Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Gazette Premium Content EAT WELL: Colorado Springs backyard gardeners can sell their nutritious produce to restaurants

By Teresa Farney Published: August 26, 2014

How does your garden grow? For many gardeners, backyard plots are producing nicely - so nicely, in fact, that some folks might be trying to think of ways to ditch their abundance of zucchini on unsuspecting neighbors' porches.

When it comes to vegetables, it is impossible to overstate the virtue of freshness. Plants begin to lose nutrients and flavor the moment they leave the ground. Clearly, then, the closer you are to the farm where the veggie has grown, the better the vegetable will be for you.

If you're a gardener looking for ways to use up your bounty or in search of food from farmers near you, you might want to check out Christine Faith's blog, Right to Thrive: Helping Front Range Families Build Backyard Farms (righttothrive.org). She has her finger on the pulse of the small urban farming world, including how to get food from your backyard to the tables of those who are eager to buy and eat locally.

But there some rules to follow. Back in March, she wrote about the state setting up a system for individuals to sell produce to restaurants and grocery stores, which took effect in January. The following is from "Interpretive Memo No. 14-08, Determining 'Approved Source' for Raw, Uncut Fruits and Vegetables": "Retail food establishments may use whole or uncut fruits and vegetables, with minimal post-harvest processing to remove dirt, debris, or dead leaves, from various sources, including private gardens or farmer's markets."

That means retail food establishments can buy food from your garden.

Here's how you can sell that extra supply of zucchini or other veggies that have become prolific. Just rinse the produce and leave it whole and uncut. If they're cut, they must be rejected by the retailer. Have a bed of different lettuces and greens? Mixed greens are out for this program. You want to target whole heads of lettuce. And forget mushrooms. It's too difficult to distinguish safe ones from poisonous ones.

Before you race out to harvest your veggies to peddle to the nearest restaurant, remember that you are still liable if your food sickens, injures or, heaven forbid, kills someone. Your homeowner's insurance policy might cover you, but most do not.

Contact the local health department and learn what food safety policies you need to follow. Check with local food policy experts or other urban gardeners who are selling their produce. Bottom line: Get the facts and follow the rules as a producer. Read the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) for safety guidelines. Visit unitedfresh.org/news views/gap_harmonization. There's a checklist that is essentially an audit to verify the safety of the food you are producing.

If you're more interested in finding where to buy locally grown produce, check out Ripe Near Me (www.ripenear.me), a free site where you can find food for sale in your ZIP code. I learned about it on Faith's blog. Oh, and you can post food you'd like to sell on the site, too. How cool is that?

The Colorado Farm and Art Market asks backyard gardening people to fill out an application to secure a place to sell their produce at either of its two markets. The market manager sets up a tent and table for any approved gardener who wants to bring their produce to the market to sell. There is no upfront cost, but the market manager will charge a 10 percent fee for whatever the gardener sells. Visit farmandartmarket.com.

Now it's easier than ever to find fresh local food that is much better for you while supporting locals.

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