Local farms producing crops for Pine River Shares – The Durango Herald

Produce is part of the Field to Fork program

Emily Jensen, co-owner of Homegrown Farm, weeds newly planted tomato plants on her and her husband’s farm east of Bayfield on Saturday. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

In a major shift to their business market, the owners of Homegrown Farm in Bayfield are selling their produce wholesale to Pine River Shares this summer for distribution to local residents.

The farm previously wholesaled to restaurants in Telluride.

“We hated that our food went this far,” said Emily Jensen, who has run the farm with her husband, Mike, for 15 years.

They knew that their products were consumed mainly by wealthier customers whom they were never going to meet, but the restaurants were able to offer more money for their products than they could earn locally.

Enter Pine River Shares, which distributed food to 31,000 customers last year and wanted to start providing healthier food to residents who might not be able to afford it. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a huge increase in the number of people using the group’s pantry.

“We want to give good food to hungry people,” said Pam Wilhoite, director of Pine River Shares.

Back to agricultural roots

As part of the group’s work on food security and local production, they facilitated the Field to Fork program, which examined how residents of the Pine River Valley could return to historic roots of ranching and farming. farming in the region to produce food, instead of importing it from wholesalers. several distance states.

As part of the research for the Field to Fork program, local farmers explained that they didn’t sell much local produce because they couldn’t charge a price that covered their costs and gave them a profit.

Last year, Pine River Shares purchased a share of Homegrown Farm’s community-supported agriculture program and then distributed the vegetables and fruits.

Newly planted tomato plants Saturday at Homegrown Farm in Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Sowing at Homegrown Farm Saturday at the farm east of Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

To expand the effort, Wilhoite collected donations from local supporters and focused on paying Homegrown a higher price for the products, and Pine River Shares volunteers separate and prepare the products for distribution.

Pine River Shares also purchases produce from other farms, in addition to $1,500 worth of locally produced eggs, and purchased and processed three steers for distribution this year.

The group also provides expertise for the use of grow domes and has applied for funding to be able to distribute them, but the group has not yet received funding.

“If everyone grows food at home and we share the means of production, there will be enough food for everyone,” Wilhoite said.

Homegrown Farm co-owner Emily Jensen walks through the hoop with carrots and beets planted Saturday at her and her husband’s farm east of Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The Field to Fork program focuses on the full cycle of food production, including growing and raising local produce and meat, processing, distribution, marketing, markets and purchasing, preparation and consumption, waste recovery and nutrient cycling.

Ideas for more sustainable local food production include the purchase of a portable cider mill, commercial kitchen facilities, a mill to produce fiber from local sheep and llamas, and storage lockers. meat and dairies to store food. This summer, the group will plant 100 fruit trees in the valley, in partnership with the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.

Mike Jensen, co-owner of Homegrown Farm, waters the seedlings Saturday at the farm east of Bayfield. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

The owners of Homegrown Farm in Bayfield are selling their produce wholesale to Pine River Shares this summer for distribution to local residents. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

With more people interested in growing and buying locally produced food, a local food distribution project is “much more possible” than when Homegrown Farm began growing produce in decades past, Emily Jensen said. . “We are trying to develop a valley-wide food system.”

In addition to providing food to Pine River Shares, Homegrown Farm also offers community-supported farm shares to farming customers, and the owners sell produce at the Durango Farmers’ Market.

Growing sustainable artisanal vegetables is labor-intensive and time-consuming, Jensen said, hence the farm’s previous reliance on high-end customers.

“I didn’t know I could change that for other people,” she said, with help from groups like Pine River Shares and their volunteers. “It’s a revelation for us. In all of our regions, we have the ability to choose where our products go.

The Field to Fork plan is available online at www.pinerivershares.org.

An earlier version of this story erred that Pine River Shares provides growing domes. The nonprofit is seeking funding to make domes available, but has not yet received funding to do so.

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