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Foods That Connect Our Community

The public market will be a hub of regional organic meats, with high quality produce, harvested seasonally.

The public market will be a hub of regional organic meats, with high quality produce, harvested seasonally.

We live in an era when consumers can get practically any food they want, whenever they want it. Produce like avocados, bananas, and tomatoes are always abundant and ‘in season’ thanks to the global import web. Big box grocers offer all things for all people. But, some see big scale standardization of food as bad for economics, security, and health.

Rancher and owner of Ranch Foods Direct, Mike Callicrate, and his team have plans to revitalize the local food system, breaking from unstable global ties, and cultivating a ‘farm to plate’ movement. With a revolutionary public market and Peak to Plains food and beverage distribution service taking root, Callicrate intends to bring fresh, delicious and wholesome food to Colorado Springs, while simplifying sourcing, stimulating the economy, and infusing local flavor into the downtown core.

Most Americans have never sunk their teeth into the subject of where their food comes from, nor what it is doing to their bodies, the economy, our society, and the planet. Nowadays, most vegetables and fruits are produced thousands of miles from the place of consumption, typically traveling between 1,500 to 2,500 miles before it ever reaches your plate, according to World Watch Institute report, Home Grown: The Case for Local Food in a Global Market. Tomatoes ripen uniformly on a truck, after being picked green, so more volume can be packed into crates, shipped and displayed. Taste is not the priority. 

The consequence of industrialization is a loss of choice, quality, nutrition, and economic vitality, notes the report; “This process often runs roughshod over local cuisines, varieties, and agriculture, while consuming staggering amounts of fuel, generating greenhouse gases, eroding the pleasures of face-to-face interactions around food, and compromising food security.”

Colorado Springs Public Market aspires to break this degenerative cycle by connecting farmers to consumers with better quality food, posits Callicrate, who compares the market to a gathering space much like a kitchen or pantry in a home, “where people will congregate and create community around food.”

The historic Payne Chapel downtown will be home to the market, a landmark structure built in 1893, and one of 5 tracts of land given by General Palmer for original churches. With plans to open in 2016, a five-year, $5 million capital campaign is underway to complete the lease-to-own agreement, perform building renovations and eventually expand the market space to 30,000 square feet.

Colorado Springs’ downtown is currently in a ‘food desert’ explains Sally Davis, the market’s board secretary, where the primary food available is at convenience stores or restaurants. Once fully operational, Davis says the space will house vendors selling everything from bread and local produce to tamales and coffee. Additionally, an education and wellness component will emphasize food preparation, education, demonstration, and cooking classes. 

While the Public Market connects farmer to eater, the Peak to Plains distribution center, located in a 22,000 square foot warehouse at Platte and Wooten, will stimulate the supply side of the food hub. The initiative aims to increase local food consumption through a distribution system that allows small, family farmers to aggregate their product and develop wholesale relationships keeping them operational. 

“During the last 40 years, massive consolidation of big retail and foreign-owned agriculture and meat processing has resulted in farmers losing access to markets,” explains Callicrate. “The goal is to create income at the farm and ranch gate, while protecting the consumer with the best quality product as close to home as possible.” 

By reversing centralization through a local, regional food shed, Board President, Dave Anderson, asserts that food sovereignty and security will be restored, and ascribes the food sector as vital to generating new business, income and tax revenue. By sourcing food locally, he suggests, we improve health, invigorate economy, reduce carbon footprint, and become a more resilient community, one plate at a time.