Connect to Greeley’s local food culture on September 16 by taking part in Ag Fest and Feast. Experience a free daytime family-friendly fest of agricultural treasures while attending the weekly Farmers’ Market at the Depot in downtown Greeley. Additional booths, displays, a petting zoo, and an abundance of food and entertainment will be available from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Later that evening, from 6 to 9 p.m. across the street at Zoe’s Café and Event Center, you can view professional chefs craft locally sourced cuisine into unique dishes that will be served in an informal family style setting for a one-of-a-kind dinner. In addition to dinner & dessert, dinner tickets include locally brewed beers, wine and/or locally-distilled libations. Live entertainment will continue throughout the evening while guests enjoy dinner, a silent auction of unique gifts, and related activities that celebrate the area’s strong and diverse local agricultural bounty. Tickets are now on sale and cost $50, proceeds benefit the Greeley Creative District.
Can You Spot a Locavore?
Well, congratulations if so! The terms “locavore” or “localvore” refer to a person who eats foods grown locally whenever possible. How local is local? Though there is no official distance that qualifies an operation to be local, the common reference is for foods produced within a 100-mile radius. The term and movement dates back to 2005 and is credited to four women in San Francisco who set out to challenge Bay Area residents to each locally for the month of August. The promotion was a huge success, grew legs, and has since taken off in many regional movements across the country and become a marketing edge pursued by even national chains.
So intriguing a term, it was even named the 2007 Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary. In selecting the term the Dictionary noted the growing popularity of using locally grown ingredients and especially foods that are seasonally available and can be purchased and prepared without preservatives. Locavores contend that fresh, local foods are more nutritious and taste better and are also better for the environment, since, among several reasons, shipping foods over long distances consumes more fuel for transportation. In the time since the term was birthed, the “eat local” movement has exploded.
Are there other reasons it is better to buy locally produced food? Among the top reasons oft cited as a reason to buy local food:
- Crops are picked at their peak and look and taste more appealing
- Products like cheeses are generally hand-crafted for optimal flavor
- A shorter time between the farm and table means fewer nutrients will be lost. Food imported from far away is older, has traveled on trucks or planes, and been stored in warehouses before it gets to the consumer
- Local food preserves genetic diversity. Rather than choosing plant varieties for their ability to ripen uniformly, withstand harvesting, survive packing and last a long time on the shelf, smaller local farms, in contrast, often grow many different varieties of crops to provide a long harvest season, an array of colors, and the best flavors
- Local food supports local families and the local economy
- Local food preserves open space. When local farms thrive, they are less likely to be sold for development. Buying locally grown food then preserves a working landscape which in turn promotes other economic activity in the area, such as tourism and recreation
- According to the American Farmland Trust, local farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services
- Local food is good for the environment and wildlife. Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil and selling goods closer to the farm limits the amount of energy consumed to transport product. The farm environment of fields, ponds, meadows, and trees also provides habitat for wildlife.
- Supporting local farmers today helps ensure that there will be farms in our community in the future
Since “local” isn’t officially defined or monitored, consumers may have to do their own checking to see how the term is used for the products labeled as such. While the common range for “local” is within 100 miles, some retailers consider it to mean within a day’s drive. According to research conducted by USA Today, some national retailers, like Wal-Mart, consider anything sold within the same state, no matter its geographic size, to be considered local, and size of the farm is irrelevant.
“Local” does not automatically equate to organic foods, another thing for consumers to double-check if that is an important feature of their food procurement. In the U.S. foods labeled organic must meet production standards set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For example, a field growing an organic crop cannot have had toxic synthetic pesticides or fertilizers applied to the area for at least three years. “Local” foods are not necessarily pesticide-free.
Also, while many may think locally grown food is safer, food safety experts say that’s not clear. Small producers are less likely than big ones to have had food-safety audits, which grocers often demand of big suppliers. On the other hand, local producers tend to be more reliant on their local and familiar customer base and more attentive to safe practices as a matter of community concern and reputation.
