Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mark your Calendars: Mark Winne is Coming to Colorado

Mark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap, Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, is coming to Colorado!

Winne is a renowned food activist. From 1979 to 2003, he was the Executive Director of the Hartford Food System, a private non-profit agency that works on food and hunger issues in the Hartford, Connecticut area. During his tenure with HFS, Mark organized community self-help food projects that assisted the city’s lower income and elderly residents. Mark’s work with the Food System included the development of commercial food businesses, Connecticut’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, farmers’ markets, a 25-acre community supported agriculture farm, a food bank, food and nutrition education programs, and a neighborhood supermarket.

Mark is a co-founder of a number of food and agriculture policy groups including the City of Hartford Food Policy Commission, the Connecticut Food Policy Council, End Hunger Connecticut!, and the national Community Food Security Coalition. He was an organizer and chairman of the Working Lands Alliance, a statewide coalition working to preserve Connecticut’s farmland, and is a founder of the Connecticut Farmland Trust. Mark was a member of the United States Delegation to the 2000 World Conference on Food Security in Rome and is a 2001 recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary’s Plow Honor Award. From 2002 until 2004, Mark was a Food and Society Policy Fellow, a position supported by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Mark currently writes, speaks, and consults extensively on community food system topics including hunger and food insecurity, local and regional agriculture, community food assessment, and food policy. He also does policy communication and food policy council work for the Community Food Security Coalition. His essays and opinion pieces have appeared in the Hartford Courant, the Boston Globe, The Nation, In These Times, Sierra Magazine, Orion Magazine, Successful Farming and numerous organizational and professional newsletters and journals across the country. His book “Closing the Food Gap — Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty” was published by Beacon Press. He now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he serves on the New Mexico Food and Agriculture Policy Council and the Southwest Grass-fed Livestock Alliance.

Winne will be sharing his knowledge and experiences with us from March 26 – March 29 at the following venues:

  • Tuesday, March 26, 6 p.m. -- Live Interview on KCFR 88.9
  • Wednesday, March 26, 8-11 a.m. -- Creating a Local Food Policy Council, The Food Bank for Larimer County, 1301 Blue Spruce, Fort Collins, CO -- Winne will share best practices, case studies and the do's and don'ts of starting Food Policy Councils. He will also moderate a discussion and planning session for Larimer County.
  • Wednesday, March 26, 4 - 5:30 p.m. -- Presentation and Book Signing Colorado State University, Lory Student Center, Room 213-215, Fort Collins, CO
  • Wednesday, March 27, 7 p.m. -- Reading and Book-signing, Matter Bookstore, 144 N. College, Fort Collins, CO
  • Saturday, March 29, 2 p.m. -- Discussion and Book-signing
    Tattered Cover Bookstore, 1628 16th Street, Denver, CO

Monday, March 24, 2008

In Search of Grass-fed Meats -- Restaurants

To finish off our overview of grass-fed beef, following is a list of Colorado restaurants that buy and serve grass-fed meats from local ranchers. (If you missed the post on the many benefits of grass-fed beef, you can access it here.) This may not be complete, and some restaurants may change their menu items, depending on the season, so call first to be sure they'll have grass-fed meats available.

Over the past few weeks, we've tried grass-fed meats at three different restaurants in Denver -- Le Central, The Mercury Cafe, and Potager -- with extremely satisfying results. It's a great way to sample meats before you place an order for yourself.

Remember, we can all help to support Colorado ranchers by asking our favorite chefs and restauranteurs (and your local grocers) to offer locally raised, grass-fed meats, eggs and dairy.


The Little Nell
675 E. Durant
Milagro Ranch
High Wire Ranch

St. Regis
315 E. Dean
High Wire Ranch


241 Harris Street
Milagro Ranch


The Kitchen
1039 Pearl Street


689 Main Street
Milagro Ranch


Le Central Restaurant
112 E. 8th Ave
Free range poultry from Eastern Plains Natural Foods Coop

1109 Ogden

The Mercury Café
2199 California
Grass-fed elk and lamb


Aspen Café
46825 Hwy. 550 N.

