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The Holistic Homestead| Gilpin County is the second smallest county in Colorado, with just over 6,000 full-time residents. Living in the shadow of the Continental Divide at elevations between 9,000 and 11,000 feet above sea level, winters are long and harsh, neighbors are far and few between, it takes all-wheel drive and good tires to get anywhere safely, and residents of Gilpin County like it that way.
However, the shifting demographics of this historical mining area turned gambling haven have brought more young families and the fastest aging population in the state – populations with limited resources that require local access to basic services. Add to that the prevalence of casinos, liquor stores, convenience stores, gas stations – as well as the complete absence of a grocery store, a clinic, or public transit – it’s no surprise that Gilpin has high rates of crime and heart disease, issues that local nonprofit Holistic Homestead hopes to alleviate.
The Holistic Homestead is a nonprofit based in Gilpin County, dedicated to improving health and wellness in the community through education, outreach, and advocacy. The Homestead actively address the lack of access to health care and food with educational campaigns in the schools and local papers, wellness clinics, and by launching a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in February of 2018.
The Homestead’s CSA is a “mountain style” model, as farming at 9,000 plus feet above sea level with a five-month growing season limits the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables that will grow. Members of the CSA pay on a month-to-month basis, and the Homestead buys as-local-as-possible organic produce for bi-weekly pick-ups from local distributors and farmers.
Arwen Ek, founding director of The Holistic Homestead explained, “The priority is to bring fresh, organic produce into our community – even if it’s bananas from California and Oranges from Florida. Our co-operative CSA model gives us the buying power to purchase from local distributors, while also creating an incentive for local farmers to grow more. In the Summer of 2018, our CSA supported three mountain farms buying mountain grown potatoes, beets, radishes, carrots, kale, and chard. We will always purchase produce grown in our community before we put an order into our distributors.”
Building on the success of the CSA, the Homestead initiated a Farmer’s Market to run concurrent with CSA pick ups. This gives CSA members direct access to support local artisans on a regular basis, and it gives cottage industry producers more exposure to the community. A variety of other locally produced goods through the Farmer’s Market are also available, such as honey, maple syrup, olive oil, fresh baked breads and jam, eggs, and even aquaponically grown fish. And the general public can come and shop our abundance of fresh, organic produce like zucchini, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, apples, onions, potatoes, leafy greens, and seasonal fruits and veggies.
Arwen said, “While we don’t have a permanent storefront yet, this model is the best way to bring healthy food into Gilpin County. We depend on growing participation in our CSA and local vendors to make this a sustainable venture for The Homestead. We are proud to see Gilpin County recognizing this as an important community program, and hope that we can find a permanent location to keep it going for years to come.”
The Farmer’s Market doubled in size and participation in just a few short months, leaving the Homestead looking for a bigger space. The Gilpin County Commissioners partnered with Gilpin County Parks and Recreation to offer the Community Center for the market through the winter, recognizing the local demand and community building potential of this program. Additionally, with the increased demand for fresh produce, the Homestead was in need of a walk-in cooler for storage. Local business owner, Roy Stewart of Roy’s Last Shot, offered space in one of his restaurant coolers. Now, with a higher order volume and increased access to much-needed storage, the Homestead has launched a Peak to Peak produce delivery service bringing fresh, organic produce to the community’s front door.
Arwen’s enthusiasm for the growing success of the CSA and Farmer’s Market is contagious. “It’s pretty amazing what can be accomplished with no investment capital, no commercial space and a handful of volunteers. The greatest feedback we’ve received about our produce programs is that people are eating more fresh, organic produce! Also, where residents would typically drive 20 miles or more to a grocery store, they are now planning their shopping around what we will have at our markets, and making requests. Our plan is to continue growing organically, and sustainably until we can find a retail storefront, and even then to continue organizing the CSA and Farmer’s Markets.”
Holistic Homestead is dedicated to increasing health literacy, building healthy communities, and advocating for the medically underserved. Their wellness programming includes Hands-On Health Literacy for Kids!, Used Durable Medical Equipment Program, Community Meditation, Community Supported Agriculture among others. Learn more at: theholistichomestead.org.