Scare up good food without scaring yourself

It seems every year there is some food scare. This year, it has been salmonella in peanut butter.
And with the economic downturn, people are turning to gardening as a way to supplement their food budgets.
Locally, there’s a new group called Foods-Are-Us, which is interested in developing a market for locally grown foods.
“We felt it would be an important goal for us to increase the local food content in our diet,” said Dr. Albert Krueger of Meeker, one of the organizers of the new group and president of Rio Blanco County Farm Bureau, which has supported the effort to promote local growers.
Krueger and Jennifer Taylor, another member of Foods-Are-Us, discussed the group’s plans last Thursday at a meeting of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors.
“(Gardening) was very familiar to our parents and grandparents, but it fell by the wayside,” Krueger said. “But it is becoming popular again. We want to create a local economic system of bringing consumers and producers together.”
One way to bring consumers and growers together is through a farmers’ market, which is something the Foods-Are-Us group hopes to start up around the first of June and go through September.
“We envision local vendors coming in (to sell their products) on a regular basis,” Krueger said.
The farmers’ market would take place on Saturdays. The Foods-Are-Us group is looking into possible locations for the farmers’ market.
“We’re not exactly sure where we want to be,” Krueger said. “Mountain Valley Bank has offered its parking lot. And we’ve looked at the area between the grade school and the courthouse, on Fifth Street.”
One thing is certain, the farmers’ market should be located somewhere in Meeker’s downtown district, Krueger said.
“The downtown area is the jewel of the community, and I think it would be the nicest area (for a farmers’ market),” Krueger said. “
Bernie Gantt, a member of the chamber board, liked the idea.
“It might bring more business to our other downtown businesses,” Gantt said. “Even if you have to pay a little more, if it’s grown locally, I’m all for it.”
Jason Taylor, a member of Foods-Are-Us, said the goal of the farmers’ market is to make it a community event, “Where you grab your canvas bag, walk downtown and walk home with a couple of bags of homegrown foods and produce. Hopefully it will also be beneficial for local businesses, because we’ll get people in town.”
Jennifer Taylor, Jason’s wife, said food growers would have to agree to an inspection.
“To verify they are actually producing the food and finding out what is going into the products,” Jennifer Taylor said.
The farmers’ market would provide an opportunity for people to socialize and for consumers to get to know the producers of locally grown food.
“The farmers’ market would be a good place to visit and to meet the producers,” Krueger said.
There’s an educational component to Foods-Are-Use. The group wants to provide information about growing food on the western slope.
“I think the whole point of the group is educational, bringing people in from outside, who can benefit the entire group and the community,” Jason Taylor said. “
As a first step, an educational program called “Soil, Seeds and Seasons: Gardening on the Western Slope” will be held March 21 at the Hugus Building. The presenter will be Brook Le Van, who is director of a group called Sustainable Settings in Carbondale.
For information about Foods-Are-Us, or to make a reservation for the program on the 21st, contact Katie Day at 878-0165, or e-mail her at kddaydreams@gmail.com

Former Meeker High School basketball player Dale Dunbar thinks this season’s Cowboy team may boast one of the best records in school history.
The Cowboys will take a 23-1 mark into this weekend’s state tournament in Pueblo.
“It is probably the best (record) in my memory,” Dunbar said, who graduated from MHS in 1978. “Ever is a long time, and I don’t know if anyone has searched the records back to inception to be able to say ‘best ever.’ But it’s the best in Coach (Klark) Kindler’s time. Two years ago, Meeker went to state with a 20-3 record.”
Both Meeker’s boys’ and girls’ teams are headed to the 2A state tournament. The Rangely boys’ and girls’ teams made it to regionals, where they represented themselves well, but didn’t advance to state.

The Community Planning Task Force received word last week that its request for almost $50,000 was approved by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs. The formal acceptance letter is expected this week.
The grant money will be used to pay for a housing needs assessment.
“The next step in the process is to finalize the contract with DOLA and get the vendor in place,” said Margie Joy, president of the Meeker Chamber of Commerce.
The house assessment “will look at demographics across the county, and both towns,” Joy said. “It will look at income levels. It will look at housing inventory and pricing. And then compare the data to create a complete picture of how housing matches with affordability, based on our demographics.”
The task force expects the housing study to take about three months to complete.
“We hope to have the findings and suggested plan of action by late summer,” said Joy, adding the timing of the study “can easily dovetail into the countywide master plan.”

I have to admit, turning 50 last week felt a bit strange. I kept asking myself, “How did I get to be so old?”

A co-worker told me, “You’re the same age as Barbie.” Yes, the Barbie doll and I are the same age.
But she’s better looking.

I treated my 50th like any other workday, though I did “celebrate” by having a piece of pecan pie for breakfast — courtesy of a friend back in Kansas — and ended the day by smoking a Cuban cigar, which I had been saving for a special occasion.

Also, I had some friends who, when they found out it was my 50th, and knowing I didn’t have any family here, decided I shouldn’t spend my birthday alone. So, they treated me to dinner, which was nice of them.

I ran into a doctor friend at the grocery store several weeks ago and told him I needed to schedule a checkup.
“I don’t have any medical issues,” I quickly added. “But I’ll be turning 50 soon, so I figured it would be a good idea to have a checkup.”
“Oh, you have issues,” my doctor friend said.
He was joking. I think.

Jeff Burkhead is editor of the Herald Times. You may contact him at jeff@theheraldtimes.com.