Close to home, locavores have an abundance of options for local food in Weld County, which ranks 8th in the nation in market value of agriculture. Thanks to the visionary homesteaders who sought to establish a utopian agricultural community on Colorado’s high plains, new and progressive ways to grow crops became the economic mainstay of the area. The construction of the No. 3 ditch off the Cache la Poudre River and subsequent water storage facilities allowed irrigated crops to come into the region. The No. 3 ditch was the first ditch in the U.S. built specifically to grow food and the first major crops grown were potatoes and sugar beets. Greeley’s potatoes were so famous in those early years throughout the country that they even commanded higher prices at restaurants. Today the top crops grown locally are corn, hay, and wheat, but the number and variety of local farms and ranches are abundant.
What is increasingly important to consumers is the story behind the food, something that one can get in garden spades at Greeley’s Farmers’ Market. Here are just a few of the many local farm vendors who sell at the Market for locavores to check out:
Ask Steve Croft (Croft Farms) about why he is a local grower. “Food matters”, he asserts. He explains his own family’s journey to improve their food choices and to understand the food cycle from seed choice to harvest techniques. He points proudly to enormous ears of corn and an artful display of vegetables and flowers and explains the lengths he goes to achieve this impressive bounty. It isn’t easier, it isn’t cheaper, but it is way better, he notes.
Top Notch Meats, Lori and Randy Stevens are Northern Colorado natives and Weld County residents who hold down three jobs including a ranching operation east of Pierce. It is here where they raise Gelbvieh/Red Angus cross cattle that they sell at Greeley Farmers’ Market. Their meat is free of growth hormones and antibiotics. They raise the grass, hay and feed that their herd eats so know their product from beginning to end.
Larry Buxman has been an iconic character at the Market for 11 years, growing is summer vegetables in a large garden in Evans. With his large straw hat, overflowing bins of vegetables and help from his two sisters, Larry is able to sell out pretty much every much every week to discriminating customers.
Eden Herbs and Flowers out of Gill has been at the Market for 6 years and sells only organic, non-GMO vegetables and herbs. Owner Dean McElroy loves to talk about health, food policy, and his mission. He is also one of the few local farmers at the Market with enough energy and greenhouses to supply customers with year-round fresh greens and other veggies.
Ken Tigges, Kathy Rickart and Gale Loeffler are third generation sibling owners of Tigges Farm, started by Phillip and Lucy Tigges in 1935. For 13 years they’ve sold their peppers at the Market. In 2016 they released their first ever original chile pepper, which they dubbed the “Greeley Chubby”, a cross between 3 different peppers that packs “some heat and some sweet”.
Can you say corn? For 18 years, the Betz Family delivers one of the most eagerly awaited crops of any farmers market. From their LaSalle farm, they bring fresh, sweet corn from just 10 miles away.
Clark Sloan (Clark’s Honey) knows his beeswax. A beekeeper and market vendor for 6 years, Clark’s bees travel to the California Central Valley over the winter to fertilize one of the area’s largest almond crops then back to Colorado for a summer vacation, if that is what one calls producing gallons and gallons of honey in the season.
The Monroe Family Farm, with 17 years at the Market, is now on its third generation of vendors selling strawberries, watermelon, root, crops, peppers, and tomatoes. Monroe Family Farm is not only a Certified Organic Farm they but are also the oldest Community Supported Agriculture entity in the State!
A local Eaton family farm, the Leffler team makes its appearance at the Market when the corn is ready for pickin’ bringing this sweet golden treasure to the Market for 18 years.
With 19 years of Market experience, the Glover Family Farm consists of mom and sons whose farming family is one of the longest running vendors at the Market. Selling a variety of Weld County crops they may operate the only farm within Greeley’s city limits.
Peaches! Each year for 16 years team Saims Fruit has been driving all the way from Palisade each Saturday morning from late July to August to deliver their much-anticipated sweet juicy peaches. Operating as a small family owned and operated orchard in lovely Palisade, Saims sells only peaches, creating that special niche that meets all the expectations of “Colorado’s Own”. Saims sells exclusively at the Greeley Farmers’ Market.
For 15 years, The Spice Bros. have helped top market tastes off with their own special combination of salt, sugar, herbs, and spices that enhance every kind of vegetable and meat sold by the other market vendors. It goes with EVERYTHING and has quickly become a staple in many area kitchens.