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Does Summit County want local produce?

Kathryn Corazzelli
summit daily news
Summit Daily/Mark Fox
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In Summit County, the perception is that everyone wants organic, locally grown produce. But if it becomes available, how many people would actually pay the extra money for it?

A new food assessment survey is being distributed to determine just that. The data received will be used by the High Country Conservation Center and the Summit Prevention Alliance, two local nonprofits working together to grow and acquire sustainable food in Summit County. While there are a few community gardens already up and running – produce from Nancy’s Community Garden in Frisco will be sold locally this summer – the goal is to acquire grant funding for more community gardens, or even acquire county or town land for growing. But to achieve these goals, the organizations have to first show there’s a community demand.

Joanna Rybak, community prevention coordinator for the alliance, said the problem with collecting the information has always been a matter of missing time and resources. So when five students from Colorado Mountain College’s Leadership Summit – a nine-month community leadership program – contacted Rybak and Jennifer Santry, executive director at the conservation center, for ideas for a community project, a food assessment survey came out as the top need.

“Their biggest need was collecting hard data for granters to say that the people that live in Summit County want these community gardens, and want this sustainable, local food,” said student Sha Miklas. “So we created a survey to go out to as many community members as we could, so when they go to get grant money, they actually have some real data.”

“We’re just trying to figure out if there is a market in Summit County for organic produce,” Rybak said. “We’re assuming there is. There’s a number of people who say they want it, but it would be great to have real numbers.”

Rybak said the data will help show granters and county commissioners there is a community demand. She said eventually, the organizations would like to have land donated so they could grow produce on a larger scale. She said the vegetables being sold this summer from Nancy’s – Summit Greens – is a pilot project, to help determine interest.

“To really make it profitable, we need a large piece of land,” she said.

The survey can be taken online, and includes questions concerning where people buy their groceries, if they’re willing to pay more for local and organic produce and if they would want to participate in a community garden. Miklas said one of the most important questions concerns where the responder lives, so they can determine where the interest lies and where future gardens should be created. As an incentive to take the questionnaire, a drawing will be held at the survey’s end in a few weeks. Prizes include an Arapahoe Basin ski pass, dinner for two at Vinny’s Restaurant, and a home energy audit from the conservation center.

Miklas said almost 1,000 people have filled out the survey so far. Rybak said a majority of the current responders are in a high-income bracket, and she would like to see more people with lower incomes complete the questionnaire.

Miklas said she and the rest of her group are committed to the project, and plan to help out the organizations past the class’s end in June.

“I’m not really sure what the next step is, but we are committed to staying with the project as long as they need us to,” Miklas said.


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