Farm to Table Conference Tackles Local Food Issues

What is the Gunnison Valley’s signature food? How is locally sourced food good for the Gunnison Country? The second-annual Farm-to-Table conference seeks to answer these questions and more. The event is set for 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, in the University Center Ballroom at Western State Colorado University.

Western’s departments of Environment & Sustainability and Business, Accounting & Economics sponsor the event. Dr. Jonathan Coop, assistant professor of Biology and Environment & Sustainability, and Dr. Michael Vieregge, professor of Business Administration, organized the first conference last year, to provide a forum in the Gunnison Valley, where growers, distributors and end users would come together, exchange ideas and network. The two professors believed the conference should embrace the precepts of sustainability and encourage discussion among all area stakeholders with ecological, socio-cultural and economic interests. The 2013 conference did bring these different parties together, where they identified the need for more information on several fronts.

This year’s conference seeks to expand and follow on the 2013 event, particularly issues raised in its closing, roundtable discussions. The first part of the conference will include similar roundtables, supported by four, short research presentations that investigate issues identified last year. The second part will include a presentation by Ben Runkle, co-owner, and chef Josh Jones of the Salt & Time Butcher Shop and Salumeria in Austin, Texas, along with an evening screening of the film “Across the Fence,” about ranching in the Gunnison Valley by filmmaker Jack Lucido, an associate professor of Communication Arts at Western.

The discussion session will include four presentations:

  • Lauren Contorno of Mountain Roots Food Project will kick-off the event with a Community Food Assessment.
  • Eric McPhail of Colorado State University’s Gunnison County Extension Office will report results from a consumer survey in the Gunnison Valley.
  • Jonathan Coop will share results from a local-grower survey.
  • Michael Vieregge will focus on feedback from local restaurant owners and chefs.

There will be time for discussion after each of the short presentations. 

The evening will focus on a possible, signature food for the Gunnison Valley, an idea that grew from discussions last year. Ben Runkle and Josh Jones use only locally sourced meats at Salt & Time and Salumeria. Before opening the butcher shop, they had become key suppliers to farmers’ markets in Austin. The signature-item idea comes from European notions, in which every region or valley is known for a meat or cheese. These are served in all local restaurants and sold to tourists in food outlets. In the Gunnison Valley, such an item might be air-dried, custom-cured meat from cattle and/or game, which could be easily shipped and carried home by visitors. Runkle and Jones will focus on Salt & Time’s meat curing.

A highlight of the evening will be the screening of “Across the Fence.” Filmmaker Lucido will be on hand to introduce the movie and to answer questions following the screening.

Friday, March 21, 2014 - 4:30pm