– Gwen Garcelon
A few years ago I watched a documentary called The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil, about how Cubans re-invented their entire agricultural system after being cut off from their oil supply in 1989, coming almost entirely from the USSR. Their economy was in a free-fall and they had no way to grow food using the petroleum-dependent agricultural methods that were the norm there, and world-wide. They were literally starving and began to grow food on every plot of land imaginable – eventually employing the best practices of permaculture, animal and land management, water conservation, etc.
This was one of many wake up calls around the need to get out in front of the coming necessity to reclaim our local food systems while using energy, water, land and nutrients more sustainably. Another one was when Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute, at an AREDAY summit in Aspen in 2011, emphatically stated that food is the weak link in our ability to sustain ourselves amid growing climate, social and financial uncertainty. He urged greater security through local organizing to build greater connectivity within local food systems.
In January of 2012 the Roaring Fork Food Policy Council (RFFPC) was born out of a series of community gatherings and forums, and the commitment of two local organizers – Dawne Vrabel and me, Gwen Garcelon. There was an expressed desire for more collaboration and capacity-building among the diverse and committed people and entities invested in local food.
In the past two years there have been many connections made, relationships built, new endeavors undertaken, and all the while a consistently increasing demand for healthy, land and water-friendly, locally-grown food. Given the economic, jurisdictional, and geographic complexities of the region, we felt it was time to explore in earnest what kind of infrastructure and services are uniquely needed within our local food system. What could we do now to lay more foundation for the future?
To that end, the RFFPC is in the middle of a Needs Assessment process to better understand and recommend specific infrastructure, services and strategies possible through a “food hub” to increase access to local food. We likely don’t have the land or water to grow enough food here to meet our population’s total food needs, but we can find ways to meet a significant portion of those needs. There are models in our midst, like the thriving school garden at Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale that produces 30% of what its students eat.
An essential part of this process is collecting as many existing local food resources as possible – to create a baseline of what is being produced here and who is involved. If you are a farmer, rancher, food product producer or processer, caterer or chef sourcing local food, community or school garden, grocer or distributor, please fill out the brief form under “Get Involved” on the RFFPC website at www.roaringforkfood.org.
Together we are building the power of community through the galvanizing energy of cultivating and sharing food while re-connecting to each other and to the land.