EAT LOCAL, EAT IN SEASON

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by Erica Gagne Glaze

If you live on the Front Range of Colorado, especially Northern Colorado, you have access to some seriously good local food real food. The perfect time to eat fresh is now. One obstacle in transitioning to eating local is knowing where to start. I receive countless inquiries regarding where to find organic food, which farm is bio-dynamic or who sells pastured poultry. Internet searches can be daunting. Knowing what you are looking for is a great first step. Consider what changes you want to make. Is eating within a certain mile radius important? Do you want certified organic or just want to know that your farmer uses organic practices? Do you want humanely raised meat and animal products? Raw versus pasteurized?

Whatever your dietary needs you can obtain all of them locally.

Farmer’s Markets

Markets operate from April through October from Cheyenne to Denver. Fort Collins even hosts a Winter Farmer’s Market. While markets are limited to certain times and days of the week, there is an amazing bounty of fresh food and value-added products. Many markets also accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, increasing access to good food for those who often have limited access. There is also the bonus of meeting the farmer personally and being able to learn about local farm practices and alternative options for purchasing food.

CSAs

Community Supported Agriculture is a symbiotic relationship between farmers and their consumers. In the traditional model of farming the farmer puts up all the front-end costs to plant crops and waits months for a return on the investment. That is, pending any unforeseen losses such as crop failure, weather (last year’s floods) and market fluctuations. Then there is the CSA model. You purchase a food share for a fixed amount of time (a season or full year). The farmer is paid up-front for the share and has money to plant and plan and time to focus on growing crops. You share the risks of the season with the farmer. You also share the success. As a result, you have a consistent flow of seasonal food delivered or picked up from a drop location on a weekly basis. There are also options for a seasonal credit to purchase what you like when you want it directly from the farm or farmer's market.

There's more. As a consumer you know where your food comes from and who grows it and you can build a beautiful relationship. Some CSA’s offer work shares. You assist in the cultivation of the food on your table for a discounted share price. It doesn't matter if you don’t have a green thumb. You can take part in the experience of being a farmer, if only for a few hours. By participating, you develop a trust in your food source. Your neighbor, someone in your community who faces you week after week, knows the importance of maintaining that trust and delivers a share of it to you each week. The farmer is just as invested in your health and happiness as you become in his. Your palate becomes attuned to the season. What you receive in your share depends on what your CSA offers. Find that out in advance to make the best choice for you. At last count there are more than thirty CSAs serving Northern Colorado.

Purchasing Protein

There are numerous ways to purchase humanely raised meat and animal products. You can purchase ¼, ½ or full shares of meat or individual cuts. Locally you can buy chicken, lamb, duck, turkey, goat, pork, beef, buffalo and more directly from the farmer. You can also find cheese, milk, raw milk shares, eggs, and other value-added products. Many farms allow visitors and if you choose, you can observe how your food is cultivated and harvested. One of the best things about local eating is transparency of the system

Grow Your Own

In my opinion the most satisfying option is to grow or raise your own food. Whether you live in an apartment with just windows or a balcony or on a suburban lot, you can grow your own food. Now more than ever there is an abundance of information on how to do that. I have a cousin who lives in Manhattan in a high-rise and she grows food in her apartment, engages in charcuterie, makes her own wine, and preserves food from the local markets. If incorporating fresh food, real food, into your diet is a priority, there really are no excuses. Just get started!

Erica Gagne Glaze owns a small farmstead in Northern Colorado with the vision of becoming sustainable in her food production. She writes the regional blog, Farming Fort Collins along with the digital newsletter, From the Field. She also writes the blog The Making of a Farmstead about the process of creating her farmstead.