When Amber Brummer was last in California, where she grew up, she bought a bunch of basil for 25 cents. That same amount would cost her about five dollars in Summit County, where she now lives. Brummer is part of the Leadership Class at Colorado Mountain College that's conducting a food assessment survey that aims to help reduce the price of basil, along with fruits and vegetables, in the mountains.
"In the winter there is a lack of fresh fruits and vegetables because we can't grow it here," says Brummer, a program coordinator at the Keystone Center, a non-profit that aims to solve environmental, energy and public health problems. "How do we reduce the cost of that or how do we get it fresh so it's not coming from Nicaragua?"
CMC's Leadership Class is a nine-month program with monthly classes that teach participants about different aspects of Summit County community leadership, such as transportation, water usage and local government. The second half of this program breaks participants into groups and asks them to create a project that benefits the community in some way.
"We wanted to do something with community gardens or sustainable food in our community," says Brummer of her group, which consists of five people. "We all had different ideas in the beginning, but we came to the food assessment survey when we sought out a few stakeholders."
The stakeholders in this case were the Summit Prevention Alliance, a community-based non-profit organization dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles in Summit County and the High Country Conservation Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting practical solutions to waste reduction and resource conservation.
"We went to them and said, 'We have this time and we want to do something that benefits the community. What do you need help with?'" says Brummer. "They said, 'We really need a food assessment survey done because we need this information to get grants to fund community gardens and their construction.'"
So Brummer's group created a 28 question survey for Summit County residents to help gather information about implementing a sustainable food system.
"We're trying to find out demographics and food purchasing habits," says Brummer. "If your goal is just the cheapest food and your priority is not whether or not it's organic, and if the majority of the community thinks that way, then we'll know where to put the funds for community gardens. We want to know if individuals would be willing to pay a little extra for fresh fruits and vegetables, and how much that would be."
Summit County has two community gardens and the wait list for plots is over a hundred people, says Brummer. So the main obstacle for sustainable, local food seems not to be residents' desire, but rather a growing season of about four months and a lack of resources. Grants for community greenhouses could solve both these problems.
To entice people to fill out the survey the group is offering prizes such as an A-Basin season pass, dinner for two at Vinney's Restaurant in Frisco, two solar fans and a home energy audit. Brummer says around 250 people have filled out the survey in the week and a half the survey has been launched. It will be open until the end of April; the goal is to get 1,000 of Summit County's 10,000 residents to fill out the survey.
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The group is promoting the survey through Facebook, e-mail, word of mouth and community events. Brummer says they are trying to find the groups that have been under-represented in the survey so far. For example, 72 percent of the participants have been women, but Summit County's population is only 40 percent women. But getting people to fill out the survey is only part of the battle.
"Our over-riding goal is to make fresh fruits and vegetables sustainable and accessible to Summit County residents," says Brummer. "That's the end goal and this is just a small piece of that. We need this information to submit for grants to get the funding to get these opportunities here in Summit County. It's really exciting to be working on it. We see that in the community -- that people are excited about how we can get a sustainable food system here."
To fill out the survey click here.