Phil Castle, The Business Times
An annual program promoting the Colorado agricultural industry offers a fresh approach with a series of picnics featuring locally grown produce along with information about how to enjoy it.
“We’re taking a slightly different approach this year,” said Wendy White, a marketing specialist with the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
Eighteen Choose Colorado Pop-Up Picnics are planned across Colorado.
In Mesa County, a picnic is scheduled for 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 18 at the farmers’ market in downtown Grand Junction. A picnic also is tentatively planned for the Palisade Peach Festival in August.
White said the picnics offer a fresh take on what was the Choose Colorado Tour, a statewide trip to raise awareness about the agricultural industry and 16-year-old Colorado Proud program promoting the purchase of food and other ag products grown and raised in the state.
The picnics offer participants a sampling of locally grown vegetables and fruits as they come into season, White said, including lettuce and then corn, cantaloupe and, of course, peaches.
The picnics also feature guest farmers and chefs offering information about local produce and tips for using produce for picnics and other meals. A crop calendar, recipe cards and other printed materials are available, White said.
Copes of the Colorado Farm Fresh Directory — an annual directory offering information about farmers’ markets, wineries and other agricultural attractions — are available as well, she said.
Colorado-grown fruits and vegetables offer a convenient and healthy choice for picnic fare as well as other meals, White said.
A survey conducted in 2014 found that 89 percent of Colorado consumers participating in the poll bought at least some Colorado-grown food products. More than 90 percent said they’d buy more if it was available and clearly labeled as such.
Don Brown, a third-generation farmer who serves as Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, said consumers increasingly prefer locally grown foods, especially for summer activities. “This year’s Choose Colorado Pop-up Picnics celebrate the buy local spirit, showing consumers that they can be busy and still pack a healthy picnic with local produce perfect for any Colorado outdoor event,” he said.
White said buying locally grown and raised food also supports an industry that statewide employs more than 172,000 people and contributes more than $40 billion annually to the Colorado economy. “Consumers really do play a part when they buy local and support their community.”
According to the latest results of a census conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2,264 farms and ranches operated on a total of nearly 387,000 acres in Mesa County. Those farms and ranches sold a total of more than $84 million worth of crops and livestock.
Mesa County ranked 21st among all Colorado counties for the total market value of its agriculture products. Mesa County ranked first for fruits and berries and third for poultry and eggs as well as sheep and lambs.