Local food hero: Mollie Wells

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By Rose Chavez | Food System/Food Equity Coalition

Healthy Archuleta, a local nonprofit in Archuleta County also known as the FSFE — Food Coalition, continues to celebrate the local food heroes that make up the food system in Archuleta County and the surrounding southwest region. 

These individuals uniquely contribute to the community’s vision for a sustainable, health-promoting and equitable local food system so that everyone has access to affordable, nutritious foods. 

The effort to capture the profiles of these integral community members was initiated as part of the Archuleta Food System Summit that took place April 9. Today, we would like to share the story of Mollie Wells, who shared this narrative with us:

“I’m Mollie Wells from Rio Grande Dairy located in San Luis Valley. I moved to Colorado in 2010 to take over a former raw milk dairy. Before this point, I had worked for two large commercial dairies in central Texas and Georgia while pursuing a degree in animal science at Tarleton State University. I had grown up in Western Kansas on a cattle feedlot. So the idea of local foods was still very new to me, but I loved the idea of being self-sufficient and learning more about farming on a smaller scale. While working on commercial dairies, you are more specialized and I wanted to learn a broader spectrum of farming and a more natural practice.

“Each state handles raw milk differently. In the state of Colorado, raw milk can be distributed through a share program basically you buy into the herd and I care for the animals and provide milk on a weekly basis. I started with four cows and a few goats. The former owner of the dairy had started his customer base in Pagosa so I continued with those customers. Some of those customers are still part of our share program. I eventually joined up with Laz Ewe 2 Bar goat dairy in Del Norte. This dairy milks around 100 head and is a licensed goat cheese dairy. Not only did I provide milk shares for those in Pagosa but attended the farmer’s market selling Laz Ewe cheese.

“I moved to San Luis with my partner in 2020 and have added to my customer base by providing shares to San Luis Valley and Pagosa on a weekly basis. I no longer do cow shares as we all know the drought has affected the southern part of the state tremendously and due to lack of grazing and high hay prices, goats are more economical for our farm. We still sell … cheese, … goat fudge and goat soap and lotion, … goat soap, … potatoes and veggies. We have also started selling wholes and halves from our own heritage and whey fed pork, wholes and halves from our grass fed lambs and goats and free range turkeys.

“Over the past 12 years, I’ve seen a huge increase in interest in local foods. More and more people are becoming aware of their food. They want to know where it’s coming from and how it’s being produced. I’m always learning new techniques and love being on a smaller scale where I see every aspect of my animals and how they are handled and the product I’m producing. I also love the one on one I have with my customers. The San Luis Valley is my home, but Pagosa has become my second home through our milk share program and hope to continue providing local foods for SLV and the Pagosa area.”

For more information about the local food heroes and Healthy Archuleta, please contact us at fsfearchuleta@gmail.com or (401) 206-4579, or visit https://www.foodcoalition4archuleta.org/.