Behind the scenes of your local farmers’ market, The Valley Food Partnership (VFP) is working hard to increase access to healthy, locally-grown food. In fact, the nonprofit is responsible for several important food-related programs and initiatives here in the Uncompahgre Valley – with the goal of creating a resilient regional food system that sustains the land, producers, and healthy communities.
Among these efforts is Cultivating Ranchers and Farmers That Thrive, a program that provides training and support for people new to agriculture. Through classes, mentorships, and internships, farmers and ranchers can learn how to overcome barriers and create a framework for making decisions about their unique business. This includes information on topics such as agricultural practices, business and marketing, land access and more.
The VFP’s reach also extends beyond local producers to impact individuals. Local Farmacy RX is a program that aims to increase nutritional intake in our communities. The program provides information not only on where to find good quality, local food, but what to do with it. Cooking and nutrition classes, stipends for use on local produce, and healthy-eating potlucks are some of the ways this program encourages consumption of local fruits and vegetables for people from all socioeconomic statuses.
Perhaps the most well-known VFP initiative in the valley is the Montrose Farmers' Market which acts as a gathering place for the community to shop and interact with local growers and each other. It is also a place for business incubation - smaller or newer producers can expand their business without the need for an expensive brick and mortar shop getting in the way. Food access is another critical part of the market, with five food assistance programs available for use by people experiencing food insecurity.
The VFP is making strides when it comes to utilizing technology in agriculture. A new program known as The Regional Food System Partnership is still in its infancy, but has great potential to accomplish its goal of increasing communication, coordination, and collaboration in our local food system. After extensive research, a model has been created that utilizes blockchain technology to identify and minimize vulnerabilities, maximize efficiency, and develop partnerships between the members of every part of the food supply chain.
The VFP also aids in organizing the Western Slope's foremost agriculture conference known as the Western Colorado Food and Farm Forum, which, this coming January, will be merging with the Soil Health Conference. This annual event brings together experts with extensive agricultural experience to share their latest research and innovations for anyone with an interest in agriculture.
Thanks to the passionate team at the Valley Food Partnership, people in the community are becoming more involved in the food they eat, increasing their sense of belonging and fostering a strong sense of community. The economic benefits of this are immense, and help to create a sustainable local food system for the future.
To read more about the VFP, visit www.valleyfoodpartnership.org
Written by Lauren Walch
Originally from Vermont, Lauren moved to Colorado seven years ago and is now proud to call the Western Slope home. When she's not working, you can find her on a hike, doing a crossword puzzle with a cat on her lap, or with friends at a local brewery or winery.