In the spirit of social justice, I have also made many efforts in the world of food access and community food organizing. I started my work in 2017 by working as a community food organizer in Archuleta County, Colorado. Community Food Organizing (CFO) always highlights a community’s resources and assets as well as its needs. The act of doing an assessment is an organizing tool. CFO is done with communities, not to them. It’s about the conversation! This is both short-term and long-term work.
During my time in CFO organizing, I was able to pioneer a food coalition in Archuleta County which most recently mobilized around the national pandemic. The Archuleta Food Systems Food Equity Coalition (Food Coalition) received a grant last fall to conduct a local food assessment and develop an implementation plan. The Food Coalition was using a community engagement approach to assess the local food supply/system with an eye toward reducing food insecurity and thus was in a good position to shift into emergency action as we entered into the current COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the food coalition, I pioneered a summer food program. The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), administered by the Colorado Department of Education’s Office of School Nutrition, ensures that children continue to receive meals during the summer when they do not have access to school lunch or breakfast.
I have volunteered extensively with the Pagosa Springs, CO farmers market and the Salida, CO farmers market where I was able to meet local producers and vendors and create connections to my community. There were other opportunities for connection as I volunteered at the Geothermal Greenhouse partnership. I also worked for LiveWell Colorado under the Double Up Food Bucks program where I was able to promote access to fruits and vegetables from vendors at the farmers market.
I’m also a novice gardener and had a semi successful last year and going for it again! One thing about my gardening style is my ideas of staying a localvore and permaculturist. This means I want to grow, forage, hunt, and produce food that can be grown or harvested in my local area.
With that being said, everything I do is experimental. I have a local gardener who is my mentor and refers to this style of gardening as “old school.” No lemon trees in my living room, no grow lights, hydroponics, nutrients from a bag–just a few raised beds with amended soil using manure, vermicompost, and straw from the local area.
This year I did not have space for a garden so I supported my local CSA which is another way to connect to community if space to garden is a limitation.
I’m very excited to move to a new region this year and try my hand at gardening in a different zone. My yard is pretty large and I’m hoping to use sustainable practices to grow my own food. There is at least one raised bed and I will add a few more and try to switch from grass to clover.
Welp, this year took on a different flavor. I was unsure if I would be staying in Pagosa Springs and found myself staring at an empty garden plot and dumping dried out tomato plants into my compost. I have some tomatillos on the deck and have covered both plots with straw. I did not grow my own food.
Instead, I spent every Saturday at the Farmers Market cultivating relationships with local growers. i also volunteered at the Geothermal Greenhouse Partnership, spraying neem oil for white flies and cutting back tall tomatoes. What did I learn from all of this? I don’t have to have my own garden or space to eat locally. I’m starting to contemplate moving into a different home or situation to save money (I took a huge pay cut to stay) and now I know that I can eat for free.
Here’s a sampling of food that I was able to volunteer, barter, trade, forage, or collect for free: tomatoes, onions, carrots, potatoes, lettuce (red and green), cabbage, chinese cabbage, garlic, peppers (all varieties), peaches, plums (the most wonderful wild plums picked near Pagosa!), turnips, microgreens, spinach, bok choy, basil, tangerines, arugula, tomatillos, yarrow, thistleberries, raspberries, apples, pears….I’m sure I’m forgetting lots more!
This year was able to help mimic and validate my beliefs–I’m not so much in home or land ownership (cuz it will never be me) but I think that my biggest take-away was once again relationships are everything. I’ve learned so much from local growers this year and while I still want to dabble in my own little garden in my tiny rental, food can always be found. People will always provide.