By John Colson
Summertime visitors to Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale will likely see at least one of these four working in the school’s gardens. The gardeners, from left, are Bryan Cronan of Atlanta, Casey Bowen of Littleton, CRMS garden program director Linda Halloran of Carbondale, and Katherine Johnson of Oakland, Calif. They expect to grow about 12,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables this year. (Kelley Cox / Post Independent)
CARBONDALE, Colorado — Some healthy-food activists in the area believe the time is right for local communities to declare their “food sovereignty” from federal food safety regulations and corporate food production and marketing.
They see it as a way of encouraging the production and consumption of locally grown produce, dairy products, meats and more, which advocates say is critical to the survival of individual humans and society at large.
“Local crops and animals are thrifty with energy and buffered from far away disasters, droughts, and violence,” said Will Evans, 69, of Carbondale. The former physician favors greater local control of the food chain.
Locally grown foods, advocates say, taste better, are more nutritious and are produced by the friends and neighbors of the buyers, which translates into greater security for both producers and consumers.
“For 10,000 years, the people of this valley sustained themselves locally,” Evans continued. “The Northern Utes (a tribe that once controlled much of Colorado) were very good at this. A hundred years ago the farmers and ranchers of this valley were largely self-sufficient. Today, we consume mostly imported food.”
Those imports, he noted, are trucked here from agribusiness centers typically hundreds of miles from the Roaring Fork Valley. He said that’s a waste of energy and bad for the nutritive value of the food.
Producing food without government interference
Others, though, are not so sure about joining the food sovereignty movement.
One local farmer worries that any attempt to legislate local food preferences could draw federal scrutiny to the already thriving system of farms, greenhouses and markets that has sprung up over the past couple of decades.
“For me, it’s kind of a right to choose what we want to eat and what we want to buy,” said Brook LeVan, co-owner of the Sustainable Settings farming center outside of town. The nonprofit farm produces lamb, beef, vegetables, fruits and eggs, and is working on starting a dairy.
LeVan said he is aware of the efforts in other parts of the country, where local-food proponents are trying to loosen the grip of corporate food producers and markets.
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