Tomatoes Are Always Better Right Off The Vine
Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. hosted its second Accelerate Neighborhood Climate Action (ANCA) workshop in late October, with about 20 community members participating.
The group reviewed the previous work from the 2018 workshop and set the course for the next set of action plans. ANCA is “designed to create shared, place-based climate action on a block-by-block, neighborhood-by-neighborhood level.”
As we did in 2018, we rolled up our sleeves, got to work and landed on six themes and goals: Up With Participation; Educating About and Reducing Auto Idling; Transportation Diversification; Getting Our Knowledge On!; Tree Planting/Maintenance and; Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Awareness.
This month, let’s highlight a few details on that last goal. First, let me start with a general observation, one that is shared by most people I know: The best tomato I’ve ever eaten was the one grown in my own backyard. The next best tomato was one grown on a local farm.
Community Supported Agriculture programs provide an opportunity for community members to connect directly to local farmers by purchasing a share of the farms and receiving weekly produce during the growing season.
If you have visited your local farmers’ market you have already met some of our local farmers, who more than likely offer CSA programs. These programs help farmers by securing payment early in the season and ensuring cash flow. Consumers benefit with access to fresh food grown locally, maximized nutritional content and their dollars remaining within our communities.
CSAs are not limited to produce. Here in Colorado consumers can find anything from beer and cheese to eggs and bread programs to join. When they purchase CSAs, consumers assume a shared risk with the grower.
Indeed, we are facing increasing climate risks. The Midwest, America’s breadbasket, suffered devastating floods this year. Many small farms may not be able to survive the destruction. More broadly, the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that “the combination of advancing climate change and an already-vulnerable industrial system is a ‘perfect storm’ that threatens farmers’ livelihoods and our food supply.”
The organization also notes that the typical monoculture system degrades soils, relies on synthetic fertilizer, and plows fields regularly. These practices leave soils low in organic matter and prevent formation of deep, complex root systems. Among the results: reduced water-holding capacity (which worsens drought impacts), and increased vulnerability to erosion and water pollution (which worsens flood impacts).
Here in Colorado we too run the risk of a flood, drought or a hailstorm, which may destroy a crop. This shared risk can lessen the impact to a grower. While consumers may not be able to receive their whole share due to an unfortunate event, their investment helps prevent financial collapse to local farmers.
Local, organic farms rely on composting and manure for fertilizer. They store more carbon in the ground and help keep it out of the atmosphere. The David Suzuki Foundation has estimated that the average meal travels 745 miles from farm to plate. Reducing food miles can help reduce our impact on the climate.
Consumers, one of the most impactful choices you can make is to invest in our local growers. The Colorado Fresh Farm Directory lists more than 200 farms, roadside stands, and CSA programs. The directory highlights that nearly half of the state’s 66 million acres are dedicated to farms and ranches and contributes more than $40 billion to the economy. (The directory is available at https://tinyurl.com/yx6pu42z)
Here in Park Hill you can connect with your local grower and greatly reduce your food miles by visiting the Dahlia Campus Farms and Gardens at 34th and Eudora. The farm offers a weekly farmers market between June and October, as well as a Food Box program. The campus has a 40,000 square-foot farm and has installed an Aquaponics system, which is a sustainable process that recirculates water from fish tanks to vegetable beds. The campus is also open for tours on Tuesdays.
In addition, local beekeeper Colin Mann has many beehives within our boundaries. Mann created Vine Street Farms “so that he could share his passion for sustainable living with others and help them become better stewards of their urban environment.” His Park Hill hives produce some of the best honey around.
While we work on our climate goals this year you can help us achieve them by sharing your ideas, purchasing from our local growers and connecting with your community. We can solve this climate emergency together by making the investment in our own backyard. Contact me at chair@graterparkhill. Let’s get to work.
Tracey MacDermott is chair of the board of Greater Park Hill Community, Inc. She was trained as a Climate Reality Leader in 2017, and is currently the Statewide Co-Chair of the Climate Reality Project for the 100% Committed Campaign.
The Problem With Plastic
2020: The Year To Pack It Yourself
By Mark Kuhl
For the GPHN
Plastics are becoming a big problem, so let’s use less of it.
In our purple bins we recycle steel, aluminum, glass, paper, and plastics. Most of these materials can be recycled into similar products.
Plastics, on the other hand, don’t maintain their original strength after the recycling process, so they are “down-cycled” to carpet or clothing fibers, for instance, and these are in turn down-cycled to plastic lumber. If plastics are not properly buried in landfills at the end of their useful lives, the material breaks down into micro particles, which contaminates our land, oceans and air.
Until manufacturers dramatically reduce the use of plastic packaging we can vote for less plastic with our purchases. At the grocery store, pack your purchases in reusable bags made from cotton, hemp, or other natural fibers. This is a simple idea, but apparently a tough habit to form, as many shoppers have been slow to adopt the practice.
Last month the Denver City Council voted to enact a 10-cent per bag fee for new plastic bags. When the new law takes effect in July, more shoppers will undoubtedly be inspired to bring their own bags to the store. But you don’t need to wait to adopt a few good habits: Gather produce in cotton mesh bags and try bulk versus pre-packaged dry goods. Go for fresh produce over processed foods for better health and to utilize nature’s packaging, the skin of the fruit or vegetable.
At the retail or big box store pay attention to the amount of plastic used to protect, display, and market products. Try to put environmental stewardship above brand loyalty. If your best option is the one with lots of plastic and you don’t mind going out of your way to influence the manufacturer, send them an email to express your interest in better packaging for the sake of our planet.
Check out handy tips for recycling household items every month in these pages. Mark Kuhl is an environmental advocate who lives in Park Hill with his wife Nina and their two teenage daughters.