Colorado Proud is asking consumers to consider their plates. Whether shopping at the grocery store, eating out at a restaurant or noshing at home, the organization wants you to take a moment and look at the food in front of you.
An organization created by the Department of Agriculture in 1999, Colorado Proud promotes food products with direct Colorado ties.
“It’s really designed to help promote food and agricultural products that are grown, raised or processed in the state,” said Wendy White, marketing specialist for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
This includes supporting farmers, ranchers, food producers and manufacturers within the state. The organization has also worked with schools interested in designing their food programs around locally grown and produced goods.
Since its inception, Colorado Proud has been growing steadily, particularly in recent years. While previously about 100 businesses joined per year, White said that now that number is up to 200. As of 2013, the organization has 1,900 members.
“I think there’s just, not only in Colorado but nationwide as well, a greater interested by consumers in local food and where their food comes and getting really connected to agriculture,” White said, as an explanation for the increased numbers.
In Summit County
Summit County also has its fair share of Colorado Proud members. One of the most recent is the Grand Essentials convenience shop at the Grand Lodge on Peak 7. The shop, which carries basic items needed by guests, expanded recently to include more food products. Now, as a member of Colorado Proud, many of those products are locally sourced.
Handmade, gluten-free panini and burritos are an example, which come from a company in Boulder. For a Summit County-specific flavor, spices from the Breckenridge Spice Merchant are available, as well as eight varieties of tea.
Debby Grosse, who coordinates the ordering of products at the store, came upon the Colorado Proud website while doing some research and liked what she saw.
“I feel very strongly about having Colorado products,” Grosse said. “I think supporting Colorado Proud is really important.”
Focusing on Colorado products, particularly those in Breckenridge, benefits everyone, Grosse added.
“It’s really fun,” she said of having the local spices and teas available. “We thought that would be a fun way to support the Breckenridge Spice Merchants to have their product available through Grand Lodge. It’s a slow time of year for many businesses in Breckenridge, so we thought it would be an opportunity to help each other out.”
The mutually beneficial angle is one that Colorado Proud emphasizes in its promotion.
“Really, our message in choosing Colorado and Colorado Proud is that it’s better for you and better for Colorado,” White said. “It’s better for the person buying the product because it’s spending less time in transportation, it’s better for the state, … and helping to support the state’s farmers and ranchers as well as the overall state economy.”
White added that agriculture contributes around $40 billion to the state economy per year.
The Sunshine Café, in Silverthorne, is also a Colorado Proud member, with at least half of its menu items made with local ingredients.
“It benefits everybody — the consumer, the farmers, the retailers,” said owner Jim Moore. “It’s a win-win situation.”
Hoping to expand
As always, Colorado Proud hopes to increase its influence and its membership by reaching out to individuals and communities around the state with its message. This summer’s “Follow Your Food” campaign is an attempt to get people thinking about where their food comes from and how they can go about supporting Colorado businesses.
“It’s really important for people to know the variety and bounty of products that we have available in Colorado,” White said.
Joining Colorado Proud is free and allows businesses to use the Colorado Proud logo, emphasizing its connection to local food sources. Businesses are also listed on the organization’s website as Colorado Proud companies. This can generate interest not only in tourists wanting Colorado souvenirs and experiences, but in locals as well, White said.
“I think one of the biggest things is we really know our customers,” she added. “Our residents in Colorado want to choose Colorado. If they’re given a choice between two products, … 90 percent of them are going to choose the Colorado product. We’re really lucky to have such great support in the state.”
Finding new members doesn’t look like it will be too difficult for the organization. Todd Nelson, corporate chef of Park and Main restaurant in Breckenridge, said that he and his business partners have been planning to find local sources for ingredients. He gave three reasons behind this motivation.
“The number one reason would be reducing the carbon footprint,” he said. “The number two reason for us to do it is that we actually get a higher quality product that’s fresher and quicker to market than something that’s sourced from across the country or the other side of the world. And number three would be to support our state and local economy as best we can. Because ultimately, those same people producing on the Front Range to us are coming up and skiing and recreating up in the mountains.”
Nelson said that, because of this, he would definitely be looking into working with the Colorado Proud organization, and that is exactly what White and the others at the Department of Agriculture are happy to hear.
“Buying local really does make a difference,” White said.