Chad Goodale uproots carrots at the Twin Buttes farm last week. Local farmers and gardeners can donate their excess produce to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program next week. The food will be made available to more than 400 families participating in the quarterly program./ Photo by Steve Eginoire

Shared harvest

Supplemental commodity food program to tap local gardens
Eat Local Celebration continues
by Missy Votel

Zucchini running amok? Tomatoes taking over? Local green thumbs who find their garden plots have runneth over can share their bounty and help others in need.

A unique partnership spearheaded by the Colorado State University Extension Office will give local farmers and gardeners a chance to drop off their excess harvest, which in turn will be given away to participants in the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program. Surplus produce will be accepted Fri., Sept. 16 – Sun., Sept 18 from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the La Plata County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall. The food will be sorted, washed and stored by volunteers, to be distributed Mon., Sept. 19, to program participants.

More than 400 local families participate in the Commodity Supp-lemental Food Program, or CSFP, which distributes food quarterly.

“Usually, they’re just getting a box, container or can of food,” CSU Extension Agent Darrin Parmenter said. “We thought September would be a good opportunity to provide something that is fresh, something people could use to cook with, and most importantly, something that is tasty.”
Just the Facts
What: Surplus garden veggie and fruit drop-off
When: Fri., - Sun., Sept. 16-18, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: La Plata County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
More info or to volunteer: CSU Extension Agent Darrin Parmenter, 382-6464 or

Other local sponsors of the surplus distribution include the Durango Food Bank and Growing Partners of the Southwest.
Parmenter said CSFP participants will be allowed to pick and choose what produce they want, if any. “It’s up to them if they choose the food, it’s just another option,” he said.

The idea for distribution of local surplus is one that’s been kicking around for a few years, he said. “Between producers and backyard gardeners, it seemed like a no-brainer to pair the two.”

The hope is to also offer demonstrations the day the food is distributed to give people ideas on how to use their fresh produce. “Take kohlrabi,” he said. “A lot of people might be wondering, ‘What the heck do I do with this?’ Our job is to share our knowledge and educate people and help them out.”

For people unable to drop off or handle their excess produce, Parmenter said he or other volunteers will be available for pick up. “We’d be more than happy to help people get out and harvest if need be,” he said.

The CSFP provides food to low-income pregnant women; breastfeeding and new mothers and their children under 6; and people ages 60 and older. Although not meant to provide a complete diet, CSFP is seen as a “safety net” for specific populations whose food stamp benefits do not cover foods they need to meet their special dietary requirements. When the program was introduced several years ago, it primarily served women and children, but over the years, this group has become increasingly served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) while the senior population has ballooned. Today, senior citizens make up more than 90 percent of the commodity program.

To be eligible for CSFP, families must earn 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level; seniors 130 percent or below. In 2010, this translated to $41,348 for a family of four. According to the 2010 Kids Count Colorado report, compiled by the Colorado Children’s Campaign and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 31 percent of children – or 2,141 – living in La Plata County were at or below this level in 2010. Last year, more than 17,000 people participated in the CSFP statewide.

“A lot of people don’t have access to fresh produce, let alone gardens,” said Parmenter in closing. “It’s good to share the bounty and spread the love, too.”