Purchasing local or regionally grown foods directly from farms through farmers markets and community supported agriculture provides multiple health benefits as well as benefits to communities and the environment.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Purchasing local or regionally grown foods directly from farms through farmers markets and community supported agriculture provides multiple health benefits as well as benefits to communities and the environment.

Aging Well: Eating well for health, community and the environment

Buy local

• For information about products grown and produced in Northwest Colorado, go to www.deeprootsco.org orwww.nwcproducts.org"> www.nwcproducts.o...>

• For information about sustainable farming practices, and a directory of Colorado producers (including CSAs) using these techniques, go to www.localsustainability.net.

• Information about agricultural products and farmers markets throughout Colorado is available at www.colorado.gov/ag. Click on “I’m a Consumer,” then “Buying Colorado Products.”

• For more information about buying local foods, go to www.foodroutes.org or www.localharvest.org.

Farmers markets

(List is not comprehensive)

• The Craig Farmers Market is from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, June 3 through Sept. 30 in Alice Pleasant Park. For more information, call 824-5453.

• The Mainstreet Steamboat Market is from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, June 12 through Sept. 11 on Sixth Street at Lincoln Ave. in Steamboat. For more information, go to www.mainstreetsteamboatsprings.com.

Community gardens

• Steamboat: The Community Roots Garden is at 625 Oak St. All plots have been assigned, but backup applications are being accepted. Organizers are seeking volunteers to help build plots and prepare the garden during work days on Sunday and May 1. To volunteer, contact Caitlyn at caitieberry

<p>@yahoo.com or 860-309-2871. For more information about the garden, log on to rcextension.colostate.edu.

• Oak Creek: Organizers are seeking volunteers to help prepare the garden site near downtown Oak Creek and maintain a plot for hunger. For more information, call Lynne Paschal at 819-6533.

• Hayden: The Hayden Garden Club will be working with Ute ethno botanist Kessley LaRose to build a community garden focused on native plants and growing methods at The Haven Assisted Living Center and Community Center. All residents interested in learning about growing native plants of many types are encouraged to participate. For more information, call Ann Daugherty at 276-2167.

Thursday is Earth Day, a time to think about how the health of the environment affects our well-being and the well-being of our communities.

What we eat and where that food comes from are just a couple aspects of everyday life influencing our own health and that of our natural surroundings.

Yampa Valley residents are fortunate to live in a region and state flush with homegrown meats, produce and products made from ingredients in our communities’ backyards.

The list of reasons to buy locally grown, raised or made foods is long.

The most noticeable advantage may be to our palates. Food grown close to home is fresher and tastier because there are fewer miles and processes to get it to consumers. Local growers also tend to offer more variety.

Locally raised food also can be healthier. In Northwest Colorado, many products, such as beef, come from animals raised in pastures. Studies have shown that products from pasture-fed animals have less fat and are higher in nutrients than those coming from grain-fed animals.

Many producers in Colo­rado use organic or sustainable farming techniques in Colorado.

Organic farming does not utilize chemicals, genetically engineered seeds, hormones or antibiotics. Sustainable farming involves techniques such as natural pest controls, when possible, and crop rotation to protect natural resources and communities. The welfare of farm workers and animals also play an important role in sustainable farm operations.

By purchasing food directly from local farmers, ranchers and growers, more of consumers’ dollars go directly into producers’ pockets, rather than to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers.

This makes healthy, fresh food more affordable. It also helps keep local farms and ranches viable, preserving communities’ historic roots, economic diversity and agricultural open spaces.

It’s not hard to find locally produced foods, as long as consumers are willing to buy from a variety of sources and adjust their cooking and eating habits to seasonal foods. This can be as easy as opting for products grown or made in Colorado.

More and more resources are available to help consumers find what they are looking for closer to home.

Roadside stands and farmers markets, typically held early summer through early fall in Northwest Colorado, are good places to find local produce, meats, honey, wine, sheep and goat cheeses, baked products, flowers and handmade wares.

Small grocers increasingly specialize in local and regional food products year-round.

Community gardens, often supported by grants and the expertise of skilled gardeners and organizations, are great opportunities to learn how to grow food in our climate. Community gardens are being prepared in Steamboat Springs, Oak Creek and Hayden. Even if all plots are reserved, volunteers can learn about gardening and contribute to community plots providing food for local food banks.

Consumers interested in receiving a consistent supply of in-season local or regionally-grown foods can purchase shares of some farms’ annual fruit, vegetable and/or animal products.

This concept, known as community supported agriculture usually involves purchasing a share early in the growing season and receiving a weekly box of goods for a certain number of weeks.

This can be a particularly good way for residents of Colorado mountain communities to have access to fruits and other products grown on the Front Range or Western Slope. Farms often work together to provide a good variety of products to CSA customers.

Grant Family Farms in Wellington is among farms delivering CSA shares to locations in Northwest Colorado including Steamboat Springs and Hayden.

For information about other Colorado producers offering CSA shares, log onto www.localsustainability.net, click on Directory and CSAs.

This article includes information from, www.foodroutes.com and “A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef,” Nutrition Journal, March 2010.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tmanzanares@nwcovna.org. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information,visit www.agingwelltoday.com or call 871-7676.

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