By Hal Walter
The demand for local food has outstripped supply — and that demand is still growing.
That was local food proponent Michael Brownlee’s message to Arkansas Valley Organic Growers on Thursday. Brownlee is the spokesman for Transition Colorado, a Boulder-based movement aimed at promoting local and regional “foodsheds” through its Local Food Shift program. The program urges consumers to buy 10 percent of foods they consume from local sources.
He met with the AVOG farmers in a sunlight-warmed high-tunnel greenhouse at Country Roots Farm on the St. Charles Mesa east of Pueblo.
A foodshed is a geographical area that supplies a population area with food. As an example, Brownlee noted that 85 percent of Colorado’s population lives on the Front Range, most of it in the greater Denver/Boulder metroplex. But very little of the food consumed in this area is produced locally as there is not enough farmland in Denver to feed the city’s population.
This system makes residents dependent on the industrialized food system, which Brownlee says has always had problems and will be unable to support itself in the future.
One of the biggest obstacles facing local farmers in meeting this demand is cooperation among themselves, says Brownlee.
“The competition is the industrialized food system, and it’s about to roll over on us,” Brownlee says. “Big ag and the industrialized food system have made it clear they want 100 percent of food sales and they won’t quit until they get it.”
The key for local and regional farmers is: “To have an impact we’re going to have to work together.”
In favor of the home team farmers, Brownlee notes surveys by restaurants and major health food chains show consumers overwhelmingly prefer local over organic. He also says the City and County of Denver have set a goal of 20 percent of food from local sources by 2020, and the University of Colorado food service has a goal to obtain 25 percent of food locally by 2015.
Similarly, Brownlee notes a marked growth in direct-to-consumer sales. He said in 2006 150 Boulder residents subscribed to Community Supported Agriculture programs. Today, he says there are several farms there that each have as many as 300 subscribers.
With so much interest in locally produced food, Brownlee says it’s a good time to be in the farming business but farmers must also face up to the challenges of cooperation and the need to expand infrastructure.
“We’re going to struggle to meet demand,” he says.
For more information about Transition Colorado and Local Food Shift visit www.transitioncolorado.org.