State wants to connect consumers to the people who grow their food


Theo Otte, chef and owner of 626 On Rood, plates dishes in the kitchen at the Colorado Proud launch of “Faces and Stories of Colorado’s Agriculture.” Colorado Proud officials stopped in Grand Junction on Thursday as organizers held a panel discussion with food producers from western Colorado.

626 On Rood executive chef Theo Otte is hearing more and more from people who want to know from where his ingredients are coming.
“It’s huge,” Otte said. “People really want to know where their food comes from.”
But he’s not the only one hearing this.
More and more, Coloradans are wanting to feel more connected to farmers and food sources throughout the state, according to survey results from the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Now, Colorado Proud, an entity created by the state agricultural department to promote locally produced food, is leading an effort to make those connections happen.
The effort, known as “Faces and Stories of Colorado’s Agriculture,” stopped in Grand Junction Thursday as organizers held a panel discussion with local food producers from western Colorado who shared their thoughts on the agricultural industry, challenges they face and what leads to success on the Western Slope.
Panelists from Carlson’s Vineyards, Sprigs and Sprouts, Durango-based Fields to Plate Produce, and Talbott’s Mountain Gold shared their stories at 626 On Rood over lunch that was made completely with local products. Later on, Colorado Proud visited the Downtown Farmers Market.
“There does seem to be a disconnect between agriculture and the consumer,” said Wendy White, marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and spokeswoman for Colorado Proud. “We really hope to bring those stories to the consumers so they can see their faces.”
During the discussion, White asked the panelists questions in front of an audience of local government officials, farmers and ranchers about the effect weather has on their products, the growing role of women in the agricultural industry, and the rising average age of farmers.
The hope, White said, was to put a face to the industry for people around the state during August, which has been dubbed “Colorado Proud Month.”
A survey done by the Colorado Department of Agriculture found that nine out of 10 Coloradans believe that agriculture is important to the quality of life in the state. Colorado is home to 34,000 farms and ranches.
“I believe the small farmer is the heart of the industry here,” Bruce Talbott, with Talbott’s Mountain Gold, said during the panel discussion.
White added that Grand Valley residents have a unique opportunity to get to know their local farmer or rancher because they work all around them.
“They live right in it so they see orchards and fields every day,” White said. “It’s very convenient and easy to get connected with Colorado agriculture. They’re pretty lucky to have that ability.”
Originally Published in the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel by Joe Vaccarelli, August 10, 2017
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