Local food advocates rally to defend farm
RIFLE, Colorado – Potential threats to a western Garfield County organic farm from a proposed asphalt manufacturing plant have prompted the first call to action for a new advocacy group focused on protecting and promoting local food production.
An action alert sent out by the Roaring Fork Food Policy Council prior to a Garfield Board of County Commissioners hearing last week on the asphalt plant proposal resulted in some 50 emails to the commissioners from across the county requesting that they carefully consider the issue.
The rush of comments, as well as lingering uncertainty about the possible impact to Eagle Springs Organics from asphalt plant emissions, prompted the commissioners to table their decision for a second time this month.
The BOCC is expected to decide on the land-use change request by Charles Ellsworth of Bedrock Resources LLC at a continued hearing this afternoon. The meeting begins at 1 p.m. at the Garfield County Administration Building, 108 Eighth St., Glenwood Springs.
Bedrock Resources proposes to move an existing asphalt batch plant from a location near Silt to a new 35-acre site near the Garfield County Regional Airport east of Rifle. The site is adjacent to the 1,200-acre Eagle Springs Organics farm.
Operators of the farm, owned by Ken Sack, have expressed concerns that emissions from the plant, such as particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide, could hurt the farm’s organic certification.
Gwen Garcelon of Carbondale spoke on behalf of the Roaring Fork Food Policy Council at last week’s BOCC meeting.
The group recently formed as a coalition of citizens, food growers and other organizations concerned with rebuilding the local and regional economy by protecting local food sources, she said.
“We need to protect our ability to feed ourselves by protecting local agricultural enterprises,” Garcelon said. “Eagle Springs is a step in the right direction on many fronts.”
The farm is a major supplier for the Carbondale Community Food Co-op, and is also working to set up a retail market in Rifle, Sack said at a previous meeting. The farm also hopes to supply the new Whole Foods store in Basalt when it opens.
“What they are doing is in line with the local food production trend,” Garcelon said. “It simply doesn’t make sense to compromise this unique community resource.”
The group has put out a continued call for a strong showing in support of Eagle Springs at today’s meeting.
Dave Smith, an attorney representing Ellsworth and Bedrock Resources, said at last week’s BOCC meeting the asphalt plant operators have a good track record of limiting potentially harmful emissions.
“Our goal is to produce [fewer] emissions even than the four natural gas pads that already exist there today,” Smith said in reference to natural gas operations on the Eagle Springs property that pre-existed the farm.
Bedrock has offered to create a 400-foot-wide buffer between the plant and the farm, as well as a 26-foot-high berm, in an effort to limit the impacts.
Smith also pointed to organic farms he found in other parts of the state and country that continue to operate in high pollution areas.
One farm in Boulder is a “non-attainment” area for particulate matters, according to the EPA. Another is a restaurant rooftop garden in downtown Chicago, which is a non-attainment area for ozone, he said.
“They are able to not only survive, but thrive,” Smith said.
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