October 15, 2011

Eat Local This Winter. ~ Dakota-Rae Westveer

Photo: Laura Hobbs

Love your food and it will love you back.

Local food is on everybody’s lips and filling everyone’s stomachs this season. Our natural grocers feature products with a local “stamp”, farm-to-table restaurants are gaining popularity, and as folks in Boulder know, the farmers’ market is the place to be.

Farmer Mark and the family on Ollin Farms

The term “local food” conjures up a colorful array of Colorado fruit and vegetables, all sun ripened and fresh picked.  I buy organic vegetables from Farmer Mark of Ollin Farms in Longmont, a mere 20 minute drive from my house. While buying local and organic is convenient for some, it’s important to remember that another prominent way of life exists where food is genetically modified, picked before it is ripe, and transported across the country. Fortunately, we have a vibrant local agricultural community that works hard to provide us with fresh organic produce. Not only does this system of farming result in better produce for us to enjoy, it’s also better for the environment. Organic farming works within an ecosystem instead of depleting resources like soil nutrients and water, and it doesn’t pollute those natural resources with fertilizer run-off, waste, or as much carbon dioxide from equipment. In addition, little fossil fuel is needed to get it into our homes and into the local eating system.

Conversely, NPR posted an article about the difficulties faced by this generation’s mechanized farmers. With the advent of new technologies and chemicals (fertilizers and herbicides), GMOs and migrant labor farms are in competition to produce more in order to make a profit.

And it’s expensive to get started.

The land, the equipment and seeds require investments far exceeding what many aspiring farmers can afford.  As a result, large farms with the credit to invest in new technologies and buy up farm land and force small family farms out of business. This system results in low prices, but comes at a high cost to our rural communities, environment, and quality of food.

The Effect of Technology on Production

Fortunately, alternative organic farming methods offer a way for small farms to avoid the pressures of commercialized agriculture. In organic farming, farmers seek ways to work with nature instead of trying to control and contain it. Instead of relying on big machines and chemicals to cultivate crops, farmers work hard within the ecosystem to have successful harvests. Farmers in our Colorado communities working to cultivate organic produce rely on us for support, whether it’s through buying produce at local farmers’ markets or eating at restaurants that support local agriculture.  For a complete listing of local farmers’ markets and restaurants in Boulder County, check out Boulder County’s Eat Local! Resource and Directory Guide.

Farmers are growing organically because it’s better for the earth, produces more healthful fruits and vegetables and because there is a demand for it in our communities. However, fresh produce only lasts so long, and our short growing season puts limits on the availability. Preserving this organic local produce at the peak of ripeness allows for our support of local family farms to continue throughout the year.

MM Local tomatoes, peppers, and beets at the Boulder Farmers' Market

Canning is making its way back into popularity, and to those of you taking on this task, right on! For the rest of us, MM Local offers a new path between farmer and eater to promote our local organic agriculture. MM Local buys up surplus harvests, providing farmers with a new market for their ripe fresh produce, increasing farmers’ profits and stability. Using simple recipes to preserve it, MM Local makes local organic produce available to the Boulder-Denver area year round. Through the Harvest Share program, eat-local customers sign up and pay a one-time fee to support fresh produce purchases. Then, at the end of the harvest season they receive a share of simple, delicious, jarred produce to be enjoyed through the off season. The lid of every jar displays which farm the produce inside came from, emphasizing the importance of the farmer-to-eater connection.  To learn more about MM Local, the local family farmers they partner with or the Harvest Share Program visit their website. MM Local also frequents the Boulder, Highlands, and Old South Pearl farmers’ markets armed with delicious samples and helpful information.


Dakota-Rae is a student of Communication at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Thoroughly happy to be in college student mode, she throws herself into just about anything local-sustainable-garden related. This has come to include being a Communication and Social Engagement for Sustainability Fellow, a steering committee officer of CU Going Local, a voting member of the Environmental Board and a member of the student run Co-op The Second Kitchen (which she also co-blogs for) . Additionally, she is interning with MM Local Foods. She believes everyone has something that defines the way they experience life. For her, it is food and people. She loves combining the two potluck style, with local ingredients to boot.

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