Pride of a nation is locally grown

As tufts of green began to peek through the brown, dry land, spring’s warm weather brought hope of calves running through the fields and fresh fruits and vegetables growing abundant. Colorado farmers and ranchers often are overlooked for the vital role they play in all our lives, and springtime is the perfect time to honor them for their contribution to our way of life.

Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis – but too few people truly understand this contribution. In the 1960s, each American farmer and rancher fed approximately 25 people. Today, thanks to technology and greater efficiency, that number has soared to more than 150 people. As the world population grows, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.

Agriculture also is one of the largest contributors to the state’s economy, generating more than $40 billion of economic activity annually and supporting more than 173,000 jobs in Colorado. When financial times are tight, the United States can boast that our citizens spend the smallest percentage of their income on food. I truly believe that a country’s power can be traced back to its ability to feed its people. Our farmers and ranchers are an integral part of that equation.

Buying local products benefits local farmers, ranchers and processors as well as the state economy. In addition, 86 percent of Coloradans feel that the presence of ranches, farms and agriculture is important to the quality of life in Colorado.

Why buy local? The reasons are simple:

Instead of traveling an average of 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate, local produce is harvested and delivered immediately. Spending less time in transport means fresh products that retain more of their nutritional value.

Buying local maintains jobs, sustains family farms and ranches, and contributes to the state economy.

Buying local is better for the environment because it helps keep farms and ranches profitable, thereby maintaining open space and wildlife habitat.

Buying local lets you experience seasonal and regional favorites such as Palisade peaches, Rocky Ford melons and Olathe sweet corn.

Local farmers and ranchers are right here in your backyard! They are readily available to answer questions about their fresh products.

The beauty of farms and ranches enriches the Colorado landscape and supports the state’s western heritage.

I encourage Colorado shoppers to consider these facts as they purchase items for their dinner table. And the next time you’re enjoying a healthy, Colorado-grown meal, be sure to thank Colorado’s farmers and ranchers!    

Former U.S. Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., is commissioner of the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

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