How yuppies killed, and saved, the family farm

 

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time on what we called "The Farm," my grandparents' place in the Animas Valley in southwestern Colorado. We ate corn right off the stalk and green peas out of the shell. We gobbled the feral asparagus that sprang up each spring alongside the fences. We slathered everything with big amorphous chunks of butter from my grandparents' cows, and waited eagerly for lamb chops, my favorite dinner.

My grandparents were not "local food" snobs by any means -- Wonder Bread remained a staple, and if we were lucky, we had bright green Jell-O for dessert. They were farmers by trade. They lacked money but had seven kids to help out, so my mom spent much of her childhood picking raspberries and working on the farm. That was enough to forever sour her -- and most of her siblings -- on the idea of farming. Or so she said.

My grandparents sold off most of the farm when I was still young. And as the land became more valuable for housing than harvests, other locals did the same. The fallow fields sprouted sprawl, and rural-burbia replaced the old barns. I blamed yuppies -- i.e., any outsiders who could afford to buy property in my hometown -- for the death of local agriculture.

Recently, however, a batch of fresh aioli changed my thinking. You see, that rich and creamy concoction of egg yolks, garlic and olive oil really isn't aioli if it's not made with right-out-of-the-nest eggs and local garlic. And it's just not as good if it's spread on something other than freshly dug potatoes, or just-harvested summer squash (alongside some local chevre-stuffed and sautéed squash blossoms). Luckily, my family has a place where we can get most of this stuff right off the farm. And oddly enough, we owe it to the yuppies.

The North Fork Valley, where HCN is headquartered, is one of the top organic farming regions in Colorado. Most of the harvest, though, is sold over the mountains, in places like Aspen and Crested Butte. The local market simply isn't big enough or wealthy enough to support all of the small farms. But Aspenites (whose land is too expensive, and too high-altitude, for successful farming) have the cash to spend on fresh, semi-local food. It's a nice symbiosis.

That doesn't mean that these farms don't still struggle financially. But if they can grow the right boutique crops, they scrape by. And wine grapes are one of those crops. Just as a cool, local sauvignon blanc serves as a nice foil for fresh-made aioli, so do local wineries enhance the local food movement. Indeed, Napa and Sonoma were once only famous for their wine; now, they are all-around foodie meccas. Christie Aschwanden explores the phenomenon in this issue's cover story -- a perfect treat for a hot summer afternoon.

I'd recommend reading it while sipping a glass of the local gewurztraminer, and eating some aioli-slathered grilled vegetables from that farm I mentioned. Which, by the way, is now my parents' garlic farm. Decades after leaving the family farm, my mom ended up starting her own. 

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

High Country News Classifieds
  • ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    HawkWatch International seeks an experienced fundraiser to join our awesome team! This position will provide support in all aspects of the department. We are looking...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING IN TAOS, NEW MEXICO www.westernlaw.org/about-us/clinic-interns-careers The Western Environmental Law Center (WELC) is a nonprofit public interest environmental law firm with a...
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    will develop and execute Wild Utah Projects fundraising plan. Call, email or check full description of job online for more details:
  • HAND CRAFTED LOG HOME IN TETON VALLEY
    on ten acres. Full view of the Grand Teton. 35 miles to Yellowstone and 20 minutes to Grand Targhee Ski Area.
  • ACREAGE WITH HOME, SHOP, BARN FOR SALE!
    Must see for sng/extd fam or corp retreat in pines! $1,030,000
  • WESTERN REGIONAL MANAGER
    The American Forest Foundation seeks a smart and highly motivated candidate to join our Western conservation team. The Regional Manager supports the Regional Director to...
  • TRANSPORTATION PLANNER
    Exciting opportunity to lead the charge on meeting the future transportation demands of our community! This position will develop, coordinate, and implement the Integrated Transportation...
  • ENVIRONMENTAL WRITING INSTITUTE (EWI)
    with Robert Michael Pyle September 26-30, 2018, in Missoula MT.
  • REPORTING FELLOW - BOISE, ID
    Boise State Public Radio is hiring a Reporting Fellow as part of a new nationwide collaborative, Guns & America. Based in the state capitol, Boise...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Middle Colorado Watershed Council. Rifle, CO.
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF RIVERSEDGE WEST (FORMERLY TAMARISK COALITION)
    RiversEdge West is seeking an entrepreneurial leader with solid nonprofit management skills to lead our high functioning team and help us make an impact on...
  • HIRING BEARS EARS EDUCATION CENTER DIRECTOR
    Conservation nonprofit Friends of Cedar Mesa in Bluff, Utah is hiring an Education Center Director to oversee the operation of the Bears Ears Education Center....
  • DEVELOPMENT COORDINATOR WITH WRA
    Western Resource Advocates (WRA) is seeking a talented, organized person with great people skills, who is passionate about protection of the natural environment to work...
  • DIRECTOR OF REGIONAL COMMUNICATIONS STRATEGY
    The Wilderness Society is recruiting for an experienced Communicator for our Northwest Region. This position is located in Seattle, WA. For more information please visit...
  • SALMON RIVER IDAHO WILDERNESS RETREAT HOME
    Here is an opportunity to have a piece of self-sufficient paradise on Idaho's Main Salmon River adjacent to the largest Forest Service wilderness area in...
  • RAMMED EARTH SOLAR COTTAGE
    in 5-home conservation community & botanical sanctuary on 20 acres.
  • MEMBERSHIP AND ENGAGEMENT COORDINATOR
    The Montana Wildlife Federation is looking for an enthusiastic and innovative Membership and Engagement Coordinator to help grow and maintain our grassroots voice for wildife,...
  • SR ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNER
    The City of Fort Collins is excited to announce a Sr Environmental Planner position within the Natural Areas Department. This position will be housed within...
  • HISTORICAL VACATION CABIN
    on beautiful Snow Angel Ranch located within San Juan National Forest near Pagosa Springs, CO. Lakes, fly-fishing, swimming, hiking, mountain biking, horse trails, horse accommodations...
  • FIVE-ACRE VIEW LOT WITH WELL
    5 acres, well. Abuts Carson NF; hike fish ski; deer turkey elk.