Saturday, April 26, 2008

News for Producers

Grants Available to Market Colorado Agriculture

The Colorado Department of Agriculture is accepting grant applications for funding through its new "Ag Products Utilization & Marketing Program." Grant funds will assist Colorado companies to research and develop new uses and markets for food and agricultural products that are grown, raised or processed in Colorado.

"The program is ideal for Colorado's farmers, ranchers and food processors, providing funds to assist with feasibility studies, market development and promotions," said Tom Lipetzky, markets division director of the Colorado Department of Agriculture. "Our goal is to help Colorado's food and agricultural suppliers position their businesses to take advantage of local, regional, national and international market opportunities."

Projects eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, feasibility studies and technical projects such as assessing the potential of establishing an agricultural value-added business project; and marketing and promotion projects such as first-time participation in trade shows, new product launches and promotions supporting the development of new sales channels. Approximately $100,000 is available, and the maximum award per project is $20,000.

A matching contribution of cash and in-kind resources equal to at least 50 percent of the total project budget is required. Applications may be submitted at anytime as there is no deadline to apply for funds.

For an application and program guidelines, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture Markets Division at (303) 239-4116 or visit

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Now Available: The Rocky Mountain Growers Directory

Meet Jim Sincock and Tracy Sweely of Nederland -- founders of Colorado Local Sustainability and The Rocky Mountain Growers Directory.

A while ago, they began searching for local food sources produced in a sustainable manner. They wanted to support local farmers and ranchers who used sustainable practices instead of supporting industrial food production which destroys nutrients in food, undermines agricultural diversity, uses excessive amounts of energy, creates pollution, and most of all, destroys local food economies. Alas, it was not an easy task.

“Until we began our own search for sustainably grown or raised local food, we never imagined how much work it would be to find local growers,” they claim. “The harder we searched, the more it became obvious that there was a need for a comprehensive directory of sustainable growers of Colorado. We know the average person wouldn’t spend the time we have looking for local, sustainable growers, so it is our goal to provide the definitive guide to these growers and marketers of sustainable food products in Colorado. We feel that it is extremely important to support our local farms and ranches, as well as other locally owned businesses. We hope that you feel the same, and help us to create this directory, and by using it, help us to stimulate sustainable local economies.”

I’m happy to report that the first, annual, statewide, sustainable growers directory for Colorado, The Rocky Mountain Growers Directory, is now available in print! A few weeks ago, they began shipping copies to over ninety distributors around Colorado; to find a distributor near you, visit their website by clicking here.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Colo. Legislature Sends Enlightened Farm Animal Welfare Measure to Governor

Mohandas Ghandi (the Mahatma) once said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way in which its animals are treated." Colorado just took a giant karmic step in the right direction with some enlightened legislation.

On April 7, the House gave final approval to a bill that will phase out the use of veal crates and gestation crates in Colorado. The measure came at the recommendation of a coalition of Colorado-based animal agriculture organizations and The Humane Society of the United States.

SB 201 was introduced by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jim Isgar (D-Hesperus) and House Agriculture Committee Chair Kathleen Curry (D-Gunnison). Governor Bill Ritter and Agriculture Commissioner John Stulp played a crucial and leading role in the negotiations. When Governor Bill Ritter signs the bill -- which rumor tells us he'll do -- Colorado will be the fourth state to prohibit gestation crates and the second to prohibit veal crates.

We've talked about the dangers of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and other "factory farm" measures in relation to raising cattle for beef. (See previous post "The Great Grass vs. Corn Debate.") The same thing goes for chickens, veal and pigs.

Chickens are typically raised in warehouses where thousands of birds are crowded together with barely enough room to turn around (more on this later). Veal and pork come from animals raised in crates as well. In industrial hog production, Michael Pollan tells us that it's not uncommon to find "tens of thousands of hogs spending their entire lives ignorant of earth or straw or sunshine, crowded together beneath a metal roof standing on metal slats suspended over a septic tank." And according to the American Humane Society, in the U.S., nearly six million breeding sows suffer a similar fate: "throughout nearly their entire four-month pregnancies, they're are confined inside individual metal gestation crates barely bigger than their own bodies, unable to perform many of their natural behaviors."

