How eating locally builds a better, stronger Colorado

fresh produce in wooden boxes

Now is the time to lean into eating locally. Colorado’s Department of Agriculture hosts the Colorado Proud program, a label and logo for consumers to easily identify Colorado produce, meats, grains and value-added food products with Colorado ingredients. While August is Colorado Proud month, September yields even more local ag products.

Supporting Colorado food and agriculture

Colorado agriculture benefits from your purchases through farm income and market share preservation among wholesale and retail buyers.  Consumers send signals to the entire supply chain, and the more you purchase, the more enters the supply chain. That equates to more income for Colorado farms and ranches.

Farmers in the Tri-River Area (Mesa, Delta and Montrose) counties especially need your support.  Suffering the triple whammy of drought, low snowpack (low or no irrigation water for 2021) and closures of Interstate 70, creating increased marketing costs or complete loss of sales, it has never been more important to buy Colorado peaches, onions, sweet corn, beef, etc.

Creating healthy habits, supporting small businesses

When buying local, you also reap the benefits of a whole foods diet. If you are buying Colorado agricultural products, you are likely not buying large volumes of processed foods. Find simple recipes to prepare and cook at home, your health improves, and you feel better from fresh food.

And increasingly, Colorado chefs are purchasing Colorado agricultural products and integrating them into seasonal menus. We all need variety in our diets. Your patronage at restaurants offering these special plates creates benefits for you and the upstream supply chain.

Strengthening local economies

In this COVID-19 era, we see clear examples of the connectedness of local, regional and global supply chains. From microchips delays stunting car production, labor supplies challenging local retailers and the baffling run on toilet paper early in the pandemic, our economies are built lean on low-cost inputs (materials, labor, etc.) and are more fragile that they may appear.

Farmers and ranchers are also affected by these supply chain challenges for both farm inputs — seed, machinery, equipment parts, etc. — but also with trucking logistics for hauling product from farm to market. The I-70 closure hit some producers first with ability to truck product in farm-owned trucks to Front Range markets, causing increased costs due to detours south and north of I-70. Then for some farms, trucking companies that backhaul product to distribution points east of the Continental Divide would not drive west to the Tri-River Area due to the detours around I-70. By some estimates those farms lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in sales.

Equal to supply chain disruptions, labor markets are also extremely slim for farmers and ranchers.  While farmers and ranchers have the option to contract with H-2A international workers, provided the ag employer has the ability to provide for H-2A worker housing, for those unable to meet this H-2A program requirement or for those needing English-speaking workers to staff direct-to-consumer sales, local workers available and willing to work on farms and ranches are nonexistent in many parts of Colorado.

Make a difference with your dollar

The bottom line is farmers and ranchers need your support, and the first way you can do that is by purchasing their products. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we value what we pay for, meaning purchases with dollars are most often assigned to items that we value most. There are so many great reasons to search for and buy Colorado ag products.  Your health and the health of the agricultural economy are among those reasons.

More information

Don’t miss the best of the harvest season. Find Colorado products at retailers, restaurants, farm stands and farmers markets near you. For a complete calendar of the produce harvest season, visit coloradoproduce.org and click on the nutrition and health page on the consumers and buyers tab.  And to find direct-to-consumer purchasing options, search for the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s Farm Fresh Directory.

About CSU Extension

CSU Extension empowers Coloradans to address important and emerging community needs using dynamic, science-based educational resources. For over 100 years, CSU Extension has helped people in Colorado find the answers they need for a healthy home life, successful business and thriving community. Extension brings the University’s research-based resources to local communities across the state.

Adrian Card is the Colorado State University Extension, Boulder County Agriculture Extension Agent.

This article originally appeared in the Boulder Camera.