A taste of summer all winter long at Osage Gardens | PostIndependent.com

A taste of summer all winter long at Osage Gardens

Once the snow starts to fall in Colorado, the possibility of buying local farm fresh produce seems about as remote as a Buy One, Get One Free Sale at a car dealership. It just doesn’t happen. But thanks to the new Osage Garden’s Farm Store, that’s all changing.

“We plan to have salad mix, cucumbers, tomatoes, Swiss chard, kale and much more,” said Teresa Rumery, Osage Gardens general manager. “We can extend the growing season with our greenhouses.”

The Farm House is a little red house located next to the Osage Gardens greenhouses. Last week, while a warm start to the fall turned into inches of snow, the store was stocked with carrots, green beans, jalapenos, tomatoes, plums and onions. You can also buy farm fresh eggs and a few Colorado-based products like salad dressing. Rumery said all of the produce is priced competitively because Osage Gardens doesn’t have to haul the food very far to sell it.

“We’re super fresh produce,” she said. “It’s very direct.”

That’s a huge difference from other grocers, said Rumery, who have to transport produce on average between 1,500 and 2,000 miles from the growing field to the plate. Osage Gardens uses its 20 organically certified acres to grow the vegetables that they distribute to customers through its CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program or sell in the Farm Store.

Rumery’s parents, Tim and Sarah Rumery, moved to New Castle in 1992 to open Osage Gardens, a family farm that grows certified organic culinary herbs. On Osage Gardens web site, it states that the mission statement of the farm is “To grow the healthiest (nutrient dense), most flavorful produce in Colorado, while being kind to the earth, our employees and our customers.”

For several years now, Osage Gardens has provided local grocery stores, as well as stores including Whole Foods in Utah, Kansas and New Mexico, with herbs. A few years ago, the family began venturing into growing produce for their Farmer’s Markets. The next step was to start the Community Supported Agriculture program. Each week during the summer, CSA members picked up their portion of produce at local distribution centers. The cost per week was $30 and the biggest complaint was that there was almost too much food in the delivery.

“I felt like I was getting a lot in quality,” said Christine Patch, a CSA member and mother of four children. “It really challenged me to seek out new recipes.”

Patch said she joined the CSA primarily because her neighbor had told her how great it was. She knew Rumery from the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team and felt good about supporting a local business. She also liked feeding the fresh produce to her kids.

“I want to give them the most nutrient packed food that I can give them,” Patch said. “They (the kids) can taste the difference and they eat more of it.”

Patch’s neighbor, Valerie Vinger, who introduced her to the CSA, has a slightly different story. Vinger was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago. The diagnosis completely changed her life and the way she feeds her family. She researches food and is adamant about organic produce.

“My body is already fighting off enough,” Vinger said. “To not have the pesticide residue in my blood stream is important.”

According to the United States Agriculture Department, it’s difficult to determine whether organic or non-organic food is more nutritionally packed. However, the USDA indicates that the level of pesticide residue is measurably different on organic foods and non-organic foods.

Vinger plans to shop at the Farm Store through the winter because she knows exactly what she is getting when she buys produce there.

“After you do chemo, you don’t want to do it again.” Vinger said. “You’ll eat whatever is recommended if it might help.”

Rumery said the idea for opening the farm store came because people kept stopping by the greenhouses to purchase produce. At the time, Osage Gardens wasn’t really set up to handle retail. Now that the store is up and running, Rumery said it’s been nice to actually be able to interact with customers.

While Rumery’s parents have had the farm for 18 years, she just became involved a few years ago. After college, Rumery moved to Germany where she was an Information Technology consultant for a bank. Four years later, she decided it was time to come back to the United States. Her parents invited her to take over as general manager of the farm.

“I don’t do much of the growing,” she said.

Despite the struggling economy, Rumery said the organic food market is healthy. According to the USDA, retail sales of organic food grew from $3.6 billion in 1997 to $21.1 billion in 2008. Some organic farms have actually struggled to keep up with the demand. Rumery said Osage Gardens added the Farm House to diversify its business plan. The goal is to continue growing by expanding their produce.

Store hours for the Farm House are from 10 a.m. until dark every day of the week. The farm is currently offering a winter 9-week CSA for $25 per week. Osage Gardens is located on the River Frontage Road between Silt and New Castle.

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