Paul Andersen: Fair Game | AspenTimes.com

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Paul Andersen: Fair Game

Stimulating Aspen’s moribund economy has become a campaign for the City of Aspen and the Aspen Chamber of Commerce. “We’re Mining Aspen For Ideas” announce ads soliciting innovative ways to give old Aspen a financial kick in the pants.

It’s high time the city draws on the fertile creativity and latent intelligence of the Aspen community, but such a prod may be unnecessary given the kind of entrepreneurial passion created by Love Grown Foods of Aspen. If the City and Chamber want ideas, Love Grown is the best kind of stimulus there is.

Helping Aspen claw its way out of the abyss of the failed luxury market will require two things: First is acceptance that trying to rebuild Aspen on the rotted foundation of conspicuous consumption is a mistake. Second is recognizing the economic sense in supporting local businesses that believe in what they do and provide lasting value to their customers and their communities. This where Love Grown Food enters the picture.

I discovered Love Grown Foods at Clark’s Market in Basalt last week while shopping for granola. After getting sticker shock on big name brands, I bought a less expensive product with all the right ingredients. When I sampled a handful of Love Grown Apple Cinnamon, I was pleased. When I read their website, I was inspired.

Love Grown Foods is just that – love-grown. It started with a storybook relationship between Alex and Maddy. As students at DU, they found each other under a midnight meteor shower. They discovered common interests in health, the outdoors, a personalized style of body/mind/spirit freedom, and good food.

They cooked meals together, which is where Maddy revealed a considerable talent that Alex, a business student, thought could be marketed. They explored the particulars of starting a food company and experimented with granola recipes. These pursuits united in Aspen, Maddy’s home town, where Love Grown Foods was born. Their first batch of granola appeared on store shelves last May, and they’ve been growing ever since.

Love Grown is more than a food company, as the website (www.lovegrownfoods.com) explains. What makes Love Grown unusual is the passion behind it, a passion for healthy living, good eating, and freedom through personal choice. By following their passion, Alex and Maddy have built something so positive that it deserves both success and community support.

Aspen is facing an economic challenge that is either dire or exciting, depending on your outlook. To the old school of more/bigger/luxurious, the future appears grim. To the new school of health/sustainability/affordability, the future is exciting. A values shift is silently taking place that Love Grown Foods is furthering, along with a number of other local ventures, many of them involving food.

The top local restaurants in the valley are built on care and excellence by the people who own and run them. Brilliant cooking, healthy menus, locally-grown ingredients, and loyal customers tap the same passion as Love Grown. As food providers, local ranches, farms, and orchards catering to discerning pallets and locovore mentalities make “living off the land” here a pleasure. Every purchase is an investment in our local economy.

You can’t base an entire economy on food, but it’s a great place to start, far better than the outmoded luxury market that funneled money out of the community. Love Grown Foods may never make the Forbes 500 list, but with good will and local support, Love Grown will support Aspen as Aspen supports Love Grown.

Recession or no, people love coming to Aspen. Give them something healthy, delicious, and philosophically enriching to take home with them, and you’ve got a product with a powerful mystique. Start a company on love and you’ve got something beyond competitive, exploitive old capitalism. You’ve got communal idealism, which produces a universal vibe that no ordinary company can buy.

I may be getting a little carried away here about a bag of cinnamon-apple granola, but what I see in that bag is a new world view and a new business model that is fresh and organic and home grown. I’m looking at granola through the lens of love, and it feels (and tastes) terrific.