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Mancos co-op gets a boost to help expand distribution in Durango

Grant will help grow program in Durango
Mary Shinn/The Journal file photo <br><br>These salad greens were grown by a Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative Farm in 2014. The co-op is looking to expand direct distribution through a Community Supported Agriculture program in Durango.

Durangoans could be eating more Montezuma County vegetables this year.

In the spring, the Mancos-based Southwest Farm Fresh Cooperative will be launching a Community Supported Agriculture program in Durango, said Ole Bye, the co-op manager.

Customers sign up to receive vegetables, meat, cheese and locally roasted coffee for 18 weeks through the CSA program.

“I think the market is pretty much untapped,” he said.

The co-op started doing online direct sales to consumers in 2015 for the Durango community, but the inconsistency of orders was challenging.

The CSA model will be more predictable, and if it goes well, the co-op would like to expand it to its other distribution areas, including Mancos, Cortez, Dolores and Telluride.

The co-op, entering its third season, has been reliant on wholesale distribution, and it has seen significant growth since it started.

In 2015, the co-op sold about $100,000 of produce, up 40 percent from the year before, Bye said.

“We are in a situation where we need as much production as we can get,” he said.

But the co-op remains reliant on grants, because it is still in its startup phase.

This winter, the co-op received a $3,000 grant from the Ballantine Family Fund to help support operations.

The co-op distributes produce from 19 farms. During the cold season, it focused on honing production plans by taking sales information and working to align it with what farms anticipate they will be growing.

“It ends up being a fairly complex process, trying to schedule vegetables that are not even planted yet,” Bye said.

More information about the CSA program will be available at www.southwestfarmfresh.com.


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