Pagosa Farmers Market, others helping to meet goals of offering local produce

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By Pauline Benetti | Southwest Organization for Sustainability

The more than 500 folks who voted in the June participatory voting process sponsored by Healthy Archuleta chose “Grow More Local Produce” as the preferred option from a field of five intended to guide the nonprofit organization’s future efforts. One might wonder why so many folks think this is a good idea. Let’s consider just a few good reasons why local produce would win the contest. 

It tastes better. With time, the sugar in vegetables turns to starches, plant cells shrink and the lettuce/tomato/beet/etc. loses its vitality and flavor and time is exactly what it takes to get that lettuce/tomato/beet from Denver/California/Mexico to your table.

It’s more nutritious. Once harvested, vegetables quickly lose nutrients. This is proven science. So, the quicker to the table, the better. 

It promotes energy conservation. Food travels, largely by truck or airplane, on average 1,500 miles to your plate. Consider the energy savings if instead the harvest comes from one’s own backyard or the local farmers market. 

It supports local farmers. Farmers are an endangered species. Fewer than 1 million people actually claim farming as their livelihood — probably not surprising since, on average, farmers get less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar. Eliminating all the middle men means the farmers will receive a living income and be able to continue farming. 

It’s more reliable. The pandemic has taught us a lesson about the unreliability of long supply chains and there is no reason to believe this experience will be our last. 

We could go on, but won’t for now. Convinced of the wisdom of consuming local produce, we now wonder, how do we produce more?

Several organizations in our community are working to increase local production. Our Colorado State University (CSU) Extension office provides information and classes that will answer any question involving growing. Especially recommended is the Master Gardener class as a way to motivate and instill confidence. Someone is always available either at the office at the fairgrounds or online at: https://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/.

Healthy Archuleta has a Backyard Growers (BYG) Program intent on identifying and engaging BYGs in an effort to plant more now and either donate or sell the excess at the Farmers Market or learn how to preserve food through a CSU class. Together with Pagosa Lakes Property Owners Association, Healthy Archuleta has also been instrumental in the creation and development of the Vista Lake Community Garden that will provide produce for the community and for food pantries. Interested in knowing more about the programs? Contact fsfearchuleta@gmail.com.

The Pagosa Farmers Market is part of this community-wide effort to increase local production of food by providing a venue where local food can be offered directly to the consumer with benefit to producer, consumer and community. Happily, we opened and continue with our pre-pandemic full complement of growers and producers, and our Small Growers Coop is ideally suited to the BYG, which has excess produce but not enough to support a separate tent. 

The market is open Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the east end of town. Support for the market comes from the Town of Pagosa Springs. Contact pagosafarmersmarket@gmail.com for more information.

The rain and warm temperatures mean that the supply and variety of vegetables offered at the market will be ever increasing, including for our unique product — vine-ripened tomatoes — until now only offered by the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership (GGP), but soon to be joined by our other tomato growers. Our tomato producers will soon be online at pagosafarmersmarket.net to allow customers to buy online and pick up at the Saturday market, thus ensuring that they will have tomatoes. 

Other producers will offer wonderful sourdough breads, wheat-free and simply indulgent pastries, jams, toffees, local honey, farm-fresh eggs and a selection of naturally raised and USDA-inspected beef cuts.

Special notice to SNAP recipients: The market continues to accept SNAP cards and to distribute Double Up Bucks worth $20 with the first $20 SNAP purchase. Both make shopping at the Pagosa Farmers Market a wise choice economically as well as nutritionally. 

Another supplier of fresh produce, the GGP is now selling produce and plants from the Education Dome on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, with the hope that this dome will return soon to its mission of teaching children how to grow. The other two domes raise and distribute either to the community or, soon, to local restaurants. Contact ggp@pagosagreen.org for more information. 

Clearly, the activity level is high and the possibilities for engagement varied. Each one of these organizations can use help. Our recommendation — Get involved. Learn and grow and contribute to community resiliency.

For more information, email pagosafarmersmarket@gmail.com, ggp@pagosagreen.org or fsfearchuleta@gmail.com.