OF FARMS, GARDENS AND COTTAGE INDUSTRIES

As we shed layers and enjoyed 54-degree weather last week, folks started dreaming of summer, green plants, and gardens. Of course, the warm, sunny days didn’t last – and that’s okay too. We need the snow pack for the end of the ski season – and especially for spring and summer water supplies. But, SPRING is here. The equinox means we have more light each day – and the effect of those longer days is beneficial to us all.

Spring Action at Tomten Farm: But the high-mountain, spring weather is confusing for Tomten Farm’s greenhouses. With sunny days, the temperatures can reach 100 degrees when the doors aren’t opened, yet at night the temperature can drop down in the 30s – giving the aphids an advantage that they’re eager to take. Even with the temperature fluctuations, there’s still a lot of action in the greenhouses. Through the next few weeks, we’ll be nursing the last of the winter greens and getting ready to move on to warm season crops. The squash and tomato starts are up and healthy and spreading even more of the season’s green.

Telluride Community Garden on The Mind: Warm,spring days also have folks thinking about gardening and the Telluride Community Garden. Look for information about garden plot availability that will be coming out soon. The garden is small, but sweet and its gardeners are ready, at least mentally, to dig the dirt. Not to be a killjoy, but our last frost is often around the first week of June in these parts. Things do grow, but you must take care and beware of those chilly nights.

Legislation Passed to Benefit Cottage Industries: Lastly, there has been good news for mom and pop producers in the state!  Senate Bill 48 passed the Colorado House of Representatives and it has been signed into law. The Colorado Cottage Foods Act “gives cottage bakers and other home industry, non-hazardous food producers the freedom to sell their goods directly to consumers, which is currently prohibited under Colorado law. Non-hazardous foods are low in moisture and may be maintained at room temperature with minimal risk of spoiling.”

Prior to this legislation, anyone producing items such as baked goods, jams and jellies, spices, teas, nuts, seeds, and honey to sell at farmer’s markets were required to have a commercial kitchen and wade through bureaucracy as thick as strawberry jam. The Act does not apply to pickles or low-acid, home-canned foods.

Representative Don Coram of Montrose and Senator Gail Schwartz of Snowmass Village introduced the bill this session. They noted this could be considered a job creation bill since it will allow small-scale producers greater flexibility in getting their goods to a direct market. The bill also limits the liability of food banks, schools and non-profits when their kitchens are used to prepare goods for sale to consumers. And, small-scale egg producers get a break as well. If they sell fewer than 250 dozen eggs on their premise, or at a farmer’s market type venue, the licensing requirements are relaxed.

These concessions are not say that food safety should ever be overlooked; food safety is incredibly important. New federal regulations will look to farms to create food safety plans, and besides, no one wants to make anyone sick with something they’ve grown. But common sense is important too. It’s nice to see the legislators agree.

Let the sun shine on!

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