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How to find local growers this harvest

SoCo Local Food Guide.jpeg
Posted at 4:53 PM, Sep 21, 2023

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Harvest season is in full swing for hundreds of local growers in Southern Colorado. Many are closer than you may think.

The Palmer Land Conservancy created a Local Food Guide last summer to help shoppers find farm stands and farmers markets who sell locally grown and raised food.

Their interactive map shows shoppers where to go to buy local.

Click here to visit the Local Food Guide

One local grower from Black Forest is Emerge Aquaponics. They grow thousands of heads of lettuce year-round inside of a greenhouse.

"It's actually taking aquaculture, which is fish, and hydroponics and it meshes them together," explains Josh Imhoff.

A series of freshwater tanks are stocked with Tilapia. The water from the tanks is filtered and cycled through the hydroponic irrigation systems feeding the plants.

"We feed the fish, and then that breaks down into ammonia," Imhoff said. "The ammonia turns into nitrites and the nitrites break down into nitrates, and the nitrates are what the plants want."

The process eliminates the need for fertilizers. The facility produces between 7 to 8 heads of lettuce per square foot. Imhoff harvests roughly 4,200 heads of lettuce per week in the summer when days are longer. In winter, production drops to roughly 3,200 heads per week.

Imhoff said the farm consumes roughly 90 percent less water than traditional farming methods. The efficiency is so great that the company now travels the world teaching people in other countries how to start similar farms.

"We focus a lot on orphanages and widows' homes to start a small business so that they can fund themselves through the business," Imhoff said.

Praxie Vigil is a third-generation farmer. He sells fresh roasted Pueblo chiles at a farm stand on Austin Bluffs Parkway in Colorado Springs. All of the chiles are shipped fresh daily from the family farm in Pueblo County.

"We bring up 160 every day and try to keep a supply for the weekend," Vigil said. "We have a lot of clientele these days."

Vigil also grows a variety of melons on pumpkins which are available for purchase. He said farmers appreciate consumers who make a point of shopping local.

"We put a lot of hard work and time into it. You know, and we need that support."

A unique financial assistance program in Colorado to help shoppers who are struggling financially to still buy fresh produce from local growers.

The non-profit Double Up Food Bucks program offers customers who qualify for federal benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program can receive $20 vouchers to purchase fresh produce from participating stores and farm stands.

Click here to find a participating Double Up Food Bucks location near you.

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