Alison Gannett and Jason Trimm didn't let a recent rain interfere with their work.
"I'm trying to think of a best rain-day project right now," said Trimm, stacking straw bales under a constant, cool drizzle while chickens pranced in and out of their coop-on-wheels.
Gannett was busy planting the garden and preparing for livestock, which will include Scottish Highland cows, known for their high-quality meat. The couple's Akbash puppies, Blue and Hank, guarded the hens and greeted their guest with curious sniffs.
Trimm and Gannett recently moved from Crested Butte to Paonia, purchasing a lush, 75-acre farm that's barely noticeable to those driving along Highway 133. They named it Holy Terror Farm (not to be confused with Terror Creek Winery) and settled in, establishing gardens, planting fruit and nut trees, and importing farm animals. Inspired in part by the book "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," by Barbara Kingsolver, they have joined the growing movement, pardon the pun, of people returning to small farming and striving to tread lightly through their lives.
Gannett's great-great-great-uncle was Henry Gannett, one of six founding members of The National Geographic Society and Chief Geographer for the U.S Geological Society. While attending a USGS conference in Denver she discovered that he co-founded the town of Gunnison, named many geological formations in the area, including the Bookcliffs, and was the first to map much of western Colorado, including the North Fork area.
"It's super cool to find that my roots go all the way back to the 1800s," said Gannett.
They chose the North Fork Valley, she said, because it has one of the largest concentrations of "organic and beyond farmers" in the country.
That's important for Gannett, a world-class extreme skier and mountain biker and keynote speaker on global climate change. She earned a bachelors degree in environmental studies and began studying the subject more than 20 years ago after seeing for herself the disappearing snow fields and glaciers she and others love to ski. In response, she founded the non-profit Save Our Snow Foundation. Her work has earned numerous accolades, including Ski Magazine's "Ski Hero of 2010" and Outside magazine's "A Green All-Star" award, just to name a few.
While she still travels the world to document and lecture on climate change, she and Trimm are here to learn, not lecture. They experienced enough of that in Crested Butte.
She admits that she spent years trying to convince skeptics that climate change is real, but following that path was a waste of energy. "If we sit here and go around in circles about the science, we're not going to get anywhere," she said. She began shifting "away from science and toward a positive message that we all can agree on . . . and I think that's energy security, energy independence, saving money, food security, water security, cleaner air and water."
In other words, take climate change out of the discussion, and teach people how to save money by saving energy. Americans don't use energy wisely, she added, and it hits us hard in our pocketbooks.
There's a lot of information out there right now, and it can be confusing and daunting. People don't need solar panels, new windows or an electric car to make a difference, or to save money, she said. Little changes can make huge differences.
But where to start?
A great jumping off point is to calculate one's own "carbon footprint," the amount of carbon burned in daily living style and habits. Gannett first calculated her own footprint 10 years ago. She thought she lived lightly, but discovered she was barely below the annual per capita average of 20 tons of emissions. She once drove the world's first solar-electric SUV, and calculated her car footprint after a year. The lithium from Bolivia and rare earth metals from China increased her footprint 100 times. Her best intentions did little more than switch her energy dependence from Saudi Arabia to China and Bolivia.
She began focusing her talks on those little changes. Gannett started by planting an Earth Box, a small, self-watering garden container capable of growing a surprising amount of food.
Gannett said she's amazed at how much food is produced right here. However, it's not even enough to feed the locals, and most of it is shipped out of the valley. In support of the many small farmers eager to produce for local markets, she founded Local Farms First (localfarmsfirst.com), a non-profit that lets locals shop online while learning about the farmers and artisans they support. Locals receive a discount.
All farmers are pre-screened and required to be organic or beyond, taking the guess work out of whether or not the food was produced using toxic chemicals. It's a "know your farmer, know your food" approach to shopping. As for the health benefits of eating local, organic food, Gannett said that's an issue all by itself.
For Gannett, there's still the issue of climate change. Next to the ocean, soil is the largest, most effective way of absorbing greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere, and Gannett would like to use her own farm to study the subject. If enough local farmers and ranchers got together to calculate local carbon absorption rates, they may be able to broker that on the carbon market and provide extra income for area growers. "It's an incredible way to subsidize farming income," said Gannett, whose enthusiasm is contagious. "I believe we could start doing that right now."blog comments powered by Disqus