CSA in action: Monroe Organic Farms

Jacquie and Jerry Monroe regard themselves first as caretakers of their land. Monroe Organic Farms, the Weld County farmland that Monroe family has farmed for 73 years, is like a cherished family member as much as it’s their business. As a direct result of their stewardship of the land and their commitment to organic growing practices, Monroe Organic Farms grows some of the best tasting organic produce in Colorado, and there’s a membership waiting list to prove it.

The Monroe farming philosophy emphasizes taste over size and appearance. Jerry pours over seed catalogs in the winter months, looking for heirlooms, and new and unique varieties to plant, constantly trying to find the best tasting vegetables the farm can produce.

In 1993, they organized as a community-supported agriculture (CSA) project, which brings the farmer back into the community. The farmer and consumers unite to grow produce, sharing the bounty and also sharing the risk to mitigate its impact. The farmer learns the consumers’ needs and desires. Consumers learn the realities of food production, such as the actual time of year produce is harvested in Colorado and how weather and insects can affect a harvest. They wanted to work closely with people who appreciate their farming philosophy, to build relationships with their members, and to share the pleasure of perfectly vine-ripened food.

People in the community “join the farm” as non-working or working members, and then purchase full, half or single shares which translate to a percentage of the weekly harvest. Some members provide space at their homes for distribution centers, so members in the neighborhood have a convenient pick-up location. Distribution centers are located throughout the Denver metro area and Front Range communities in Colorado.

In the spring, the Monroes host a Strawberry Festival where members can pick their own berries. In the fall they have hayrides and a pumpkin patch.

Contact the farm to be put on the waiting list for 2010 summer season and some of the best-tasting organic product this side of the Rockies! http://www.monroefarm.com/contact.htm

Did you know…?

  • The average age of retirement for an American farmer is 65 to 70. Fifty percent of the nation’s farmers are 55 to 75.
  • 55.88% of Colorado farmland is in pasture, 37% is in cropland, and 7.2% is in other uses.
  • Larimer and Weld Counties in Colorado produce half of the state’s vegetables.
    • Weld County leads the state in lost agricultural land by losing 15,808 acres every year.
    • Larimer County has lost one third of its agricultural land in the last 35 years, yet Larimer County has gained 135 ‘farms’ between 1997 and 2002 due to people moving onto subdivided small acreages.
    • Average expenses per farm in Weld County is $140,717, and the average net income per farm in Weld County is $11,715.
  • Prices for farm commodities are at their lowest in 10 years, yet the price of land, equipment, seed, etc. have risen.
  • The average size of a U.S. farm and ranch is 991 acres.
  • Three fourths of all farmers live on the land they farm.
  • 42% of all farmers have to leave the farm 100 to 200 days a year to supplement their incomes.
  • The average expenses per farm in the U.S. is $347,472, and the average net income per farm in the U.S. is $21,775.

What does all of this mean for farming?

The current trends in farming include loss of agricultural land, water shortage, and the retirement of farmers. In addition, small farms are being bought by corporations that control large and ever increasing amounts of agricultural land.

What does all of this mean for farming in Colorado?

Loss of Agricultural Land
2,400,600 new residents will move into the Front Range communities by 2030, and it is anticipated that 133,000 to 226,000 acres of farmland will be lost by 2030.

Water Shortage
80% of all household water is attained through snow melt-off, the same source used by farms. Thus, 80% of the water for the 2,400,000 new residents competes with water for farms.

The Denver Metro water plan for the next 20-30 years includes:

  • Household conservation
  • Reuse all water leaving households and streets with no return to the South Platt River.
  • Purchase agriculture water on the Eastern plains and dry up farmland.
  • Build new water storage along the South Platt River (water-filled gravel pits).
  • Sever water restriction, meaning no lawns in the Denver Metro area.

(Source: Colorado Department of Agriculture)

What will farming be like in fifty years?

“Get Big or Get Out!”
Currently only 9% of our farms and 28% of all sales are corporate-run farms. Farming economists predict that there will be less than 400 farmers within the next 20 to 30 years. These farmers will work on mega farms of 30,000 acres or more. Already there is a corporation that produces potatoes in 26 states on 43,000 acres.

Foreign Farming
Economists predict that most of our food will be imported from other countries within 20 to 30 years. As of 2006, 60% of your vegetables, year round, are imported from outside the U.S. Chemicals that are banned in this country are allowed to be used abroad; they are not regulated.

This scares me. Especially when these fruits and vegetables make their way to America’s dinner table!

Is there a way to support small farms in America?

Yes!
It is called Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). When consumers directly support a small farm, there is a better chance the farm will survive. Small farmers will be able to make a decent wage for their work.

 

Published 08/18/2009 at http://www.ColoradoLovesGreen.com

 

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