Monday I went to the panel presentation “Thought for Food.” It had a good group of people to discuss food availability and security as well as the impact local businesses and purchases can have. The panel consisted of Becky Elder, Larry Stebbins, Christine Faith, Craig McHugh, and Mike Callicrate.
Probably the biggest thing I got out of it was that if the folks in Colorado shifted 25% of their buying power to Colorado, 31,000 jobs could be created. They figured that could mean something like 5,000 jobs in El Paso County. So all of you out there that are still working on your holiday shopping? Make those purchases from local artists, craftspeople, farmers, and shops. You’re not just helping your neighbors, you’re also helping yourself since a strong local economy is better able to weather things than one that outsources everything.
The next on the list for me is that within 30 miles of downtown, there are two farms. That’s two farms to feed about a half-million people. Even if you don’t think Peak Oil is real, or you think we’ll just magic up a new cheap fuel source- what happens when we have the sort of storms Boulder had earlier this fall and I-25 washes out? Our food mostly comes down from Denver, and if they can’t take I-25 either the food won’t get here, or the prices will be jacked up because they have to go all the way out to Limon before coming down 24. Assuming 24 is in good shape after the storm. That’s a really, really precarious position. I’m not terribly fond of Phoenix and Las Vegas because they wouldn’t, you know, exist if it weren’t for cheap transportation of food and water. I’m starting to think that Colorado Springs really isn’t much better.
Speaking of water- did you know that the US flushes six billion gallons of potable water every day? I knew it was bad, but damn. Using grey water is legal in Colorado Springs if you have the right permits. If you don’t, consider sticking a bucket under your bathroom sink drain to use the grey water from the sink to flush your toilet. My family used to do it with pond water when the electricity went out. It works really well. You are putting the water right back into the system instead of into your yard, so I don’t see how anyone could complain. If you do go the permit route to use greywater on your garden- take a really good look at what you are putting into the water. Dr. Bronner’s is pretty benign, but other than that, be very careful with soaps and detergents. Of course, watching them kill your plants might make you start to question what they’re doing to you.
Speaking of rules- the video is worth watching if only to see the variety of answers when they were asked how to deal with HOAs.
It’s not all problems, though. The whole panel was full of solutions. They included everything from growing public food forests to feed the hungry hoards when the trucks stop to ways to support the small-time grower so that everyone can benefit from the neighbors with green thumbs. Becky said that instead of fearing the hoards, we should work on empowering ourselves. Don’t forget, though, that no one is sustainable by themselves. Mike, who is behind the Public Market plan, hopes to provide a truck to go out and gather the produce from small growers so that they don’t have to spend their profit on gas to get the food to the Public Market. Craig mentioned that a 1,000 square-foot, four-season greenhouse costs $10,000 to build. The annual income is around $25,000.
Possibly the most inspiring part of this was that they do have hope. Their hope doesn’t rely on government policy, or a change in the local ecosystem. (Someone mentioned that urban food deserts have nothing on us- we are a desert!) Their hope relies on people putting in a beehive and a couple of 4×8 beds. Their hope is that the young, strong backs can pair with the elderly who have knowledge and quite possibly have land. The reason that Denver and Pueblo have more school and urban gardens is because the people demanded them- and then made them happen. How can we support more gardens in Colorado Springs? Buy produce from your local gardeners. The same with honey, eggs, milk. Yes, it is more expensive than buying the same from Walmart. However, you are investing in both your personal health and the health of your community. Humans are social animals, and community is why we’ve survived as long as we have. We just have to remember how to build them.
“Fear is forgetting that everything is alright.” ~Becky Elder