Another sign of ‘support’ for local agriculture | AspenTimes.com

Another sign of ‘support’ for local agriculture

Dear Editor:Sustainable Settings will not be participating in this year’s Potato Day “celebration.” This will not matter to many and certainly will not put a damper on the event, nor is that our intent. We do, however, take issue with the fees being charged local farmers and ranchers to bring their food to town for this event and for the now-popular farmers’ markets from Aspen to Glenwood. Potato Day here was just the final straw. Maybe we have it all wrong. Why do the farmers that work hard to grow locally, and in our case produce a safe organic product, have to pay to participate in an event and the summer markets that are supposed to celebrate the history, culture and the people who do the work of growing food in our area? In a recent tour of Europe I visited several farmers’ markets and inquired about how they run their agricultural celebrations and markets – in Paris, London and in a few smaller towns in both countries. In all cases I found that the municipalities did not charge the growers/providers. On the contrary! They invite them to come to town to sell their locally produced food because they value their high quality and uniquely regional offerings. European urban communities recognize that they need to support their surrounding local agricultural endeavors. They open their streets to farmers throughout the growing season for market and celebrate them on a few festive days a year. The fact that we are charged to bring our food to the farmers’ markets and other agricultural events is another example of how we are driving small-scale local agriculture out of business. The sad truth is that you can just about count on one hand all the people who are producing food in the Roaring Fork Valley. There is a dangerous lack of food production and the agricultural infrastructure necessary to process food in this area. As the price of fuel soars, so will the price of food. When the semi-truckloads of food stop turning off of I-70 to come up this valley, there are roughly three to five days of food on the shelves. This is another important reason to support local growers. Continuing to operate this way will only add to the increasing problem we have now of a limited selection of low-quality food in our “supermarkets.” When is this country going to recognize the vital importance of local small-scale agriculture, the essential building block of national food security, and truly celebrate it? Maybe things will change once crude oil hits $100-plus a barrel, and we are paying $100 to fill our gas tanks and $5 or more for a single pink, tasteless and lifeless tomato from 1,200 miles away.We appreciate the tremendous support we have experienced from the public in buying our produce this year. But if the town of Carbondale – and other municipalities in this valley, state and country, for that matter – really values local growers and ranchers and want to celebrate local agriculture and all that it represents, then we suggest that revenues to support this “celebration,” and the seasonal farmers’ markets, come from somewhere else, not the farmer’s pocket AGAIN.Brook LeVanDirector of Sustainable SettingsCarbondale