Currently, there is no veal industry in Colorado; however, according to The Humane Society, nearly 150,000 breeding pigs are confined in gestation crates across the state. This is what that looks like:

You've got to wonder what Ghandi would say to that! For both calves and pigs, intensive confinement in crates causes painful and severe welfare problems -- not to mention an issue with concentrated waste. The entire European Union has already banned gestation crates, effective in 2007 and 2013, respectively; however, in the United States, the use of these abusive crates remains customary practice.

Thank goodness, we live in an enlightened state.

SB 201 phases out veal crates within four years, and it phases out gestation crates within 10 years. It also jumpstarts a process, to be administered by the Agriculture Commissioner, to allow for ongoing deliberation about animal welfare issues in animal agriculture.

Here are some related items of interest, compliments of The Humane Society:
  • Florida, Arizona and Oregon have prohibited gestation crates. Arizona has prohibited veal crates. And nearly 800,000 Californians have signed petitions to initiate a measure to prohibit veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages (for chickens).
  • Smithfield Foods, the largest U.S. pig producer, is phasing out gestation crates, and the American Veal Association voted to urge the entire veal industry to phase out veal crates.
  • Colorado-based chain Chipotle already refuses to buy any pork from producers that use gestation crates.
  • Chains such as Safeway, Burger King, Carl's Junior and Hardees have also implemented policies to reduce their reliance on gestation crate pork.

I don't know about you, but I'm tickled pink to live in a state that's in the vanguard on these issues. Congratulations to our legislators, coalitions and citizens on a job well done!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cool Ways to Celebrate Earth Day

Each year, April 22 marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. (Remember those days? We were all so earnest!) As Wikipedia explains: "On April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment. Now, Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously around the globe by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. More than a half billion people participate in Earth Day Network campaigns every year."

There are probably 1,000 things you can do to honor the day -- bike to work, eat your (local) vegetables, plant something, sign up for a CSA share with a local farmer, or join in one of the many events scheduled throughout the state. Here are some of my favorites:

Saturday, April 19th, 10 am-5 pm
Benefit for Denver Urban Gardens at Ten Thousand Villages,

2626 E. 3rd Ave., Denver
Celebrate the spirit of Earth Day by supporting Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) during a community shopping benefit at Ten Thousand Villages. Ten Thousand Villages is a fair trade retailer of artisan-crafted home decor, personal accessories and gift items from across the globe. Featuring products from more than 130 artisan groups in some 36 countries, they are part of a network of more than 150 retail outlets throughout the United States. As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items. A founding member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT), Ten Thousand Villages sees fair trade as an alternative approach to conventional international trade. As well as supporting artisans in developing countries, they also sell products from local initiatives such as the Women's Bean Project and the Gathering Place. On Saturday, April 19th, ten percent of all sales that day will be donated to DUG. Your purchases will contribute to healthy, productive stewardship of our earth, while also supporting countless artisans around the world. And they have cool stuff, too!

Saturday, April 19, 8 am - 11:00 am
Gunnison's Twelfth Annual Community Cleanup - Gunnison CO
Gunnison’s 12th annual community clean up to clean up the town after the long winter! Lot’s of activities, and a free breakfast for participants! Be green, think globally, act locally. For more information, contact Pam Cunningham at

Tuesday, April 22
Chef's Collaborative Earth Day Dinner
Q’s Restaurant, 2115 13th Street, Boulder, CO
On April 22, 2008, Q's Restaurant will host an Earth Dinner. Sponsored by Organic Valley, Earth Dinners are a time to celebrate our connection to food, the earth, and one another. Q's will be serving a four-course dinner for $40 per person, or a four-course dinner paired with domestic organic wines. for $55 per person. For information, contact Q's Restaurant at 303.442.4880.

Thursday, April 17 through Mid May
Support Denver's Million Tree Initiative - Tree by Tree
Tree by Tree is a highly participatory component of Greenprint Denver -- with the goal of planting a million trees in Denver by 2025. From now through mid-May, more than 50 tree planting events are scheduled throughout the Denver metro area, and many events still need volunteers. For a schedule of events and to sign up, visit the Tree by Tree Initiative's website.

