Sunday, May 09, 2010

Better smile, pardner, when you call my home place "desolation"

Sunday's Denver Post featured a story about the food deserts that are created in the city by fleeing grocery stores. We're now facing the same issue in Cheyenne, now that the downtown Safeway closed its doors. If you live downtown, the closest grocery store is more than a mile away at the Albertson's on Yellowstone. Or further -- Cole Square Safeway or the Super Wal-Mart on Dell Range.

Several concerned citizens started a group to find a store for downtown -- or start a food co-op. Not sure what's happening with that effort.

I was dazzled by a few lines from the Post story:

But the city faces a challenge that some other big cities don't: geography. With no major cities nearby, Denver — and the rest of Colorado — is far from most food distribution hubs.

"Trucks have to drive a long way to get to Colorado," said Drew White, supermarket analyst with Sageworks Inc., based in Raleigh, N.C.

"You're a big city in the middle of desolation," he said.

Desolation? Colorado's Front Range boasts has some of the richest farmland in the West. The big problem now is that there are houses and highways and Wal-Marts (even grocery stores) sitting on most of it. Huge irony in the idea of an abandoned safeway in Denver sitting on top of land that could grow enough fruits and veggies for the entire neighborhood. Another irony in the idea that a new Super Safeway in the Denver burbs carries foods shipped thousands of miles away from non-desolation areas such as Raleigh, N.C. The land that the store sits on could grow enough food for everyone in the neighborhood. Except the coffee beans for the double mocha latte at the Safeway Starbucks. Still must import those coffee beans.

I wrote about this just the other day. I don't seem to get tired of the subject. I like growing things and cooking and eating and making fun of people who call Colorado "desolation." If Mr. White thinks of rich high plains land as desolation, what would he think of Cheyenne? Most of the land surrounding our city is too high and dry and cold to be used as anything but grazing for cattle and bison. Still, some of us are daring the elements to make a dent in our own food desert. And there are farms and ranches on nearby land of richer soil and lower elevations. There's the North Platte Valley's Wheatland and Torrington. And then there are the small farmers of northern Colorado. Not sure if the green-thumbed folks at Wolf Moon Farms have considered the fact they're living in desolation.

Yesterday, I bought some of my plants at Kathy Shreve's Star Cake Plants on Snyder Ave. in Cheyenne. I noticed the signs posted along Pershing and thought I'd stop in. How big can a backyard plant sale be, especially in the small backyards in the city's central core?

Plenty big, it turns out. Kathy grows all kids of seedlings in her house and in her backyard greenhouse. She also has a garden ready to go. Tables were crowded with pepper and cauliflower and broccoli seedlings. Other tables featured rows of peonies and dianthus. Groundcovers, too. For tomato seedlings, we went into her cozy greenhouse (barely room for two) and pulled out tomato seedlings and some potted plants for shandy areas. I bought two trays full of seedlings, stuff I'm not starting myself, and went on my merry way. It was a cool, windy morning. It smelled like rich earth, though, with a hint of spring.

Interesting to note that one entrepreneurial master gardener in central Cheyenne's food desert can sprout enough seedlings to grow veggies for hundreds of people.

Such abundance here in this desolate land.


bigfrank said...

Get the food freedom act passed and we can get more at the farmers markets.
Unless you want to be safe with the FDA approved stuff that is always safe. Exect for the lettuce, peppers, beef................

Kathy said...

Thanks, Mike, for mentioning me! I'm hoping to eventually be able to open a "regular" greenhouse to supply all Cheyenne with plants that perform well in our quixotic climate!

Kathy Shreve, Star Cake Plants

Michael Shay said...

I look forward to that day, Kathy. The plants I bought from you in May are doing swimmingly.