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Health and Wellness

Eating local and organic in Colorado winters

Eating local and organic is easy in Colorado in the summer and early fall. Farm stands, farmersí markets and chain grocery stores are bursting with fresh, healthy produce from regional farms. When winter sets in and the ground freezes in Southern Colorado, the would-be ìlocavoreî would seem to be out of luck. Groceries and farmers still have local produce, but shoppers need to focus on what is in season or can easily be stored.The 2005 United Nations World Environment Day started the concept of locavore eating. Generally, the movement considers food to be ìlocalî if it is grown within 100 miles of where it is purchased or consumed, according to the Buy Local Challenge group in San Francisco.ìWe describe local as made or produced in my state,î said Donna Egan, spokeswoman for Sprouts market. ìThe ability to eat locally also varies depending on the region’s production capacity. People living in areas that are agriculturally productive year-round may have an easier time sourcing food that is grown in their state than those with colder regions.îìHigh tunnels with multiple layers of protection are being used to grow hardier greens and root crops throughout the winter in pretty severe climates,î said Richard W. VanVranken, professor and county extension department head for Rutgers University. ìYou actually have some pretty significant greenhouse vegetable farms in Colorado, so it really depends on what your definition of locavore eating allows.îCommercial greenhouses have been used in Colorado to grow cash crops and ornamental plants since the early 1900s, according to the Colorado State University Extension Service. The state was one of the top six producers for greenhouse-grown tomatoes and herbs in the 2012 United States Department of Agriculture census.Greenhouse-grown produce for traditionally out of season fruits and vegetables could be more expensive than shipping in similar produce from out of state or South America. ìAs the nation’s largest grocery store, we have the logistics and buying ability to work with our growers to move what’s in season, where it is to our stores across the country,î said John Forrest Ales, spokesman for Walmart. Trucking produce long distances adds to the cost of fruits and vegetables to the consumer and affects freshness, so the company tries to keep its produce as close to where it is grown as possible.Root crops such as potatoes can be stored by the growers to meet demand. ìThings like potatoes, onions and other storage crops can stay fresh and be used throughout the year,î Ales said. ìPotatoes are the best example of storage crops we sell that are local to Colorado.îFruits and vegetables are not the only agricultural products that can be purchased locally. Colorado-grown beef, chicken and pork are available effectively year-round. About 2.6 million head of cattle are grown in Colorado, which makes the state the 11th largest beef producer in the country, according to the USDA, with neighboring Nebraska and Kansas being No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the rankings.State programs like Colorado Proud, the eat local campaign, created by the Colorado Department of Agriculture in 1999, have helped raise consumer awareness of the benefit of buying locally grown and raised products. A 2013 survey by the department showed ìmore than 90 percent of Coloradans would buy more Colorado grown and produced products if they were available and identified as being from Colorado.îFor larger groceries, availability and economics are key. ìWe try to start in the area, and go neighborhood, state, region, then country; expanding depending on what the supply chains demands are,î Ales said. ìAs a customer who wants to support local farmers, we’re still bringing you locally grown produce, just that (it) was local in those other states where those farms are important parts of their own community. You can be an honorary California locavore in the winter.îPlanning ahead during the growing season to can and preserve seasonal fruits and vegetables can help dedicated locavores keep eating local throughout the winter. ìThe same way people survived in such climates before the advent of modern transportation,î VanVranken said. ìThey hunted for game, they preserved and stored what they could produce. Those tactics still work, and you don’t even have to dig a root cellar with the availability of home freezers.îConsumers and local producers can visit to learn more about how locally sourced agricultural products help the state economy and to find companies and producers that sell locally grown and raised food.

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