Sustainable Settings, Slow Money team up for Harvest Festival | PostIndependent.com

Sustainable Settings, Slow Money team up for Harvest Festival

Caitlin Causey
Post Independent Contributor

Terroir. It's just not a word you use every day.

Unless, of course, you're Brook LeVan, co-founder and executive director of Sustainable Settings in Carbondale. Terroir is a pretty big deal for champions of the farm-to-table movement like him.

"Terroir is a French word," LeVan said. "It is the natural set of conditions in a place that influences how the food tastes: climate, geography and especially the quality of soil and its nutrient density.

"Good soil is very important to flavor profile," LeVan said, adding that food grown at Sustainable Settings has the potential to taste quite different from food grown elsewhere in Colorado. "The food we produce here at the ranch, what we share with the community, it's really about harvesting the uniqueness of place."

This weekend, Sept. 19-20, Roaring Fork Valley locavores will have the opportunity to sample foods grown in the distinct terroir of the 244-acre Sustainable Settings ranch along the Crystal River. The group's 12th annual Harvest Festival benefit will feature dishes prepared by local culinary stars such as Brett Thompson of The Pullman, Chris Lanter of Cache Cache and Will Nolan of The Viceroy.

"This is an annual celebration of harvesting the bounty of the land and sharing it with the community," LeVan said. "Valley chefs will select veggies and foods right here on the ranch and use them for the benefit dinner on September 20th."

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Founded in 1997, Sustainable Settings is an entrepreneurial nonprofit that operates the historic Thompson Creek Ranch south of Carbondale. It produces a colorful array of organic vegetables, flowers, eggs, dairy products, meat and poultry. In addition to supplying valley residents with high quality foods via its Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, the group promotes awareness of sustainable solutions through educational programs for children and adults. Sustainable Settings is working to re-establish a healthy and thriving local food community, reversing the negative environmental and economic effects that large corporate food systems have brought about in the past several decades.

"We want to rebuild the local foodshed that has degenerated over time," LeVan says.

This year's Harvest Festival will not only be a celebration of tasty eats, but a weekend-long symposium on sustainable agriculture and local food investment. Sustainable Settings is partnering with Boulder-based nonprofit Slow Money to bring eventgoers lectures from leading experts in the field. An impressive roster of farmers, authors and entrepreneurs are scheduled to speak, including esteemed organic farming practitioner Eliot Coleman, speaker and The Berry Center director Mary Berry and Slow Money founder Woody Tasch.

With a motto of "bringing money back down to earth," Slow Money is making a difference in local food economies here in Colorado and across the United States. The group makes it easy for investors large and small to have a hand in building the food systems that are run by their own neighbors within their own communities.

"Slow Money seeks to catalyze the flow of capital to organic farms and ranches, processors, distributors, restaurants — the full range of small businesses that are vital to a healthy local economy and food system," said Tasch of the group's mission.

Widely regarded as a visionary and thought leader in mission-related investing, Tasch founded Slow Money in 2008.

"Imagine the impact of a million people investing 1 percent of their assets in small food enterprises," he said. "The local benefits are many. This is a way to get a little of our money out of Wall Street and onto Main Street."

Colorado is now home to four of the nation's 13 Slow Money investment clubs, including one on the Western Slope: 2Forks. The nonprofit club raises funds and makes 0 percent loans to small producers in both the Roaring Fork and North Fork valleys.

Slow Money is also raising funds for Colorado food enterprises via its new crowdfunded Beetcoin campaign on slowmoney.org. Throughout the month of October, investors can contribute tax-deductible donations as small as $25 to vote for one of eight selected Colorado businesses. The winning venture will receive a three-year loan worth 80 percent of the total amount raised during the online campaign. Representatives from each nominated enterprise will be presenting at this weekend's event.

Sustainable Settings and Slow Money first collaborated in 2011, but it was not until this year that the two groups combined forces for a more in-depth weekend of activities. Saturday's program at the Westin Snowmass Resort in Snowmass Village will feature morning yoga, panel discussions, hiking and three farm fresh meals. The event continues on Sunday at Sustainable Settings in Carbondale with further workshops, presentations, farm tours and hay rides. That evening the celebration will be capped off with dinner and dancing beneath the autumnal glow of Mount Sopris.

Like the invaluable pairing of a farm's terroir and the food it produces, the Harvest Festival weekend is a nourishing reminder that food for eating and food for thought go hand in hand.

What: Sustainable Settings/Slow Money Harvest Festival Weekend

When: 7:30 a.m. Saturday through 9 p.m. Sunday

Where: Saturday at the Westin Snowmass Resort, Sunday at Sustainable Settings

How Much: Ticket prices for presentations and workshops vary. Visit slowmoney.org for details. Single tickets for Sunday evening’s dinner and dance benefit at Sustainable Settings are $150, with kids 12 and under free. A sell-out crowd is expected; visit sustainablesettings.org or call 970-963-6107 for the latest information.