3600 N. Main
James Ranch

The Brick House
1849 Main Ave.
James Ranch

Cocina Linda
311 W. College Drive
James Ranch

Cyprus Café
725 E. Second Ave
James Ranch


Absolute Bakery
110 S. Main
James Ranch


Billy Goat Gruff's Biergarten
400 Main St.
Kinikin Heights Natural Foods

Pagosa Springs

Boss Hoggs Restaurant
157 Navajo Trail Dr.
GrassRoots Meats

La Tazza Restaurant
157 Navajo Trail Dr.
GrassRoots Meats GrassRoots Meats


Ashe Fine Dining
304 S. Lena
High Wire Ranch

Oriental Chinese Restaurant
565 Sherman
High Wire Ranch

146 N. Cora
High Wire Ranch


Argentine Grille at the Rico Hotel
Main Street
James Ranch

200 S. Davis
High Wire Ranch

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Producer Spotlight: Sun Prairie Natural Beef

Tom Parks and son Keith Parks, from Sun Prairie Natural Beef, are offering Home Grown Colorado readers a special deal (5 percent discount!) on grass-fed beef.
Tom, pictured here, is a CSU grad. He has been a large animal veterinarian for 34 years and the Parks family has ranched in Yuma for 24 years. Keith now helps with sales. The Parks started Sun Prairie Natural Beef in 2005 selling to friends and family. Now they connect with individuals, couples, and families primarily in the Metro Denver/Boulder area selling grass-fed beef direct.

The cattle are raised primarily on 13oo acres of native prairie grass 15 miles south of Yuma, Colorado, pictured below. The Parks practice rotational grazing to mitigate impacts on the land; their cattle are grass-fed, grass-finished and raised with no antibiotics or growth hormones. According to Keith, "This is our sixth year of having an all-natural program, and our third with an all grass-fed program. It's been an evolution for us."

Cattle are processed at Brush Lockers, a small, local, USDA-certified slaughterhouse and butcher facility, and Sun Prairie Natural Beef is the only customer Brush Lockers processes on any single day. This ensures there is no contamination from non-sourced cattle during processing. Beef is typically cut and frozen within a week of delivery.

The Parks are now taking orders for their Spring harvest, scheduled for delivery in early May. They sell 25lb boxes of frozen, varied grass-fed beef cuts. (Custom substitutions are also available.)

To place an order, go to The Meat Market section of the Sun Prairie Natural Beef website by clicking here, browse their beef selections, and place an order through the on-line cart system. When you see a coupon prompt, enter homegrownblog to receive your 5 percent discount. Supplies are limited, and orders are taken on a first-come, first-serve basis. They will deliver orders seven different pick-up locations in the Denver/Boulder Metro (to be announced.) They also offer UPS ground shipping to the Front Range and beyond.

For additional information, check out their website at http://www.sunprairiebeef.com/. If you have any trouble with the online cart system, contact Keith directly at keith@sunprairiebeef.com.

Coming up next -- Colorado restaurants that offer grass-fed beef.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Mercury Cafe to Host Locavore Dinner March 21

Mercury Cafe owner Marilyn Megenity is at it again. This time she's hosting a locavore dinner at the Mercury Cafe, at 2199 California Street in Denver, on Friday, March 21st at 7:30 p.m.

The Mercury Cafe will be serving a five-course locavore extravaganza, made from all-local and all-organic foods, paired with local wines. Cost is $45 per person (excluding tax and gratuity) and includes a complimentary poetry reading or tango lessons following dinner.

Folks are asked to make a reservation and select an entree prior to the dinner; entree choices include elk, lamb, bass or chili relleno. Call 303-294-9258 to make a reservation.

This is a great way to learn about -- and satisfy your appetite for -- local foods.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stand Up and Be Counted!

It's not too late to take part in the 2007 Farm Census!

The 2007 Census of Agriculture is the only source of agricultural data broken down for every state and county in the nation. Government organizations, lawmakers, town planners and individual farm operations can use this information to help them plan for future facilities, services and community growth.

The Census form asks questions about the farm or ranch operation, including land in production, production types and values, and producer characteristics. The information given in the Census is confidential and cannot be used for any purpose other than aggregate statistical information. The Census does not ask about citizenship status of the farm operator(s).

Small scale producers, in particular disadvantaged farmers, including minority and immigrant farmers, have historically been undercounted by the Census of Agriculture. This gives the government and the public a poor understanding of their contributions to agriculture. Because many farm programs are implemented based on the number of farmers counted by the Census, it is essential that underrepresented communities get as accurate a census count as possible to gain access to resources and programs targeted to them.

Through the Census, producers can show the nation the value and importance of agriculture and they can help influence decisions that will shape the future of American agriculture for years to come. By responding to the Census, producers are helping themselves, their communities and all of U.S. agriculture.

What to do: If you received a census form but did not complete it, please do so! You can also submit your information online by clicking here. (You will need the survey code printed on your paper copy.) If you did not request or receive a form, call 1-888-424-7828 and someone will help you.

For more information, check out Frequently Asked Questions on the 2007 Census website.

Thanks to Amy Saltzman, of the National Immigrant Farming Initiative and the Rural Coalition for information on this Census.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Return of King Corn...

If you missed the Denver screening of "King Corn" in January (see January 7th posting), don't despair. It's coming back!

