Sunday, April 20, 2014

Onward, aggies and artists!

This time last week, the snow fell and the wind blew. By the end of Sunday, my yard looked more like January than April.

The day before, I was thinking of outdoors and gardening and growing things, so after a workout at the YMCA, I drove by Grant Farms on Lincolnway to see if it was open. Baskets of peonies hung from the front porch and I saw people working inside so I dropped in.

"Just so you know, I'll be bringing all those plants inside tonight," said the woman at the counter. "Didn't want you to get the wrong idea."

Right. It's not time for peonies or other colorful outside growing things. Soon, though. I asked her if I could plant the onion sets she had on display. She said I was probably OK, as they were hardy and most of the plant is in the ground which is gradually warming up.

I bought some onion sets (I liked the name -- Red Zeppelin) and herbs and potting soil and seeds, just so I could feel as if gardening time was upon us.

The Grant Farms store in Cheyenne is alive and kicking after 30-some years. It once was a fruit and veggie stand run by a couple who lived in the house just behind the retail store. A fruit and veggie stand -- an old-fashioned idea that now is new-fashioned in this age of local produce and eggs and meat and chicken coops in the backyard. Grant Farms has a CSA with produce grown in Wellington and its own eggs and other fruits and veggies grown by other small organic growers to our south. The larger Grant Farms company declared bankruptcy last year after a search for a long-term investor went awry. Founder Andy Grant is a CSU grad who blazed the trail for other CSAs and organic farms and locavores in the region. CSU students used to be known as Aggies, this the big whitewashed "A" on the hill west of town. It's still an ag school but now also produces an array of annoying artists and musicians and writers such as yours truly. They feed the burgeoning FoCo music and arts scene, and some even wander up the road to Cheyenne.

I often wonder about the connections among the local food, craft beer and arts scenes. What came first -- the hand-crafted beer or the locally-sourced egg? In 1988-89, I was a member of the Fort Collins Food Co-op. At the time, it seemed like a holdover from the town's hippie days. Most of the shoppers were my age (late 30s) -- younger people in those days didn't seem concerned about the origins and quality of their food. Now they talk about free-range chickens and locally-sourced veggies and free trade coffee. Wonder how that's playing out in the Ag school? Do corporate farms and seed companies and fertilizer conglomerates still rule the roost? Or has "small and local" entered the classroom and lab? What about it, Aggies? There were 1,200 Future Farmers of America kids in town last week for the annual convention. Certainly all of those kids aren't thinking corporate, are they?

My grandparents' roots are rural. I came up in the city and suburbs. My parents were raised in the city. They never talked about "going back to land" -- their future was in accounting and nursing. Some of the earthier Boomer children did talk about "getting back to the land" although very few actually did it. Never in a million years would I have considered farming as an occupation. I know a gardener is miles removed from being a farmer. Still, backyard gardens are feeding a lot of people these days. City gardens are cropping up on patios and rooftops and vacant lots. The greening of the city, some people call it. Prowling the web I see all kinds of innovative ideas for high-rises that include vertical gardens.

The future belongs to the innovators. Aggies and artists.

No comments: