Building a Sustainable Food Future
by William Woody
Jan 20, 2013 | 1559 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
FOOD FORUM – Carol Parker of the Valley Food Partnership spoke with a large audience of attendees during the first ever Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum at Friendship Hall in Montrose Thursday, Jan. 10. (Photo by William Woody)
FOOD FORUM – Carol Parker of the Valley Food Partnership spoke with a large audience of attendees during the first ever Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum at Friendship Hall in Montrose Thursday, Jan. 10. (Photo by William Woody)
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FOOD FORUM – Isaac Munoz of Colorado State University leads a presentation on cover crops and soil fertility during the first ever Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum at Friendship Hall in Montrose on Thursday, Jan. 10. (Photo by William Woody)

FOOD FORUM – Isaac Munoz of Colorado State University leads a presentation on cover crops and soil fertility during the first ever Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum at Friendship Hall in Montrose on Thursday, Jan. 10. (Photo by William Woody)

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MONTROSE – When the passion to grow food overcame local farmer Horton Nash, a decision to make it a career left little doubt in his mind.

"It's more of a lifestyle. A lifestyle that includes my profession," he said, grinning. Nash was one of hundreds of small growers and ranchers on the Western Slope who attended the first Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum held at Friendship Hall in Montrose on Thursday, Jan. 10.

Carol Parker, president of the Valley Food Partnership, said plans for the forum hatched after a discussion between Valley Food, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union and Tri-River Extension members about the fact that, a few months before, local growers voiced interest in a local conference because they couldn't attend similar functions on the Front Range.

"To my knowledge, it's the first producers’ conference of its kind, with this kind of diversity on the Western Slope," Parker said.

The conference was divided into four tracks – livestock management, general agriculture practices, business planning for small-scale farms and specialty areas such as marketing and agricultural tourism.

The day-long seminar gave local growers access to representatives from Colorado State University and other industry experts, who lectured on topics ranging from climate change to new market expansion to reaching new customers online.

Susan Bony of the Small Business Development Center said the forum would allow growers to meet and open lines of communication. Networking, she said, is needed among growers to build and sustain agricultural growth.

"It was designed to help people with small acreage," Bony said. “If you're a big grower, then you already know what to do; you probably grew up doing it. But a lot of people have moved to the Western Slope. They have land, and they keep coming in and saying, 'I need help. What do I do?' They don't want to go the Front Range to do it.”

Nash, 30, manages Buckhorn Gardens, a two-to-three-acre community-supported grower located about 13 miles south of Montrose. He said similar conferences and forums are a great way to bring people from other agriculture industries and learned what success was achieved through various practices or methods.

"I really think of these types of conferences as a chance to continue our education," Nash said. “Wintertime is a good time to dive back into our books and do more learning on how to make our farm better, and this type of event stimulates that, and gets us connected back out here in the community.”

The youthful Nash and his crew at Buckhorn Gardens represent the future of agriculture in the Uncompahgre Valley, a tradition dating back to the area’s settlement.

When asked what he admired most of his profession, he replied, "Waking up every morning and being excited about what you're going to do."

One of the nearly 40 keynote speakers was Kathy DelTonto, director of Nutritional Services with the Montrose County School District.

DelTonto proudly noted the many achievements Montrose schools have have made by returning to scratch cooking as opposed to processed foods, which merely have to be heated up and offer little nutritional value.

She also touched on the district's approached to using farmer cooperatives and buying more local fruits and vegetables, saying she and the district are working towards new programs that will capture more produce, such as tomatoes, in high-yield seasons, for processing in the summer months and stockpiling for winter.

DelTonto was recently interviewed for a segment on National Public Radio, where she reported that a couple of years ago, during the Cook for American Culinary Boot Camp in Colorado Springs, she realized scratch cooking was the best way to tackle childhood obesity.

"Through the culinary boot camp that we attended, some of the information was that this generation is the first generation that will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Once you've heard that information … we can't help as parents but try to act and improve the food or exercise programs. When I heard that it made me more determined to make changes and make them aggressively instead of starting out slowly," DelTonto said.

For more information about Valley Food Partnership and a list of locally grown products, local farms, ranchers and businesses visit: www.valleyfoodpartnership.org.



wwoody@watchnewspapers.com

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