A clearer picture of locally grown foods

Added energy is being poured into foods grown in the Durango region. An effort to analyze local food production and consumption recently got a big boost.

Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado is a new, collaborative effort between the Southern Ute Community Action Program, La Boca Center for Sustainability, The Garden Project of Southwest Colorado, Turtle Lake Refuge, and Southwest Marketing Network.

“The big question is, ‘How do you put control of your food back in your community?’” said Shari Fitzgerald, of the Garden Project of Southwest Colorado.

To this end, the Growing Partners of Southwest Colorado applied for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and were awarded $50,000. The funding will be put to use over the next 15 months to develop an assessment of local agriculture. Specifically, it will identify the current needs and resources of the local food system. It will also address the needs of underserved populations, including youths and the poor, for accessing healthy food.

Fitzgerald explained, “First, it’s about public education and getting community participation in the community food system. The second goal is strengthening our local food networks and improving communication between the players. The final goal is to learn how to better serve our community food-wise.”

Like a local Farm to School program, the assessment would be groundbreaking for the State of Colorado. Fitzgerald added that it is only the beginning and could lead to the development of several, meaningful community food programs.

“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” she said. “As far as we know, we’re the only place in Colorado that’s ever undertaken a community food assessment. It kind of opens the door for everything else we’re doing.”

– Will Sands

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