‘Locavores’ want us to think outside the big box | AspenTimes.com

‘Locavores’ want us to think outside the big box

ASPEN – A woman who has been on the front lines of the “locavore” movement for more than 20 years believes that if the minds of the masses latch on to the concept, their taste buds and stomachs are sure to follow.

Lynn Gillespie is part of a fourth-generation farming family that has raised sheep, pigs, chickens, cows and grown hay, grains and silage on fertile ground near Paonia since 1938. They own 130 acres of ground and lease another 80 acres. Farming isn’t a hobby for them. It’s their way of life.

Gillespie is concerned about the state of sustainable farming in the United States. The nation that was built on agriculture now has fewer than 500,000 farmers in small, sustainable operations. It will take 30 million family farmers to feed the nation.

“We don’t want to be in a country that can’t feed itself. What are the ramifications of that?” she asked.

The average age of farmers is 55. It’s vital to stoke interest in farming among people in their 20s and 30s.

“I could see the local food movement needed a way to get information out,” Gillespie said. She’s already written two books on farming but decided her latest mission required a different approach, so she created a documentary called “Locavore: Local Diet, Healthy Planet.”

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“I hadn’t done a movie before, but that never stopped me,” she said.

A screening of “Locavore” will be the featured event Friday at what’s being billed as a Local Food Summit at Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House. It will start with a food and beverage reception at 6 p.m. The documentary will be shown at 6:45 p.m. State Sen. Gail Schwartz will join Gillespie and other local farmers in a panel discussion of farming issues after the film.

Along with planting seeds that will reap the next generation of farmers, Gillespie wants to get more people consciously deciding what they consume. “I think people are tired of boxed foods and no taste,” she said.

Healthy eating is picking up steam, and farmers’ markets are all the rage in many communities, but that’s not enough. Gillespie wants to show people why eating locally grown food is so important. She didn’t coin the term “locavore” but she defines it as “people who are trying to get all of their diet within 100 miles of their home.”

Buying from local farmers benefits individuals because they eat fresh produce that is grown without pesticides and herbicides and meat raised without hormones and antibiotics.

Buying locally benefits communities because dollars paid to local farmers stay in the community and spur a multiplier effect through further spending.

And buying locally helps the planet because it reduces an area’s carbon footprint when food isn’t shipped in from faraway places. The average conventionally grown vegetable has traveled 1,500 miles by the time it reaches your table, according to the website for the documentary at http://www.locavoremovie.com/.

Gillespie realizes being a complete locavore is a tall order so she wants people to start small, perhaps concentrating on getting their basics from local farmers. “If people would do even 10 percent it would make a huge difference,” she said.

Aspen and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley is blessed to be within a 100-mile range of Paonia and the surrounding area, which features an abundance of farms, ranches and even wineries. Many local residents are part of the “choir” that’s already sold on the benefits of buying locally. Gillespie hopes her documentary spreads beyond the choir and shows the vast middle class of America what’s possible.

“There is this wonderful option out there. You just have to find it,” Gillespie said. “That’s where the hang-up is.”

“Locavore: Local Diet, Healthy Planet” is designed to guide people past the hang-up. The event is free and open to the public.

scondon@aspentimes.com