There will be a King Corn screening and discussion on Wednesday, March 26th, beginning at 7:oo p.m., at the Starz Film Center, 900 Auraria Parkway (on the Auraria Campus) in Denver. This free event is sponsored by Rocky Mountain PBS and you can RSVP here.

For those of you who missed the earlier post, King Corn is a documentary film produced by two college buddies, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, who move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.

This film is a great introduction to some of the challenges of our current food system. For a more detailed review, check out this five minute clip from ABC News. Then mark your calendars and turn out for this highly educational event.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

"Growing Local in Colorado"

For more on food policy issues in Colorado, check out a new video on the Longmont Farmer's Market. It's a great summary/overview spearheaded by Cynthia Torres, Longmont Farmers' Market Manager and Kellogg Food and Society Policy Fellow.

You can view it here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

What's Wrong with Our Food System

This op-ed piece is being reprinted here in its entirety, courtesy of the NY Times, because it's soooo indicative of what's wrong with our food system these days. I'm happy to report that there is an enthusiastic effort underway to establish a Denver Food and Agricultural Policy Council -- and a statewide initiative as well -- to support a sustainable, equitable local/regional food system and to tackle problems such as these.

Read it and weep....

My Forbidden Fruits (and Vegetables)
Op-Ed Contributor
Rushford, Minn.
March 1, 2008

IF you've stood in line at a farmers' market recently, you know that the local food movement is thriving, to the point that small farmers are having a tough time keeping up with the demand.
But consumers who would like to be able to buy local fruits and vegetables not just at farmers' markets, but also in the produce aisle of their supermarket, will be dismayed to learn that the federal government works deliberately and forcefully to prevent the local food movement from expanding. And the barriers that the United States Department of Agriculture has put in place will be extended when the farm bill that House and Senate negotiators are working on now goes into effect.

As a small organic vegetable producer in southern Minnesota, I know this because my efforts to expand production to meet regional demand have been severely hampered by the Agriculture Department's commodity farm program. As I've looked into the politics behind those restrictions, I've come to understand that this is precisely the outcome that the program's backers in California and Florida have in mind: they want to snuff out the local competition before it even gets started.

Last year, knowing that my own 100 acres wouldn't be enough to meet demand, I rented 25 acres on two nearby corn farms. I plowed under the alfalfa hay that was established there, and planted watermelons, tomatoes and vegetables for natural-food stores and a community-supported agriculture program.

All went well until early July. That's when the two landowners discovered that there was a problem with the local office of the Farm Service Administration, the Agriculture Department branch that runs the commodity farm program, and it was going to be expensive to fix.
The commodity farm program effectively forbids farmers who usually grow corn or the other four federally subsidized commodity crops (soybeans, rice, wheat and cotton) from trying fruit and vegetables. Because my watermelons and tomatoes had been planted on "corn base" acres, the Farm Service said, my landlords were out of compliance with the commodity program.

I've discovered that typically, a farmer who grows the forbidden fruits and vegetables on corn acreage not only has to give up his subsidy for the year on that acreage, he is also penalized the market value of the illicit crop, and runs the risk that those acres will be permanently ineligible for any subsidies in the future. (The penalties apply only to fruits and vegetables - if the farmer decides to grow another commodity crop, or even nothing at all, there's no problem.)

In my case, that meant I paid my landlords $8,771 - for one season alone! And this was in a year when the high price of grain meant that only one of the government's three crop-support programs was in effect; the total bill might be much worse in the future.

In addition, the bureaucratic entanglements that these two farmers faced at the Farm Service office were substantial. The federal farm program is making it next to impossible for farmers to rent land to me to grow fresh organic vegetables.

Why? Because national fruit and vegetable growers based in California, Florida and Texas fear competition from regional producers like myself. Through their control of Congressional delegations from those states, they have been able to virtually monopolize the country's fresh produce markets.

That's unfortunate, because small producers will have to expand on a significant scale across the nation if local foods are to continue to enter the mainstream as the public demands. My problems are just the tip of the iceberg.

Last year, Midwestern lawmakers proposed an amendment to the farm bill that would provide some farmers, though only those who supply processors, with some relief from the penalties that I've faced - for example, a soybean farmer who wanted to grow tomatoes would give up his usual subsidy on those acres but suffer none of the other penalties. However, the Congressional delegations from the big produce states made the death of what is known as Farm Flex their highest farm bill priority, and so it appears to be going nowhere, except perhaps as a tiny pilot program.

Who pays the price for this senselessness? Certainly I do, as a Midwestern vegetable farmer. But anyone trying to do what I do on, say, wheat acreage in the Dakotas, or rice acreage in Arkansas would face the same penalties. Local and regional fruit and vegetable production will languish anywhere that the commodity program has influence.

