Colorado's Regenerative Food System Transition

Aug 15, 2021
regenerative food system in Colorado. transform. nontoxic foods. diversity.

I am a functional nutritionist and past environmental attorney on a mission to transform the food system into one that makes people and ecosystems vibrant and healthy. I have a BA in anthropology, an MA in environmental policy and am the author of a Falcon guide on foraging for wild edible plants in the Rocky Mountains.

I am always thinking about how to transform our culture in one that works better for people and ecosystems.

As a functional nutritionist, I can see how incredibly challenging it is for my clients to find wholesome, nourishing foods in a food culture that is geared in a more processed and toxic direction.

It shouldn’t be so hard. We shouldn’t have to be so rebellious against our culture simply to eat in ways that make us healthy!

We shouldn’t be killing the planet simply to eat foods that make us sick.

I have been volunteering with the Alliance Center’s Regenerative Recovery Coalition to write a plan to transform Colorado’s food system into one that supports human and ecosystem health, diverse and vibrant local economies and sequesters carbon in the soil to mitigate climate change.

I am excited to share this draft with you! I am getting ready to reach out to businesses and nonprofits to sign on to the plan. I would like to see cities and counties throughout Colorado adopt the plan. Ultimately the goal is for the state to also adopt the regenerative food system plan. We also wanted public and private funders to adopt this framework as a way to determine what regenerative food system projects to support!

We are living in exciting and urgent times. We have the tools to recover from the abuse humanity has done to the earth and to our own health but we must act boldly. Here is one piece of the solution: 

Colorado’s Regenerative Food System Transition

An Action Plan for Resilience 

A project of the Alliance Center’s Regenerative Recovery Coalition, Regenerative Food System Working Group

August 25, 2021

DRAFT 

Contact: Liz Morgan / [email protected] / 719-966-9837

Mission: 

Our mission is to support a transition to a Colorado food system that improves the health of the people, the diversity of the ecosystems, the vibrancy of local economies and sequesters carbon to mitigate climate change. Our mission is to support movement towards a regenerative food system where people, ecosystems and economies are supported to be vibrant, diverse, resilient, healthy and joyful.  

Resilience Built in:

It is time to modernize the statewide food system to create multiple layers of resilience. Such resilience should be developed to protect us against global food system distribution disruptions that may result due to future global pandemics, natural disasters or political barriers. 

Resilience should be developed by cultivating diversity in soil, ecosystems and production and distribution methods to protect us against the worst impacts of climate change, pollinator collapse, soil erosion and depletion, and to ensure ecosystem survival and food production capacity. 

Resilience should also be created to protect human health so that the people of Colorado have access to wholesome foods no matter where they live, and in schools. A resilient food system also includes economic resilience and requires robust small and midsize producers, processing, distribution and educational sectors.

Agricultural Methodologies:

Specific agricultural methodologies that meet these resilience goals include, for example, the burgeoning field of regenerative agriculture, agro-ecology, permaculture, conservation agriculture, biodynamic agriculture, organic practices, holistic management, and humane and species-appropriate animal care. 

Methodologies may also include protecting and preserving riparian corridors between farm fields and streams, and experimenting with diversifying plant life to support ecosystem diversity even in the face of changing bioregions as a result of climate change. Wild foods and the habitats needed to support wild foods should also be safeguarded and protected. These include protection and expansion of habitat and lands for hunting, fishing and foraging. 

We support experimentation and must create room and funding strategies for farmers, ranchers, environmental and nutrition educators, and members of the regenerative food system economy to work with new and interesting concepts which may create improved resilience  over time. 

Urban, Suburban, City and Town Methodologies:

Landowners of all stripes and sizes must become better stewards of the lands, the ecosystems, and human health in order to meet the urgent needs of the times. Non-farming and small landowners such as suburban homeowners, cities and towns, and business complexes are also on the front lines of saving pollinators, building soil, reducing toxic exposures and sequestering carbon to offset climate chaos. 

Educational efforts are needed to support transitions around how we manage our home, municipal, commercial and communal lands.

Safeguarding Important Agricultural Lands:

As development, sprawl, climate change and outdated agricultural methods increasingly consume the best agricultural and ecosystem lands, these lands and water resources must be protected for regenerative food system and ecosystem resilience purposes. 

Governmental, nonprofit  and private investment funds should be utilized to purchase and redistribute such prime agricultural lands to regenerative minded purposes for production, education, carbon sequestration and ecosystem and human health resilience purposes. 

For example, when a 1,000 acre prime ranch with natural water features, old growth forests and water rights is being sold, there are very few buyers who can afford this entire lot worth $3,000,000 - $25,000,000+ purchase. There is a role for the state and private investors to play in purchasing such lands and creating lasting strategies so that small and midsize producers, agritourism and ecotourism businesses, and environmental and nutrition educators can purchase, lease or utilize these lands, or portions of, to assist in the transition towards a regenerative food system and to maintain healthy, resilient ecosystems and people.  

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion:

Diversity, equity and  inclusion are fundamental to a regenerative food system. We support a food system, and a society that is diverse, vibrant, resilient and joyfully inclusive of new, old, experimental and a diversity of ideas, experiences, perspectives, traditions, food ways and ideologies in support of the foundational principles and vision of a modernized, regenerative food system. 

