Read on for notes from our local food growers:
Front Range Bioneers, November 7-9, 2014
Modern Family Farming in Colorado, Sunday, 11/9, 1:30-2:45pm
Facilitator: Boulder County Farmers’ Markets Representative
Panelists: Heather Morton (Morton’s Organic Orchards), Amanda Scott (63rd St Farm), Mark Guttridge (Ollin Farms), Tim Quinn (Bonavida Growers)
Question to Panel: What would you like agriculture in Colorado to look like in the future?
Tim Quinn: Would like to see modern farming scaled down to reduce need for chemicals, and allow farmers to interact with the land with their hands. Some are on tractors all day and never touch the land. 3-5 acres model is wonderful model. Commute 14 miles to farm each way—would like to move away from fossil fuel dependent system. Would like to live on site. Cannot add livestock beyond chickens.
Mark: Look like it did before modern extractive agriculture, more family farms. Community centers. Hard for farms under 30, 40 acres in size to make money with modern system. Small-scale, community-based farms. Would like to see a future with no competition between farms, because the community close by relies on the farm for their produce. Why need farmers’ markets?
Amanda: Educate people that they can do this themselves. People in Boulder want farms, but farmers can’t afford to be in Boulder. We need younger people to inherit large swaths of abused land and grow food. Encourage younger generation to get back into it and create a more sustainable agriculture.
Heather: Echoing some of the same opinions, I have said a lot of the same myself. We need education in schools so kids understand where there food is coming from. Education is a huge piece. General public’s value for food and food system will improve if people have a better understanding of what it entails.
A lot of what we do involves petrol and transporting fruit from the Western Slope to Front Range. But we know this is a lot better than a lot of people loading into cars and heading into the opposite direction. Organic orchard.
Question to Panel: Theme of smaller scale runs through each of you. Why is smaller scale better?
Mark: don’t have same efficiencies, but you have ability for direct marketing. You can meet the people who are buying your food. Provide healthy food to local community. Focus on QUALITY rather than production quantities. Nourish the soil in order to nourish ourselves. Rise in production agriculture has led to a decrease in overall health. More responsibility. Struggle with being competitive price-wise with larger, fossil fuel subsidized/driven farms.
Heather: we’re not there to make money, if we wanted to make money, we’d probably get other jobs. We have to ask prices that cover our work. Accountability, having customers know who we are, interacting with them, having them ask questions. The larger the grower, the more the disconnect with the people who are actually buying their food.
Tim: I don’t think we’re charging enough for our food. Would like to see grocery store as supplemental rather than farmers’ market being supplemental.
Heather: in most parts of the world, food is primarily what people spend money on. Shelter is second. Here, we put shelter/toys ahead of food. Have a hard time asking for money, but I have to in order to pay my employees and pay my bills. Low prices in grocery stores create a disconnect in consumer’s minds.
Amanda: this is why I like the CSA model instead of a farmers’ market, because don’t want to compete with my fellow farmers. At the end of the day, we want people to be able to eat.
Question to Panel: BCFM started offering SNAP to consumers (and doubling it). Ironically, most of our farmers qualify for SNAP. What are the challenges you have to see and overcome in order to see the small-scale farming?
Heather: Lack of communication and disconnect with community at large. A lot of misinformation circulating. Our biggest barrier has been communication and outreach to the public. We’re not here to get rich. We’re here to feed the community. My parents were educators and they always brought the farms into the classrooms. We like speaking engagements to provide people the opportunity to learn and ask questions. We need a mouthpiece in the community to educate people on pricing, etc.
Tim: Example: provide excess to CSA members, 50lbs of cucumbers, they bring back 25lbs of preserved cucumbers in jars. Farmers’ Market as educator for my customers.
Mark: Challenge/opportunity: the role of government in food. We have some cool progressive stuff going on in Boulder. Unique program with Open Space in Boulder County, hardly anywhere else in the country that does that. Own six acres, lease 14 acres from Boulder County. At federal level, we see the exact opposite, that subsidizes GMO monocrops. Crap food infiltrating our food system because we are subsidizing at the federal level. No regard for nutritional quality. Trying to grow healthy food on smaller plots.
Insurance provided for commodity crops. No insurance for small diversified farms. We lost half of our tomato and peppers crop with September frost, $10-15k loss, but we just have to write it off. No insurance available. We should support nutrition rather than calories.
Diversification on the farm. Farm dinners, classes, turning food into jams. Need $10k certified kitchen in order to process our own food.
Amanda: Boulder County shut down weddings at farm. Cannot have double use of the land.
Audience Question: Fracking. Quality of air? Organic farms affected by methane?
Tim: I feel we will experience poorer air quality. FoodShed Productions in Longmont put together a documentary.
Mark: Environmental engineer day job. Boulder is on the brink of making it work for family farms with agrotourism, etc., and fracking poses a threat to agrotourism.
Amanda: Need to find a polite way to communicate to large farmers that fracking is going to destroy their water source.
Audience Question: What can we do besides support financially?
Mark: Education of the public. Outreach to community.
Tim: Barter. Trades.
Amanda: That’s how I provided health care to my farm manager. Trading shares to massage therapist, accupuncturist.
Heather: Asking: what can I do to help promote events? “putting your money where your mouth is.” Keeping dollars in local economy by buying local produce.
Audience Question: How can we get the word out?
Heather: Farmers’ markets. Social media or other networking on behalf of customers.
Audience Question: Is your produce more nutritious than other produce?
Mark: Got started hoping to use very little water. Now passionate about building nutrition in soil. You can be organic without stewarding the land; small scale allows for day-to-day micromanagement of the land. Soil science.
Audience Question: How can we be empowered to reward those that are committed to building their soils?
Mark: Taste and flavor will tell you who is taking care of the soils. Your mouth is a Brix meter (often used as measure of nutrients in produce).
Heather: Ask questions of the farmers.
Audience Question: Winter volunteer opportunities?
Amanda: Yes, dress for cold.
Mark: FoodShed Productions of Longmont. Organized crop mobs. Bike tour. Farms open house.