Farms Finest: Ringing up value at the local checkout | AspenTimes.com

Farms Finest: Ringing up value at the local checkout

Joni Keefe
Special to The Aspen Times

Don and Daphne Lareau harvesting flowers at their Zephyros Farm in Paonia in August 2011.

When I visited the farm a few weeks ago, the flower fields looked like a Monet painting with acres of muted blues, yellows and lavenders. To the honeybee, it must seem like winning the pollen lottery with every sunrise.

Zephyros means "god of the western wind" in Greek — surely not a name you would expect to see on a sign for a Colorado farm. But after inquiring, this made perfect sense. I learned that Daphne, one of the owners, is Greek, and those crazy winter winds rushing over open fields can be anything but calm.

The farm is in Paonia. Don and Daphne Lareau are the owners of Zephyros Farm and Garden. They are getting high scores in the cut-flower business locally. Both have biology degrees and are currently harvesting from 6 of their 34 acres.

In their third year, they were selling at several farmers markets, including Aspen's. This is the first year, though, that they decided not to be in Aspen. In fact, the only farmers market where they sell now is Telluride's.

Not to worry — their flowers remain readily available, with weekly Roaring Fork Valley deliveries during the season and a community-supported agriculture program. The Zephyros farm is growing and making adjustments to streamline work and focus on building its list of happy customers.

One regular buyer is Basalt-based Harrington Smith Floral. Eileen Harrington, the owner, has many praises for Zephyros.

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"I have been buying from them for several years now," Harrington said. "The vase life is amazing ­— easily three times longer than some other products.

"They listen to what I would like for our clients. Each year, they grow accordingly to this, plus (they) regularly grow new items. Using local products gives our clients not only a sense for Colorado but also where we are in the season."

Another satisfied customer of Zephyros Farm and Garden is B.J. Adams Real Estate.

"Both of our offices, the farmhouse in Snowmass and the miner's cottage in Aspen, have flowers delivered to them weekly during the growing season," Adams said. "Every person's desktop has a fresh bouquet waiting for them on Monday. Both of these office buildings are historic, and having beautiful Colorado-grown flowers reflects a timeless quality that is a true reflection for our region. The Lareaus are easy to work with, and they are so appreciative of having our business."

Zephyros also grows specialty vegetables supplied to valley restaurants. Varieties include heirloom tomatoes, peppers of all types, eggplant and melons, to name a few.

"Organic agriculture is the new rediscovering the old, only now it is being put in modernized terms," Don Lareau said. "We require money for research and having more of these experts sharing what they know. The old-timers need a method to help foster a new generation of farmers. They eventually must replace themselves in the fields to keep the land producing.

"We should be looking for a system in our world that provides land to those who are willing to work it. Farming is not something that is being passed down anymore, so we must encourage those working hard in this to continue on."

It seems like it would be easy to agree that it is a better choice to support local economies if it is available. Buying a shipped-in product from an unknown location should come in second. To even have the option to choose local or not is a privilege in itself.

Food raised and consumed in a region's foodshed tastes better and has more nutrients because it is fresh. Flowers last longer and are naturally more viable because they are hours from their fields and have traveled less. The adage of getting what you pay for rings true at the local checkout again.

Joni Keefe moved to the Roaring Fork Valley after a career in landscape design. She is passionate about local food and agriculture. For more information, her website is Farmsfinest.com, or follow her on Twitter. Connect at joni@farmsfinest.com.

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