A regenerative food system should actively seek to empower and engage the collective and individual talents, skills and perspectives across intersections of race, age, color, disability, faith, religion, ancestry, national origin, citizenship, sex, sexual orientation, social class, economic class, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, and other identities. We support active inclusiveness, fairness, equity, collaboration, innovation, and social justice as fundamental to facilitating a thriving, modernized, regenerative food sector. 

Diversity in food production methods, foods and varietals produced, distribution systems and diversity throughout the food sector must be encouraged, supported and celebrated. 

Criteria and Tactics:

Support for the following specific tactics is needed to assist in the movement towards a regenerative food system where people, ecosystems and economies are supported to be vibrant, diverse, resilient, healthy and joyful. 

Investment & Funding Mechanisms: Colorado has a population eager to engage in the regenerative food, farming and educational sectors but people often lack the funds to get started in a meaningful way. Investments in the following projects for new and existing businesses and collaborations is essential. 

  • Access to capital and financing is available throughout the entire supply chain to support regenerative practices. 
  • While loans are useful for many purposes, grants must also be employed to encourage experimentation and development of more resilient ways of doing things. While a loan requires financial success, grants can encourage creativity and positive movement. 
  • Invest in regenerative food production, producers, and businesses and workers throughout the Colorado food system. Create a network of private and public investors to move capital to regenerative food system businesses for the purchase of land and to support other operational needs. 
  • Transitional and technical support for producers and ranchers, including capital, to transition to regenerative practices.

Food Production: 

  • Outdoor farms and ranches: New farmers and existing farmers should receive technical and educational support as needed, around best practices for soil building, carbon sequestration, ecosystem support, regenerative practices and other appropriate forms of production and land management. Transform the culture and conversation to celebrate regenerative, soil building methods of land stewardship and production. 
  • Season extension & Indoor production: Support season extending strategies throughout the state and especially in mountain regions to improve localized, 4-season food systems. 
  • Healthy soil building: Create economic support and incentives, policy requirements or incentives, and educational support for healthy soil building practices. Soil building should be encouraged on farms, government lands, commercial properties and suburban and urban homescapes.
  • Compost: Create compost infrastructure to reduce landfill emissions and facilitate regeneration of healthy soil and carbon sequestration. 

Land Acquisition & Protection: 

  • Create funding mechanisms for purchase, sale and lease. Purchase lands and sel or lease in smaller tracts as appropriate.
  • Secure and safeguard the best farmland, with existing water resources, in the state for regenerative farming, ranching, education and ecosystems. 
  • Identify optimal geographic and bioregional zones that make sense for regenerative farming, agritourism, water use, ecosystem benefits on the plains and in the mountains.
  • Revise the Colorado Master Plan to identify and map the best agricultural lands so that they are protected and specifically used for regenerative agriculture, ecosystems and other resilience purposes, and not for any other use (e.g. housing, commercial development, conventional/non-regenerative agriculture.) This process should also include a strong focus on stabilizing bioregions, protecting wild ecosystems and agricultural ecosystems. 
  • Increase access to long term, affordable and appropriate land for regenerative farming and ranching practices.  
  • Provide funds to help more farmers and aspiring farmers, and environmental and nutrition and health educators onto land.
  • Make application processes generous and easy for newcomers, small businesses and groups less savvy about navigating government loan and grant systems. 
  • Coordinate private investor and public community funds for regenerative farmland acquisition. 
  • Make regenerative agriculture, conservation and land use easements easier to obtain through more supportive regulations and through education, which helps people participate in these programs. 

Food Processing: Invest in new and expanded regional processing capacity for meat and vegetable processing, fast freezing and dehydration.

  • Support improvements to processing infrastructure, including mobile processing. 

Food Distribution & Aggregation: Invest in local and regional food aggregation and distribution systems to gather, move and hold the food where and when it is needed.

  • Distribution: Support food supply distribution regionally and statewide. Support multiple new businesses to enter the sector. Needs include distribution infrastructure, freezer and refrigeration trucks, and training. 
  • Local Markets: Support local markets and grocery stores to create capacity for selling local foods. 

Education, Markets & Customers: Education of customers of the food system is also vital. Educational strategies to bring joy and curiosity for changing food norms is a key piece to the functionality of the regenerative food system. The general population does not understand the benefits of supporting a regenerative food system. Education is imperative to support the producers, human and ecosystem health, and to build vibrant economies. Investments in educating the customers on the benefits of a regenerative food system, and how to manage their health and lands, is vital and should be funded. 

  • Support for holistic nutritionist and environmental educator outreach and educational  programming. 
  • Support for agritourism and ecotourism.
  • Support continued discussion to create the vision for a regenerative food system. 
  • Organize and support farm tours and events. 

 

 Prepared By: Liz Morgan, Tom Abood, Shannon Bean Scalise, Kris Holstrom, Robbie Vitrano

 

Signatories

We are Colorado businesses, nonprofits, government entities, and individuals who agree with the above vision for a regenerative, resilient food system in the state of Colorado.

Option to sign on coming soon

 

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