles.
The Local Food Connection is in its third year, and strives to connect local producers (meat, vegetables, fruit, eggs
and value-added goods) with food buyers - restaurants, schools, caterers and retailers. This has always occurred in a
relaxed atmosphere, and what we as the event organizers have quickly realized is that there are lots of folks out there
who want to use local products.
At our most recent Food Connection event, we also heard from Tim Turner at Zia Taqueria about how that restaurant has
taken local food (and food security) to the next level by buying directly into local agriculture. By investing in a
greenhouse and a seasonal field worker, Zia has shown its commitment to making sure the operations that provide their
patrons local and fresh vegetables don't have to be under the financial burden of a business's upfront operating
With this model, everyone has the potential to reap the bounty.
The second event, a Food Collaborative Retreat organized by Growing Partners (more about them in two weeks) and Marcus
Renner and the students at the Fort Lewis College Environmental Center, looked at ways for our community to address
some important issues surrounding our food shed."
In its basic sense, food is there for energy and subsistence. But for others, food is much more. It is about culture,social values, the environment, heritage, community and even, heaven forbid, flavor and taste.
Food is a means to conversation with a new neighbor, perhaps the way to wow a first date, and maybe more importantly, a
way to continue traditions of growing and preserving what we eat.
At the Food Collaborative, no person alone was charged with finding all the answers. Engaging and reaching out to our
communities with our local knowledge and encouraging all to participate with personal experiences and comments is one
of our goals.
Promoting local food and agriculture is more effective when all needs and deficiencies are
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Darrin Parmenter is director and horticulture agent of the La Plata County Extension Office.