If you have other ideas, please share them in the comments section. Meanwhile, have fun, and happy Earth Day!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mark Your Calendars: Upcoming Events

Friday, April 18 - Denver CO
Marczyk Fine Foods Launches Burger Night
Beginning this Friday, from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m., Marczyk Fine Foods (770 East 17th Ave. in Denver) welcomes back a great Marczyk tradition: burger night. Six years ago, Marczyk's introduced burger night as a way to get folks to taste Niman Ranch beef -- all natural beef raised with no antibiotics and no added hormones. Now, burger night has grown into a Denver tradition where you can stop by, get a great burger for $6.99 and hang out with the locals. Burger night will continue every Friday night, weather permitting, throughout the summer.

Saturday, April 19 and Sunday, April 20 - Hotchkiss CO
Ela Family Farms Spring Peach Blossom Farm Tour Ela Family Farms in Hotchkiss, CO sponsors this annual event. Saturday events include wine tastings at Stone Cottage Cellars in Paonia and Leroux Creek Inn in Hotchkiss and a "spirits tasting" including local organic vodka, gin and other spirits at Jack Rabbit Hill in Hotchkiss. On Sunday, the Ela family offers a tour of their farm with information on growing fruit in Colorado. For additional information, contact Jeni at or 720-941-4889.

Monday, April 21 - Delta, CO
Tuesday, April 22 - Cortez CO
Agritourism Workshops
It's not too late to sign up for these workshops, designed to help agricultural producers learn about agritourism. Each day-long session provides you with the market analysis, business planning tools and networking opportunities you need to succees. Topics include assessing your resources, engaging your community, understanding legal implications of different agritourism operations, branding and marketing your product and a panel discussion featuring different agritourism operators. Fee for the workshop is $25, which includes lunch and a workbook. To register, visit or contact Wendy White at 303-239-4119.

Saturday, May 10, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. - Hesperus, CO
Small Acreage Management Workshop Sponsored by CSU Extension, Fort Lewis College and the Department of Agriculture, this workshop allows participants to choose between three different sessions: animal, plant and season extension. Each session provides participants with up-to-date information and ideas on how to make the most out of their land. The animal session offers info on marketing animal products, fencing, plus cattle, alpaca and goat production. The plant session offers instruction on weed identification and management, small fruit and fruit tree production and care, alternative gardening techniques, irrigation, composting and pollinators. The season extension session offers hands-on experience in building an affordable cold frame geenhouse. For more information, please contact Darrin Parmenter, 970-382-6464,

Thursday, May 15 - Denver, Co
Auction and Sale of Organic Plants
1710 S. Grant Street
6:30 p.m. - Pre-priced sale of common varieties
7:30 p.m. - Auction of specialty & heirloom varieties
This sale, presented by Front Range Organic Gardeners, features more than 25 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, more than 20 vegetables and 25 herbs. For additional information, please contact Linda Tedtmeier at 303-744-7871.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Book Review: In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

Note: The following book review was written by K. Rashid Nuri from Truly Living Well Natural Urban Farms in Georgia. Rashid does a great job with this; I couldn't have said it better myself....

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

This is how Michael Pollan begins his latest book, In Defense of Food, an Eaters Manifesto. His previous book, The Omnivores Dilemma, gave a comprehensive overview of food production in America. This new book brings food from the field to the table. Mr. Pollan elegantly explains why Americans are so confused about what to eat. He offers simple rules that will help us unravel what, until the past hundred years or so, was a very simple process of obtaining and consuming healthful, life sustaining food.

Part I - The Age of Nutritionism. Pollan defines the fundamental food problem as "nutritionism". We have been trained to believe foods are essentially the sum of their nutrient parts. Nutrients, as compared with food, are invisible and therefore slightly mysterious. It falls to scientists and journalists to explain the hidden reality of food to us. In 1842 Justus von Liebig proposed a theory of metabolism that explained life strictly in terms of a small handful of chemical nutrients. Science and industry followed suit and have led us to the conditions we find today.