Ultimately of course, it is the consumer who will pay the greatest price for this - whether it is in the form of higher prices I will have to charge to absorb the government's fines, or in the form of less access to the kind of fresh, local produce that the country is crying out for.

Farmers need the choice of what to plant on their farms, and consumers need more farms like mine producing high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables to meet increasing demand from local markets - without the federal government actively discouraging them.

Jack Hedin is a farmer.

Monday, March 3, 2008

More Breaking News for Producers....

Coming Soon: Agritourism and Diversification
Positioning your Business for Success Workshop Series.
The Colorado Agritourism Program is aimed at increasing the visibility of agritourism activity in Colorado, providing enterprises with the market analysis, business planning tools and networking opportunities to succeed, and encouraging community partnerships to support the further growth of the agritourism sector. These workshops will provide market overview, skill building and resource development activities to address these goals. The next workshops are March 10 in La Junta, April 21 in Delta and April 22 in Cortez. Click here for more information.


Through CSREES:
  • Agricultural Prosperity for Small and Medium-sized Farms, NRI. Currently Open. Closing date June 5, 2008. The purpose of this program is to foster interdisciplinary studies to improve our understanding of the interactions between the economic and environmental components important to the long-term viability, competitiveness and efficiency of small and medium-sized farms (including social, biological and other components, if necessary). Anticipated funding $5,000,000. More information: Dr. S. Sureshwaran, Phone: 202 / 720-7536; ssureshwaran@csrees.usda.gov

  • Assistive Technology Program for Farmers with Disabilities: National AgrAbility Project Deadline March 31, 2008 CSREES anticipates approximately $550,000 will be available to fund a single new National AgrAbility Project for fiscal year 2008 to increase the likelihood that farmers, ranchers, farm workers, or farm family members with disabilities and their farms experience success. Contact: Brad Rein, 202-401-5179; brein@csres.usda.gov.

USDA's Risk Management Agency:
Note: Closing date and time for receipt of applications for following four programs is 5:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on March 24, 2008.

  • Community Outreach and Assistance Partnership Program: approximately $5 million in fiscal year 2008 (subject to availability of funds) for collaborative outreach and assistance programs for limited resource, socially disadvantaged and other traditionally under-served farmers and ranchers, who produce Priority Commodities as defined within the RFA. Contact: David Wiggins: 202-690-2686; david.wiggins@rma.usda.gov

  • Commodity Partnerships for Risk Management Education Program (Commodity Partnerships Program) includes approximately $3.75 million (subject to availability) for cooperative partnership agreements to deliver training and information in management of production, marketing and financial risk to U.S. agricultural producers. Priority will be given to educating producers of crops currently not insured under Federal crop insurance, specialty crops, and underserved commodities, including livestock and forage. Contact Lon Burke at 202-720-5265 or RMA.Risk-Ed@rma.usda.gov

  • Commodity Partnerships for Small Agricultural Risk Management Education Sessions (Commodity Partnerships for Small Session Program) includes approximately $500,000 (subject to availability) for cooperative partnerships to deliver training and information in the management of production, marketing and financial risk to U.S. agricultural producers. Priority will be given to educating producers of crops currently not insured under Federal crop insurance, specialty crops, and underserved commodities, including livestock and forage. Contact Lon Burke at 202-720-5265 or email at RMA.Risk-Ed@rma.usda.gov

  • Targeted States Program: includes approximately $4.5 (subject to availability) for cooperative agreements to deliver crop insurance education and information to producers in states that have been identified as historically underserved. Contact Lon Burke at 202-720-5265 or email at RMA.Risk-Ed@rma.usda.gov

USDA's Rural Development Cooperative Programs:

  • Small, Minority Producer grant program. Deadline: April 8, 2008 Approximately $1.463 million in competitive grant funds for fiscal year 2008 for cooperatives and associations of cooperatives to fund technical assistance to small, minority agricultural producers. The maximum award per grant is $175,000. More information: Diane Berger, (202) 690-1508.

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service:

  • Farmers Market Promotion Program Deadline: March 24, 2008 Approximately $1 million is allocated for Fiscal Year 2008 to help improve and expand domestic farmers markets, roadside stands, community-supported agriculture programs and other direct producer-to-consumer market opportunities. The maximum amount awarded for any one proposal cannot exceed $75,000. Entities eligible to apply include agricultural cooperatives, local governments, nonprofit corporations, public health corporations, economic development corporations, regional farmers market authorities and Tribal government. For more information: Carmen Humphrey, 202-720-8317; USDAFMPP@usda.gov

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service:

  • USDA is offering $5 million in grants to improve participation in food stamps through partnership between a state agency and private non-profit faith-based or community organizations to help working poor and needy households better understand food stamp benefits. Deadline: May 5, 2008 Contact: Lisa Johnson: 703 - 305-2848.