Local foods & agriculture

Local foods & agriculture: Keeping family farmers and ranchers on the land

Owner Wink Davis leads a tour of his Mesa Winds Farm, a diversified, certified organic winery and orchard in Hotchkiss, CO

Western Colorado has a long and rich tradition of family farming and ranching. In recent years, however, it has become more and more challenging for farmers and ranchers to make a viable living and stay on their land. At the same time, there is growing consumer demand in Western Colorado for locally produced food.

WCC has been a leading voice for rural western Coloradans since 1980. Our members are working to bring together small farmers, ranchers and community members to find new ways to connect with consumers, stay on their land, and build vibrant local economies.

In May 2016, WCC and statewide allies celebrated another major victory when the Colorado legislature passed a law to loosen regulations for small poultry producers and expand Colorado’s Cottage Foods Act even further. WCC members were involved every step of the way and offered amendments in both the Senate and the House to make sure the final bill worked for producers and preserved common sense food safety measures.

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Promoting policies that make it easier for small farmers to sell their value-added produce directly to consumers has been a priority for WCC since 2010. WCC worked to pass the first Colorado Cottage Foods Act in 2012. The following year, WCC passed a second Cottage Foods bill that clarified training and licensing requirements. These new laws have made a difference to the bottom line of an estimated 2,000 small farmers and food entrepreneurs around the state. In 2014, after decision makers expressed resistance to expanding the law to include pickled vegetables, WCC launched a grassroots campaign and passed House Bill 1102 in the spring of 2015 which legalized pickled vegetables under the law-with the caveat that the Health Department would establish additional rules for pickle makers.

Additionally, WCC members serve as the western Colorado “boots on the ground” in regional and national campaigns to support family farms and ranches, sustainable agriculture, and local foods. As the Colorado state affiliate of the Western Organization of Resource Councils, we mobilize our members on issues such as Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.