The last two days I’ve spent reveling in the Colorado autumn sun and gold, and singlemindedly gathering the following amazing goods, preparing my kitchen, heart and belly for three weeks (at least) of Eat Local planning, discovering, selecting, more planning, creating, cooking and eating amazing food grown in, near or very close to Fort Collins, Colorado.
And I am soo energized by it.
I spent 8 years of my life in a small farming community – Paonia, Colorado – and living there, this Eat Local Challenge is more a way of life than anything. I was drawn to it like a magnet, pulled back north, then boomeranged back down to the country. Now, Fort Collins has once more been my home for a year and a half. And while every other friend in Paonia is a farmer, a gardener (as I fervently was), or knows a connection that can help deliver the highest quality food or drink you desire, grown lovingly and locally – in the city it’s a whole new ballgame. And so – seeking out all manner of local ingredients to fill my pantry with foods raised and grown and processed here is a treasure that it feels like I’ve been waiting a long time to discover.
Slow Food International is my inspiration. In their words:
The Eat Local Challenge is the first phase of Menu For Change, the Slow Food campaign that puts the relationship between food and climate change under the spotlight: our food system makes a massive contribution to our total greenhouse gas emissions, and yet, at the same time, agriculture is also among the first victims. Together with Slow Food communities around the world, we want to find solutions, starting with how food is made and consumed.
We’re confronting the challenge in a variety of ways: telling the stories of our communities, consulting experts and involving chefs, so we can all be as informed as possible about the food we put on our plates.
Let’s start with a first, fundamental point: food that is made locally, sustainably and on a small-scale is crucial if we are to mitigate our impact on the environment. So choosing our food wisely means consuming less energy, producing less emissions and reducing waste. Products which travel long distances, packaged in excessive plastic and often refrigerated in cells with an enormous energy expenditure represent tons of greenhouse gas emissions which could be avoided. A small example: in the West, a meal travels an average of 1900 kilometers from field to fork. By buying local, seasonal food with less packaging, a family could save 1000 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per year, and eat healthier, more delicious food in the process!
For the next three weeks, over 2000 people across the world are participating in the Eat Local Challenge, meaning they’re committing to:
- Eat two meals a week sourced with local, traditional ingredients
- Eat only free-range meat raised in their region
- Shop at a farmers’ market at least once a week
- Buy no imported food or products made over 200 miles away
Pictured below are my efforts – gathering my local provisions (October 13). Homemade pickles, salsas and jams, local Summit ciders, produce from Garden Sweet Farms, tomatoes from my garden, honey and owl beeswax candle from Copoco’s Honey, and the BEAUUUTIFUL eggs from The Feed Store in Laporte, Colorado.
Close-up :: how could I resist Dances With Squirrels and Strawberry Basil cider?
Particularly excited about the ability to make gluten free bread – with this Glass Gem corn I grew and dried and ground myself in 2013 (in Fort Collins!)
Shown here just after harvesting in 2013:
Last of the variety garden vegetables destined for soup! In preparation …
I was glad to have prepped a full quart of this life force filled soup!
I think I’m going to have a few parties in these next few weeks with all this amazing local food! I feel like I’m beginning a whole new way of life, my heart feels so full.
I loved meeting Maura. This is Maura Verazquez in her farmhouse kitchen: the next photos are her Nigerian goats (all named after spices) and her egg laying chickens coming out of the barn to meet me – they are so dear! University professor by day, and farmer 24/7, Maura has a small acreage outside of Ft. Collins she’s been converting to a permaculture farm for the last seven years. I came home with her lovely chèvre, super thick yogurt and milk today, preparing for the 3 week Eat Local Challenge through Slow Food International. #slowfood #eatlocal #menuforchange
Later on Sunday – a second farmer’s market haul, mostly from Miller Farms:
Squash pile up, with a few pumpkins and the squash gifts today not shown! Next to my mom’s crewel embroidery masterpiece – the Woodlands.
I am stunned, and likely will be more so, at the variety and depth of local offerings available here in Fort Collins. I’m not a stranger to the eat local, 100 mile diet – I practiced it casually 2011-2012 in Paonia – but in this area, the local land and farms seem to be opening up more and more to me, as well as the ingenuity and heart of some people with this single, altruistic purpose: locally roasted coffee.
Day One Eat Local Challenge began with a couple of strong cups of this coffee, then, breakfast emerged from my dreams and the kitchen.
I cooked these Enola Yellow Beans, grown in Eaton, Colorado last night – and the ladies from the farmer’s market were right – they cooked in half as much time as pinto beans, puffed way up and are mild and slightly nutty tasting. A first for me! Potatoes and onion from Garden Sweet Farms, roast hot chilies from Miller Farms, my own homemade salsa with tomatoes and peppers from the garden, and a delicious basted egg from Maura’s chickens.
Want to hear the sizzle?
After that huge breakfast, I needed to drive out of town for a few hours to meet with a client, and when I came home, these crisp, perfectly tart Pink Lady apples from the little valley near Masonville called out my name.
And I couldn’t resist trying a spoonful of Maura’s thick, creamy yogurt with a drizzle of honey –
and a moment or two later ….a little “hand pie” Colorado made white corn tortilla with sour cherry peach jam I made earlier this year. Picked the cherries from a friend’s tree right in the middle of the city!
October 17 and the arugula LOVES this glorious fall weather. I was so happy – when I left my community garden plot, my hands reeked of rosemary, arugula and endive. A half hour later, my hands were milking a cow. My heart is so full, I feel, I know a part of me is awakening to a change.
Oh! Sweetness! I met Blue Bell, and Jasmine, and was honored to milk Hannah today at Taft Hill Dairy. Hannah had just calved, and was overflowing with milk, it was shooting out spontaneously from her teats as we were talking and I milked. Most of the milk from the dairy is from the farms’ Jersey and Guernsey cows, known to be butterfat rich with an abundance of cream. I’ll be making butter, a lovely custard, and perhaps even ice cream with it! Recipes to come!
I love this Native Hill honor system farmstand, on the corner of Taft and County Road 54G. They own and work a big, beautifully maintained organic farm here in Colorado.
My haul today, from a sweet local friend (the acorn and delicata squash), baby bok choy, kohlrabi and garlic from the Native Hill stand, milk from Taft Hill Dairy, greens and rosemary from my garden. All destined for local cuisine in the next several weeks!
Though this next shot looks perhaps a bit mundane, I am very excited about making cornbread from Glass Gem corn I grew and dried and ground myself, with eggs and goat milk from Maura’s permaculture farm.
Dinner Day One – vegetable soup, arugula and tomato salad with homemade pesto – goat yogurt dressing, and Glass Gem cornbread with honey. Feels like a tender miracle. I grew the vegetables, met the goats, had a conversation with their owner at her kitchen table, grew the corn from seed, dried and ground it and whisked it up then baked it, and served it with honey I purchased from a local woman with a marvelous accent who shared with me the bees drew their nectar from Fort Collins alfalfa and borage.
Blessings are abundant tonight –
And gratitude is in my heart.