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Come ye farmers

Paul Andersen

When the notice for a public meeting stipulates – “Please carpool. All cookies welcome.” – you know it’s going to be a collaborative, community, grassroots experience.Carpooling and cookies are important here because of the nature of this meeting. Few public gatherings attach the serious note of community survival to proceedings, but the meeting Thursday, April 6, at Sustainable Settings near Carbondale, may do just that. The gathering will address the local production of food, which is not just some airy-fairy collaboration of mulchers and composters, but a “grow your own,” pragmatic, utilitarian means of addressing the future of the Roaring Fork Valley.”Awareness is growing concerning global oil supplies peaking, resulting in the gradual decline in availability of petroleum fuels and the escalation of prices for nearly everything, from food and heat for our homes, to clothing and transportation,” states meeting coordinator Brook LeVan of Sustainable Settings. “Concerns about Peak Oil can be an impetus for positive change,” LeVan says. “What does this mean for our community? How do we design and create a sustainable community based on other energy platforms? What can we do about it now?”These are serious questions, especially if you hear the rumblings of a future where energy scarcity not only drives up the prices of necessary goods but also makes them sparse. That’s why the April 6 meeting will provide fertile ground for budding agronomists. The idea is to explore long-term approaches to local food and energy production. Participants may even pick up a community farming plot to manage, or a heritage fruit tree to nurture, or a seedling hothouse to watch over.”Fear-based decisions tend to create poorly thought out solutions,” LeVan says, “whereas a positive attitude and upfront design can inform our decision-making process in the years to come.”LeVan is executive director of Sustainable Settings, an entrepreneurial nonprofit organization that inspires people and communities to embrace integrated solutions for sustainable development. Among its goals are sustainable agriculture, green development, micro-enterprise, land stewardship, and art for daily life.The April 6 meeting at the farm near Carbondale is the first in a monthly series scheduled from April through November to form community groups to inventory the current local situation, maintain a dialogue about local food production, and, of course, to sample each others’ cookies.Meanwhile, another grassroots organization called “Fat City Farm” is taking root in the mid-valley, promoting local agriculture through fruit tree grafting and pruning, and community gardens.The dozens of heritage fruit trees Fat City has made available for adoption are century-old apples, pears, plums, etc., originally homestead ranchers planted more than a century ago. They need care and harvesting by locals. Community gardens are shared plots where produce is divided among those who do the work. “We would like to grow potatoes of many kinds, greens, squash, and beans, and to learn what plants will accompany them as habitat for beneficial insects,” says Michael Thompson of Basalt, one of the Fat City organizers. “If you want to help, you will enjoy a harvest.”Growing food locally makes sense, especially once you have tasted the bite of a crisp heritage apple, the sweetness of a homegrown carrot, and the savory sustenance of a Roaring Fork potato. All these and more were locally grown a hundred years ago, and there’s a strong incentive for plowing the land again.Call it the sustainable solution, the farm of the future, or the cookie consortium, but call it visionary and timely. Come ye farmers!Paul Andersen suggests a visit to fatcityfarm.com fatcityfarm.com. His column appears on Mondays.


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