To a large extent, most Americans have stopped eating real food. Instead, most of us consume chemical soup. Food scientists believe they can create higher quality food than nature. They take individual nutrients and combine them into a compound and call it food, when it truly is only a combination of chemical elements. Soon we will be able to purchase an organic Twinkie proclaimed for its antioxidant properties and health benefits to those who eat one, because of the nutrient additives the scientists provide.

Part II - The Western Diet and the Diseases of Civilization. Case studies ad infinitum have proven that societies adhering to the so-called Western Diet (McDonald's, microwave dinners, canned and processed food) face an inevitable increase in heart disease, obesity, cancer, diabetes and many other ailments. One of the key features of the modern diet is a shift toward increasingly refined foods, especially carbohydrates and sugar. We have come to accept disease as one of life's givens. We expect modern allopathic medicine to intervene and minimize the inconvenience of disease and thus prolong our lives. Meanwhile, Americans no longer top the list of the world's healthiest peoples; most industrial nations have better health statistics than Americans.

The same nutritionism that has defiled food also defiles the soil. Utilizing Liebig's concepts, farmer's no longer concern themselves with improving the quality of the soil. They only provide the minimal nutrient required to grow a plant. The maxims of organic agriculture are ignored. The quality of the soil determines the quality of the plants. The quality of food determines the quality of an individual's health. There is a direct correlation between this health decline and the quality of food production. It stands to reason that chemically simplified soil would produce chemically simplified plants and poor health.

Part III - Getting Over Nutritionism. Some of Michael Pollan's rules in defense of food:

  • Stop eating a western diet
  • Don't eat anything your great grandmother wouldn't recognize as food
  • Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or that include high-fructose corn syrup
  • Avoid food products that make health claims
  • Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle
  • Get out of the supermarket whenever possible
  • Shake the hand of the farmer that feeds you
  • Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
  • You are what you eat eats too
  • Eat well-grown food from healthy soils
  • Eat wild foods when you can
  • Eat meals
  • Do all your eating at a table
  • Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does
  • Try not to eat alone
  • Eat slowly
  • Cook and, if you can, plant a garden

"The work of growing food contributes to health long before you sit down to eat. There is something particularly fitting about enlisting your body in its own sustenance. Much of what we call recreation or exercise consists of pointless physical labor, so it is especially satisfying when we can give that labor a point. Gardening consists of mental work as well: learning about the different varieties; figuring out which do best under the conditions of your garden; acquainting yourself with the various microclimates---the subtle differences in light, moisture and soil quality across even the tiniest patch of earth; and devising ways to outwit pests without resorting to chemicals."

"When the basket of produce lands on the kitchen counter there are no ingredients labels, no health claims, nothing to read except maybe a recipe. As cook in your kitchen you enjoy an omniscience about your food that no amount of supermarket study or label reading could hope to match. Having retaken control of the meal from food scientists and processors, you know exactly what is and is not in it: There are no questions about high-fructose corn syrup, or ethoxylated diglycerides, or partially hydrogenated soy oil because you did none of these things to your food."

"To reclaim this much control over one's food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Mark Your Calendars: Upcoming Events

Monday, April 21 - Delta
Tuesday, April 22 - Cortez
Agritourism Workshops.
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. Click here for more information.

Sunday, April 20, 2008, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.2008
Sustainability Fair
Denver Botanic Gardens
1005 York StreetDenver, CO
For information, contact Celia at 720-865-3608

Thursday, April 24
Marketing Your Food Product Workshop
Experience the "Magic of Marketing!" This informative workhop will be held Thursday, April 24, 2008, at the Arapahoe/Douglas Works Workforce Center in Aurora. Speakers will make presentations on a variety of topics including food safety and labeling, developing a marketing plan, working with retailers, advertising and public relations. This workshop also provides a great opportunity for you to network with others in your industry. Registration is only $35, if postmarked by April 11, and includes a continental breakfast, lunch and workshop materials. Visit for more information or call (303) 239-4119.