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Natural selection

Beneficial co-op puts down roots at local market

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Dan Hobbs is one of many Southern Colorado farmers - who have joined the Beneficial Farm and Ranch - Cooperative. - COURTESY OF BENEFICIAL FARM & RANCH
  • Courtesy of Beneficial Farm & Ranch
  • Dan Hobbs is one of many Southern Colorado farmers who have joined the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Cooperative.

The weathered faces and hands of southern Colorado farmers Dan Hobbs and Doug Wiley have become familiar to many Springs shoppers seeking chemical-free produce and antibiotic- and hormone-free, farm-raised meats.

With their wives Allison and Kim, and other farmers from the upper Arkansas Valley and Cañon City areas, Hobbs and Wiley have sold their wares at the Colorado Farm and Art Market for the past two summers.

Now Wiley and Hobbs, along with chicken farmer Marcy Nameth of Fowler, Colo., and Beki and Carl Javernick of Cañon City, have joined the Beneficial Farm and Ranch Cooperative. Seeking to improve the poor soils of their farms through biodynamic agriculture, a method of sustainable growing developed in the early 20th century by Austrian-born scientist Rudolf Steiner, New Mexico farmers and families started Beneficial in 1994. Their motto: Bringing food back to life.

Local merchant Melissa Martz, manager of Tejon Street Market, an independent downtown grocery store, has partnered with Beneficial to bring its products to Colorado Springs.

Earlier this fall, a Beneficial Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) formed. Customers paid a set membership fee that would guarantee delivery of fresh produce, meats, poultry and eggs from these Colorado farmers to the store every Saturday. All forgo pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, hormones and synthetic fertilizers on their farms.

"They set up in the back of the store from 10 a.m. till noon," says Martz. "It's a really neat collaborative relationship between farmers and a small grocery store. They take all the profit home with no middleman, and I get new customers in the store."

CSA members pick up the items they want for the week, then their products are weighed and the cost is deducted from the amount they paid up front for membership. They also pick up special orders of meat, which they can make every Tuesday.

Martz buys surplus produce to sell in the store, and regularly stocks Wiley's bratwurst, sausages and ground beef, as well as fresh apple cider made by participating farmers.

Currently, her produce bin is stocked with leeks, onions, apples, spinach and a variety of winter squashes from Beneficial farmers. Customers now can enjoy a new addition to the store, a full display of Breadhead Bakery products, including pies, cakes and pastries, and espresso. Martz also sells MouCo, Oro Blanco and Haystack Mountain artisanal cheeses made in Colorado (see "Curd mentality," page 21).

While the deadline has passed for buying a full CSA membership, purchases of smaller-scale memberships still can be arranged and used through Dec. 3, says Martz. By paying in advance, CSA members essentially are making a pledge to "assist farmers to provide fresh, locally grown nutritious foods with methods that steward the land and community."

It's an idea that's catching on in the Springs, as more and more consumers discover the health and environmental benefits of sustainably and locally grown food.

-- Kathryn Eastburn

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Tejon Street Market

321 N. Tejon St., 636-0017

For more info,

visit beneficialfoods.org

or contact Dan Hobbs at 719/250-9835.

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