I live in the North Fork Valley of southwestern Colorado, in the small town of Paonia. The North Fork refers to the mighty Gunnison river, which ebbs and flows in varying degrees of tame and wild depending on the season. This community became my home nearly 6 years ago, and I have grown to adore it, land, people, culture and climate. As a reader of my blog, you may have seen posts about my garden, and the surrounding farms last summer, in this special place, of fertile soil and great abundance.
We are in a battle right now, the citizens of Paonia, Hotchkiss and Crawford and surrounding areas – with the BLM about the proposed natural gas and oil drilling land parcels potentially up for sale. When we began this fight, 30,000 plus acres were threatened – parcels of land inked out back in 1989, long before much of the expansion of orchards, farms, vineyards and ranches – schools and public pools had taken place. The original parcels included land on steep rocky slopes, and land surrounding our town’s own drinking water reservoir, included land right NEXT to the school in Hotchkiss and the public pool adjacent to it. Ranches and organic farmland threatened. Many meetings were held that overflowed with citizens against the threat to our health and quality of life. The BLM received thousands of letters, protests; and a contingent of representative residents even went to Washington, DC to meet with our members in Congress. Our environmental groups were organized and persistant. It was – and still is – absolutely outrageous. We gained a victory when the BLM chose to take more time to decide about these lease proposals. The towns were jubilant. I remember rushing up to friends at the post office, hugging and horns honking as the news spread. Until – the results came back on the environmental assessment and only 10,000 acres of the over 30,000 had been eliminated.
DON’T FRACK THE FORK became the area’s rallying cry. It created in us, in me, a deeper sense of love and cherishing of this vital and vibrant place. Personal. Last summer I grew so much food, as you may remember, I jumped in and bought a chest freezer to preserve it. My clients often bring me a dozen eggs – from their own chickens or a friend whose girls are still laying in the dead of winter. I buy goat milk from a local farm and make yogurt and cheese. Friends with orchards laden with fruit invite me to come pick their biodynamic cherries, pears and beautiful apples for free. Local bee keepers sell the marvelous bronze colored wildflower honey.
My dinner tonight was entirely from my harvests this summer and fall. To me, it has become as fantastic as a glamorous plate of ingredients from many lands. Locavore. The Hundred Mile Diet. Sustainable living. Permaculture. These concepts and way of life are WAY big, valued and practiced in this valley where I live.
If I chose, I could buy organic chicken, duck, elk, beef, pork, lamb and goat meat here as well. There are eight wineries within these 20,000 acres of proposed parcels, and one amazing cidery. Brandies and vodka are made nearby. Hops is grown for the award winning beer from Revolution Brewery in town. Solar Energy International bases it’s company out of Paonia. I could go on and on. I have a fierce and tender love for this place I live, and for the people who live here, and the food I grow and eat. We are still in this fight. The BLM, in a meeting with the Paonia town council last night – say they have a mandate from the federal government to lease so many acres/parcels of land per year for this destructive “development.” It was mind-boggling, to hear a representative from the BLM blandly state that no health risks exist from fracking. It was thrilling then to hear one of our council women retort right back, bold and impassioned, the number of leaks in wells up north in Weld county from fracking accidents. Though this was not a public forum, the council and mayor received a standing ovation at the end of the meeting. The people of our communities – for the most part – are holding strong against it. We know we are just some of the many, many areas who are fighting to preserve this earth. Where our food is grown. Our water flows. Where we work and play. It seems unreal, that we should have to fight for these things. But we have stamina – we are in it for the long haul. To keep this land pure for the present tenants on Pachamama, and for our future generations.