Manitou Springs is a small town with a population of 5100, located in Colorado at the foot of Pikes Peak. The town is home to 11 mineral spring fountains which many claim have healing powers. For me, it tastes like Vichy and I am happy to walk outside my door, feel the mountain air and fill my bottles. Transition Manitou Springs has been quiet over the years. Brian & Becky have held the “space” for the transition movement; by keeping up with transition training; hosting cool movie screenings for the community with films like Bag it, Dirt and Dive; permaculture workshops are held regularly and permaculture certification is always available through Pikes Peak Permaculture. Transition Manitou was pretty low key, until about 5 months ago. That is when I decided to open a grocery store here – and make the community part of process.
It all started with a series of “community discussions”. The theme was “Let’s reclaim our local food economy”. I started by inviting a base of people that were interested in local food, then canvassed and went door to door to tell people about the meetings, and finally made sure that word got out around the local university about the cutting edge radical food store in the making. The first meeting drew 40, the second 60, by the fourth meeting, there were close to 140 people.
A Facebook page was created, a Kickstarter campaign launched and we acquired a 501(c)3 partner (registered charity). Yay, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union!. The co-op was then registered, member-investors were secured and here we are, about to open one of the coolest grocery stores that has ever existed on the planet. We are truly in the process of restoring our local food economy.
So how are we doing it? Well first of all, it is definitely an us. Harry Green, Lily Kempf, Dale Childe, Bill Neaves, Heather Ryan, Rhonda Thompson and Angie Stout are pulling hard along my side. We are creating a point of sale for food, that we as a community control. We chose a central location that locals and tourists can access by foot.
We are aggressively seeking out local producers and local food processors. People who have backyard gardens and small greenhouses, now have even a more of a reason to grow food. We have 2 girls who make baby food for example. We’ll be getting them into a commercial kitchen with a professional canner, loaning them our branding person to create labeling, and then on the shelves it goes.
Same with Joe Gameson, who has been making Jo Momma’s BBQ sauce for family and friends for more than 10 years. We’ve discovered Charles Hendrix who has a large aquaponics/hydroponics operation. He will be providing the store with lettuces, Nile tilapia and guess what, he is going to start growing Kiwi – Kolorado Kiwi! Then there’s Nye Gallaway who makes these super energy bars.
We have also discovered Elevation Ketchup. Their motto is “If tomato is a fruit, is ketchup a smoothie?” Two young guys making organic ketchup in Colorado. It seriously is cool, really cool. And the community knows it and they feel it. It’s like everyone in town is running around with this smirk on their face.
The Local First Grocer is here.
Local everything, but let’s start with food.
By: Elise Rothman, Director of Transition Manitou Springs & GM Local First Grocer Cooperative.
Special thanks to Andy Middleton from TYF who is my sustainable dragon hero, my sister Simone who is behind me whenever I turn and Becky Elder who is my radical partner in crime.