The Daranyis' farm is situated on 100 acres of Norwood's Indian Ridge. Barclay herself grew up on a farm, and while operating her own has been a lifelong dream, she and Tony both testify to the hard work that goes into maintaining Indian Ridge Farm.
"You make hay when the sun shines," said Barclay. "You gotta go, go, go because livestock require 24/7. It's a different pace than most people are used to and a different kind of life." Barclay also pointed out that the rewards are subtle, but constant. "You definitely feel more a part of the lifecycles. As a farmer you are in touch with the different seasons and the circle of life and death."
During my visit, I talked with the Daranyis about the need for greater awareness about our local food shed. They agreed that while there is a growing awareness and nationwide trend toward healthy food habits, it is not enough to just look for an organic label in the grocery store. As people choose to become more educated about the food they eat and its availability, the question of how to prioritize between organic store-bought items versus local non-certified organic food emerges.
What some people often don't realize is how many large corporations have capitalized on the organic market. Therefore, they don't consider the larger social and economic issues at stake as a result of the corporate food industry. For example, who ultimately pays for the fossil fuels needed to ship organic produce from California, food that is already growing on a neighboring mesa? Or take for example the exploitation of migrant workers in the fruit industry or the subsidies provided to large corporations that put pressure on small independent farmers.
Because a package is labeled organic does not mean that that product is fair trade certified. As if the cost of oil (such as war and pollution) and unethical compensation of some farmers weren't enough reason to buy locally, there is research available about the health benefits of eating foods in season from as close to home as possible. Macrobiotics has taught this principle for hundreds if not thousands of years.
For the Daranyis and other small farmers the commitment to health extends beyond the products they sell to their community as a whole. In order to certify one's food as organic, it often means having to sacrifice sustainable practices to meet the standards adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture. For example, the Daranyis are committed to purchasing feed from a local supplier that is not certified organic (though they are confident that the feed is grown responsibly). Many small farmers cannot afford to, or simply choose not to, pay the hefty fee charged by the feds to certify their food as organic, relying on the local market to speak for itself.
In fact, many independent farmers are rebelling against the formal certification and taking on their own definitions such as "Nearly Organic" or "Beyond Organic." Eliot Coleman, leading U.S. organic farmer and author of the book Four Season Farm, is working on breaking down the conflicting messages and avalanche of information provided to consumers buying organic food. He has proposed a new standard that includes criteria that are incompatible with current agribusiness.
The Authentic Food standard proposed by Coleman would provide that: all food be produced by the growers who sell them; fresh food (such as milk, meat and vegetables) is produced within a 50-mile radius of their place of final sale; and the seed and storage crops (such as grains, potatoes, beans, and nuts) are produced within a 300-mile radius of their final sale. Though the Daranyis do not claim that their food is certifiably organic, they do assure customers that their farming practices are focused on both sustainability and health without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. The Daranyis' chickens, for example, are pasture fed on fresh grass in the summer. Most certified organic store-bought chickens are raised indoors in cages and fed organic grains such as corn or soy. From a consumer's perspective, the pastured chicken is significantly tastier. There are also numerous reports about the health benefits of eating grass-fed animals.
Bartering is a common practice at Indian Ridge Farm, which strengthens community ties. The Daranyis exchange food for labor, water shares, land use, and other food. For them, however, the biggest pay off in being part of the local food shed comes from educating and nurturing the local population
"People just light up when they get to talk to the person who has grown their food," explained Tony. "The greatest reward in what we do is when we find that person who really appreciates what we grow or bake and to know that they are being nurtured through our efforts."
Tony and Barclay quote one of their favorite writers, Lynn Miller, to express their feelings about farming: "It doesn't get any better than being able to work at what you love, producing good food and fiber and all the while helping to keep your part of the world healthy and vibrant."
Indian Ridge Farm's largest outlets for its goods are at the seasonal Telluride and Ridgway farmers markets. "It's one of the ways we still get to connect with the community," said Barclay, explaining that without the market, farming can be very isolating. The markets are no doubt the open door through which the public has access to the local food shed. Some of Indian Ridge Farm's products are also available year round at various food stores in the region and the bakery itself is open Tuesday through Saturday.
While the Daranyis are grateful to have these markets to sell their wares and to network with other growers, there is another element to small farming that they hope to share with the public and that is the farming itself. Visitors are welcome at the farm and if they desire, may even participate in the work at hand.
"We want more involvement," Tony explains, "because as people get more connected with the land they will ultimately fight to protect it." Before I left Indian Ridge Farm, the Daranyis asked if I would like to help slaughter chickens the next day, and while the idea intrigued me, I politely declined. I promised myself, however, that I would return to Indian Ridge Farm to help with the chickens, another time.
My next adventure with the local food chain will lead me to the North Fork Valley where I plan to get my hands dirty picking fruit and maybe take a tour of some local vineyards.