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Thursday, August 26,2010

Eat local this week

By Heather May Koski
Celebrate our food and farming culture

Boulder County farmers’ markets are usually held only once or twice a week.

But they are about to be celebrated for eight days in a row as part of EAT LOCAL! Week.

Developed to explore, discover and celebrate the abundance of local food and farming in Boulder County, Transition Colorado is hosting the series of events.

A nonprofit organization, Transition Colorado supports and trains communities to establish resilience and self-reliance to strengthen themselves against the challenges of climate change and peak oil.

According to Michael Brownlee, a Transition Colorado “catalyst,” one of the best ways to prepare communities for relocalization is to become more resilient to energy and food shocks by meeting essential needs locally through community farming and farmers’ markets.

“Our focus is to prepare communities for global crisis, economic instability or decline through food, energy and economical transitions,” Brownlee says.

Brownlee adopted his title of “catalyst” to help remind him what his job is for Transition Colorado and Boulder County. He and his small staff precipitate and initiate the change they want to see for sustainable, thriving communities.

From Aug. 28 through Sept. 4, EAT LOCAL! Week will feature activities around Boulder County to highlight local family farms and farmers’ markets, as well as the organizations, grocers and restaurants that support them.

EAT LOCAL! Week will kick off at 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 28 at Blues & Greens Restaurant in the Boulder Outlook Hotel with local food and music from Louisville’s Lionel Young. Admission is free, like many of the other EAT LOCAL! Week events. Featuring keynote presentations by sustainable food authors, an ice cream social, a film festival, a local food cook-off, a local food conference and local farm tours, the week offers a bounty of diverse activities for all ages and interests.

Brownlee says he expects the ice cream social and the local food shed conference to attract many participants.

“We find a lot of people are interested in the Tour de Coops to see local farms in person,” he says. “The Eat Local Film Festival will probably draw a lot of people, too.”

County resident Erin Waggener adds, “Touring a farm sounds really cool, and it’s a neat idea for everybody in Boulder to shop and eat locally with a series of events like EAT LOCAL! Week.”

As a vegetarian, Waggener says she shops a lot at the farmers’ markets and patronizes local restaurants instead of chain restaurants.

“Boulder is really friendly for vegetarians and alternative diets,” she says. “There is definitely more of a draw for locally grown food and restaurants in Boulder County than in other areas of the United States.”

The week-long series was officially approved in late July when the Boulder Board of County Commissioners proclaimed Aug. 28 through Sept. 4 EAT LOCAL! Week in Boulder County. The city councils of Boulder, Louisville and Nederland adopted similar resolutions.

“We heard about other communities that put together eat local weeks, and it made sense to do it here in Boulder County,” Brownlee says. “It seemed best to bring all local food and farming events together under one umbrella, especially during harvest season.”

Brownlee says the realization of the challenges and opportunities in our local farming system is Transition Colorado’s biggest inspiration for hosting EAT LOCAL! Week.

“We are helping to [encourage] the demand of local food production,” he says. “We need more land and farmers, working on both sides. EAT LOCAL! Week is a way of bringing attention to the issues in a celebratory and educational way.”

Engaging local government is a prominent goal. “The county commissioners are already engaged, but we wanted more involvement and realization for Boulder County residents that their elected officers are involved in these issues,” Brownlee says.

Transition Colorado invited local restaurants to participate in the EAT LOCAL! Week by serving some variation of a local menu.

“There are several restaurants that we want to emphasize that feature locally grown produce, and many more that have made a commitment to moving in the local direction,” Brownlee says. “There’s a tremendous growth of the local movement in Boulder County.”

Brownlee says Transition Colorado will distribute 30,000 copies of Boulder County’s Eat Local Resource Guide and Directory to generate interest and awareness of EAT LOCAL! Week events. The directory will feature intellectual articles and the 10 percent Local Food Shift Challenge, a pledge to shift 10 percent of one’s 2010 food purchases to food grown as locally and sustainably as possible.

“We get the most feedback about our movement and EAT LOCAL! Week when we go down to the Boulder Farmers’ Market and talk to people there,” Brownlee says. “There is a growing enthusiasm for local food and farmers, and I really hope Transition Colorado continues to host a whole week of local food and farming events in the future.”

For more information about EAT LOCAL! Week, visit www.transitioncolorado.org.

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