The Power of Local Food, Winter 2008

Food for Thought

By Brook Le Van

The Power of Local Food


Winter 2008


When it comes to food, many of us do not take the same care in
choosing what we buy and eat as we would in a new car or our next
elected government official. We might look for color and ripeness but
most of us do not think much about what we are supporting when we
choose food for tonight’s dinner. Let’s face it, we are putting up with
a deliriously boring lack of flavor in the foods available in our stores.
You know this produce: these are the fruits and vegetables designed
for their attractive color, longer shelf life, and their superior ability to
be mechanically harvested not for any reason to do with the nutrition
or flavor they might pass onto us. All of us, one time or another, have
a taste memory of that late summer tomato. Eaten like an apple, its
juices seeping into every taste bud, our bodies shouting a resounding
YES!  What happened to that flavor? I want it back, at least seasonal-
ly, whenever I can get it.

When was the last time you asked your grocer about the farm that
produced the food you buy or how it was grown? We don’t question
how the animals are raised that produce our meat, eggs and dairy
products. We don’t ask how many miles our food has traveled (read:
carbon footprint and the greenhouse gas emissions related to distant
food) or how our spinach is washed. That is until someone gets sick
and the media brings it to our attention and food fear sets in. What
all this brings up for me is that each of us has power. We have a vote,
the power of our purchasing dollar, and we are not taking advantage
of it to stimulate positive change, positive flavor.

“You are what you eat” still rings true. The same molecules that
make up the food you eat and feed your children, family and friends
becomes the molecules of your and their minds and bodies. The food
you choose has an impact. In other words, you can choose to either
further the intelligence, health, and well-being of yourself and the
people you care about or not by what you choose to buy. So, unless
you grow your own food and know where it comes from, you should
choose your farmer as carefully as you choose your family doctor or

What this translates to when you go to the grocery store or decide,
better yet, to buy from a local farmer or rancher, is that you have a
vote, a powerful vote each and every time you spend money. Your purchasing
power, especially when added up with other consumers mak-
ing the same choice, is the driving force to stop the production of
damaging products such as pesticides and herbicides. Your vote can
encourage companies and farmers to change their methods to more
benign, or even beneficial practices. Your food dollar vote affects
choice by encouraging diverse regional varieties to be grown and
made available in local markets. What we decide to buy also affects
whether our surrounding landscapes are preserved as working local
farms or are turned into suburban cul-de-sacs. Finally, our choices at
the cash register have a lot to do with determining the health of our
community’s and our planet’s air, water and soil.
There is no reason why anyone in the Roaring Fork Valley should
be buying their meat from anywhere other than one of our local
ranchers. Beef we do verywell here. We have farms and ranches to
support and save right here in the Valley and on the Western Slope.
The farmers and ranchers who have survived the onslaught of devel-
opment would love to have your business.
We have done some good work in the last 20 or so years. When we
decided to eat organic the giant corporations that dominate the food
system got it and responded. They listen when there is money to be
made. Well, now it is time for us to take the next step. It is time we
reclaim the homegrown pleasures we once knew. We need to let our
local farmers know we support them and show the powers that be
that this is what we want.

Remember the market is a commons. It does not belong to the
companies. It is ours. It is for all of us. So, let’s take back the market!
It’s time to exercise our vote. When it comes to spending your money
for food, first inform yourself by asking the basic and simple ques-
tions: Who grew this? Where is it from? How was it raised? Then
vote, vote plenty and vote often. And vote close to home each time
you buy food. Buy local organic first, next choose local, and third look
for organic.

The power of you asking means that they hear it from you first-
hand. As we turn up the volume they listen. Then we will taste the
sweet return of flavor and once again have choice. Then, too, we will
be actively participating in building a healthy place to live, one deli-
cious bite at a time. It is really that easy and trust me you will taste
the benefits.

Brook Le Van, driven in life predominantly by flavor, is the Co-founder and
Director of Sustainable Settings, a non-profit land-based demonstration and
research institute—a Whole Systems Learning Center—near Carbondale, a
place and program devoted to reviving small scale diversified farms and
ranches, the bedrock of local food and energy security.



We want flavor, mouth-watering seasonal flavor

We want fresh and nutrient-dense food not food shipped 
across the planet tired and tasteless
We want real choices. Bring on the heirloom varieties and   
heritage breeds
We want to eat more food that is unique to our region
We want safe food, and clean air, water and soil
We want to stimulate our local economies with our daily purchases
We want to preserve local farms and ranch lands—our view sheds
We want to help reestablish small-scale farms that will ensure
the production of safe local food for many generations to come



Farmers’ markets in the Roaring Fork Valley offer many locally pro-
duced veggies, meat, eggs and fruit. For year-round local sources
check these farms and ranches:

Milagro Ranch(970) 963-3446: Natural grassfinished in whole,
halves or quarters

Crystal River Beef(970) 319-1106: Natural grassfinished in
whole, halves or quarters and 20-pound packs

Sustainable Settings Ranch (970) 963-6107: Beyond Organic
heritage lamb individual cuts, whole and half

Strang Ranch(970) 963-2319: Natural lamb in whole or halves

Zimmerman Pork Farm in Hotchkiss (970) 872-3163:
All-natural heritage pigs, half and whole

Jim Sorenson Heritage Turkeys(970) 963-2134

Sustainable Settings Ranch (970) 963-6107

Ute City Farms(970) 923-9678: Organic veggies, herbs and
Hillside Acres in Paonia (970) 527-4046: Organic produce, flow-
ers, potted plants, herbs; all season; on farm and some deliveries

Big B’s in Hotchkiss(970) 872-3065: Fresh local organic ciders
and juices available in Roaring Fork Valley grocery stores
Delicious Orchards Farm Markets in Paonia (970) 527-1110:
Fresh produce, meat, juices, raw honey

Sustainable Settings Ranch(970) 963-6107

Gates of Heaven Honey(970) 927-9856
Sustainable Settings Ranch (carries Yes Honey) (970) 963-6107