Demand for Local Food Grows

The rush is on for fresh food delivered by farmers directly to
Front Range neighborhoods – in line with a national trend toward
bypassing grocery chains.

Families switching to cooperatives as a healthy, fuel-saving
alternative today find farmers hard-pressed to keep up with demand.
Some 640 Front Range families receive boxes of vegetables, fruits,
honey and eggs from Monroe Organic Farms, a Greeley-area producer
that does weekly drop-offs in 25 urban neighborhoods. This volume –
more than double Monroe’s membership five years ago – has exhausted
the capacity of owners Jacquie and Jerry Monroe to produce.

“I could easily double my customers, but I couldn’t raise enough
food. I don’t have enough labor,” Jacquie Monroe said.

Among those who’ve tried to get farmfresh produce through a
cooperative but have not been able to find one with an opening is
Melissa Snow, 32, a mother and parttime teacher who is crazy about
the idea.

“I like the whole concept, that it doesn’t have to be shipped as
far – less of a carbon impact. I like supporting the small local
farmer,” Snow said.

More local farmers will have to get into the action, said Monroe,
who credits her cooperative with saving her 175-acre,
three-generation family farm.

Neighborhood drop-offs by a few Colorado growers has emerged as a
new dimension in the community-supported agriculture movement that
began in the late 1980s and, until recently, struggled to gain

Today, some 1,581 community-supported farms nationwide supply more
than 300,000 households, according to Local Harvest, a Santa Cruz,
Calif.-based group that tracks the trend. At least 25
community-supported farms in Colorado – such as Denver Urban
Gardens – grow food for members willing to drive to the farms to
pick it up.

Many of these operations, too, are overwhelmed, unable to grow
enough fruit and vegetables to satisfy growing demand.

Turning away would-be buyers “is really heartbreaking,” said
Heather DeLong, the Denver Urban Gardens farm manager. “They’ve
gotten to where they are taking initiative to be active in what
they are eating.”

Door-to-Door Organics, a food delivery service that buys as much as
possible from local growers, also is experiencing rapid growth,
with 650 metro-area customers, owner David Gersenson said.

Specialty grocers such as Whole Foods and Wild Oats sell good food,
“but this stuff is picked the day before it gets here. It’s
fresher,” said Patrick Winfield, 38, a software engineer whose
porch in central Denver serves as a drop-off/pick-up point for 40

He and his wife, Stefanie, who developed a taste for mangoes during
a Peace Corps stint in Malawi, wanted chemical-free food for their
children. They reckon the $300 or so that they pay for five months
of all they can eat is well worth it.

“And it’s like you’re tied into nature,” Winfield said. “You
care about what happens on farms.”

Small farmers struggle across much of the country in the face of
global competition. The share of U.S. food imported from abroad is
increasing, from about 7.8 percent of total food consumption in
1980 to at least 14 percent today, according to government

“Obviously, we’re all time-stressed,” and having fresh food
delivered “is a convenience issue,” said Carol O’Dwyer, a Park
Hill resident who is part of a cooperative that requires members to
take turns driving to the Cresset Farm east of Loveland.

“But mostly this is for the environment.”

Buying local also makes sense for health reasons, said Suzanne
Wuerthele, 60, a federal government toxicologist who picks up a
weekly box of vegetables a few blocks from her home.

Grocery store fruits in the off-season are tempting, “but I’m
concerned about where they come from. They may ship them 8,000
miles,” Wuerthele said.

The growing demand for fresh local food “is going to allow more
farmers to use more of their land to grow organic vegetables,”
said Marla Kiley, a mother of three who has had food delivered to
her central Denver house for five years.

Farmers “won’t have to sell to the bigger companies,” she said,
“because they have a ready local market.”