Local food brands take root

Co-op helps small ranchers enter the marketplace

Shawntell Stiner, 17, of Marvel, moves one of her lambs in the barn at the family farm. A trend that puts a premium on local food is helping Southwest Colorado’s small ranchers and farmers. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Shawntell Stiner, 17, of Marvel, moves one of her lambs in the barn at the family farm. A trend that puts a premium on local food is helping Southwest Colorado’s small ranchers and farmers.

The LOCAL Brands Farm And Ranch Markets Cooperative, called FARM, is less than a year old, but already the concept has both roots and branches.

Local customers with a growing desire to know the provenance of their food are driving business, said one of the cooperative’s founders, Denise Stovall. Beyond helping area farmers while giving customers knowledge of the origins of last night’s dinner, the cooperative model also is changing lives. And the co-op’s mission is evolving to augment that.

“We realized how much demand there was here and felt like we could help small farms and ranches,” Stovall said.

Strong consumer demand and support for the work is making area ranches “more viable in our local economic system,” Stovall said.

They’ve been able to incubate several small businesses created by local ranching families into growing successes. Some, like a new gluten-free bakery owned and operated by Melinda Wood and her family, have even moved beyond the protective arms of the co-op into free-standing operations.

What she’s seeing at the co-op, Wood said, has strengthened her confidence in the local market. The trends, she said, seem more than a fad, and she predicts the businesses spinning off from the endeavor could see prolonged community support and success.

“I do feel like people are supporting co-ops because so few places these days can guarantee where your food comes from,” Wood said.

Stovall concurred and said, “economics” will increasingly drive more changes in buying habits to the benefit of local agriculture as transportation and freight costs rise.

The farmers’ successes will mean a more dynamic local economic, more grocery dollars kept local and more preservation of the area’s agricultural green space, she said.

“And more than that, it just makes a person feel good when someone wants to buy their eggs,” Stovall said.

hscofield@durangoherald.com

Comments » Read and share your thoughts on this story