Saturday, October 17, will see the fourth annual celebration of the area’s local food economy, known as “Shedfest.” Located inside, and outside, of the SteamPlant in Salida, CO, Shedfest is put on by the Central Colorado Food Shed Alliance, or CCFA, and promises to be a unique event that you won’t want to miss.

The all-day celebration is comprised of a number of events catering to an array of preferences, from the studious minded who think weekends are for learning, to those inclined simply to dance the night away with a cold glass of Amica’s brew in hand and a smile on their face.

The day will begin with the very last farmers market of the 2009 season. Many of the usual vendors will be on hand selling their goods and if you’ve missed the last couple of markets, you’ll notice some new vendors as well. As part of an integral piece of the local food economy, this is the last chance for residence to come out and support the continued vitality of small-scale producers. The market is open for free to the public between 11am and 4pm. While you’re there, be sure to check out some of the live music which will include Your Surrogate Cousin, Greg Walters and the Doo Wops, Steve Smallzel, and others.

Throughout the day you can also attend preservations classes held by the Master Canners and Food Preservers through the CSU Extension Office in the SteamPlant’s kitchen, and try your hand at the CCFA’s new apple press. Whether you’ve got the skill or not, you’ll be able to fill up a complimentary glass of fresh-pressed cider to accompany the changing leaves and autumn weather.

While you’re there, be sure to attend the free showing of the recently released film Fresh. The film approaches food production from the premise that, “Cheap food is an illusion; the real cost of the food has to come from somewhere.” Following real farmers and their struggles for sustainability, the film provides a refreshing analysis of the industrial-food system and its impacts on people and the environment over the last 50 years. Fresh proclaims that it is time to shift to a new paradigm; it’s time for a different story about the future. It is one of the first documented chronicles of the progress of America’s local-food emergence. Fresh will begin at 3pm in the SteamPlant auditorium

If you haven’t purchased your tickets for the evening gala, there’s still time to do so. Tickets will be available all day at the SteamPlant. The $20 cost for individuals over 12 includes a “formal celebration of the growing season,” a silent auction which gives you a chance to purchase locally produced gift baskets, as well as a catered dinner offering a tribute to everyday culinary creations such as chili, a vegetarian stew, and bread. The mainstay dishes will be complimented by the presence of food’s more extravagant variations in the form of side dishes provided by local restaurants and caterers including Amica’s, Shelly with the Salida Roastery and Café, Mother’s Bistro, Rustingraham, and Weathervane Farm. Dessert will follow with a honey-glazed pear tart and goat cheese.

Once you’ve filled yourself with the splendors of local food and wine, you can make your way to the dance floor where, with the capable calling of Eleanor Fahrney, you can cut a rug the old-fashioned way in a New England style contra dance. If you’re new to it, no need to worry. This dance, performed in parallel lines, is done to live music and is very easy to pick up. Even newcomers will be amazed by their prowess after the first couple of numbers performed by Andrea and Friends. Childcare by Kathy Wardlow will be available for a small donation, so the dedicated can “swing” and “allemande” until 11pm.

For more information please contact Seth Roberts with the CCFA at 719-207-2287.


Amber Reed

If you want to sell grass-fed beef, which necessarily makes it more expensive, you could do a whole lot worse than the approach chosen by the owners of the San Juan Ranch in Saguache County. For starters, you could certainly find a less picturesque location than the high-rising, snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Range. You could choose grasslands propped up by industrial fertilizers. Or, you could have curmudgeonly old men cursing through handlebar moustaches about the cost of making a living in this forsaken economy.

But George Whitten and Julie Sullivan, owners of the San Juan Ranch, do none of the above. In fact, their operation has been ranching and farming amidst the stunning peaks of the Rocky Mountains since George Whitten’s family first farmed the land in 1897. Julie, originally from Southern California, would later join.

The couple also avoids using petrochemicals to augment their fields. Their animals, which are “never confined, never fed grain, animal by-products, never given hormones or antibiotics,” are able to free range on “2 certified organic small-scale, family owned” pieces of land.

They also chose to eschew the burly old men as representatives at the Salida farmers market and instead, whether by luck or choice, selected two of the most bright-eyed, smiling, and gregarious women working on ranches anywhere today.

But don’t let their good looks fool you. These women mean business. They’re much more than just a couple of pretty faces. Amber Reed is one of those women and she shared her understanding of, and appreciation for the San Juan Ranch during a very blustery day at the farmers market.

Between bites of Pho soup and an almost maddening line of customers, Reed explained her role on the ranch.

“I’m an apprentice, actually, and I’m paid through a non-profit in New Mexico called Kinvara Coalition which is trying to train the future ranchers and farmers to be environmental,” she said. “Kinvara is about the radical center, so it works to bring the ranchers and environmentalists together to comprise and move forward on the issues of range management.”

Reed said she was attracted to the San Juan Ranch because of the meaningful balance that Whitten and Sullivan create there. Reed is interested in farming and ranching for the rest of her life and is thus committed to organic as a matter of principle. She said for Whitten, however, there’s a component of practicality to go along with it, as well.

She said, “The ranch has been grass fed forever because, as George puts it, they’re too cheap to ever pay for the conventional approach, so everything was old school.”

Reed says she has been attracted to Whitten and Sullivan’s approach to farming since she was small. “I was interested in farming originally when I grew up in Maine on a homestead without electricity, outhouses, and all that.”

Before going to Boden College in Maine to acquire a degree in art, Reed took some time off to travel across France and work on organic farms in that country. Though she was willing to recommend bakeries in the state through a quintessentially French draw, the intervening years have, so she says, left her pronunciation too rusty to get any serious sentences into the interview.

That’s not a problem, however, because the language isn’t her primary passion, the land is. Her commitment to sustainable farming is apparent in the knowledge she rattles off about the various cuts of meat packed into white coolers behind her as well as her articulate explanations of why grass-fed bovine is essential to the future of beef.

Reed said she sees herself moving toward milk production in the coming years. “I love dairy and I want to dairy using raw milk, actually. But that’s a hard row to tow.” Undoubtedly she’ll make it happen.

For now, she’s happy with what she’s doing and has nothing but good things to say about the family she works for. “I think they do an amazing job,” she said, waving to an occasional passerby and handing out fliers. “They’re great with their grass management; they do the best job possible and that applies to any of the agriculture they practice.”

Posted in: News.
Last Modified: June 11, 2010

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