Thursday, March 26, 2015

Colorado (and Dutch) food innovation: but is it all making rurality obsolete?

NPR reported yesterday under the headline, "Is Colorado Primed to Become the Silicon Valley of Agriculture?", but the story seemed to be as much about The Netherlands as about Colorado.  Here's an excerpt:  
[A]t the first Colorado State University Agricultural Innovation Summit, held Mar. 18-20, Governor John Hickenlooper didn't start by trumpeting the state's farmers or scientists or entrepreneurs. He started instead by touting the accomplishments of a European country six times smaller than Colorado. 
"The Netherlands isn't very big. And they don't have a whole lot of people," Hickenlooper said. But, he noted, the Dutch economy has become a powerhouse in growing vegetables, producing dairy products and processing poultry. 
What they lack in manpower, they make up for in science and cooperation. Dutch universities pass research on to farmers. Food processing companies have staked headquarters there. Small tech start-ups pop up to solve nagging problems. They do it all as neighbors, in a tightly knit area called the Dutch Food Valley. 
"What's interesting is we're doing that exact same kind of innovation right here in Colorado," Hickenlooper said. That's why Hickenlooper and economists are increasingly talking about Colorado's potential to become the Silicon Valley of agriculture.
And here's the part that makes me wonder why I'm writing about this on Legal Ruralism:  
"The urban core is in fact the heart of agricultural innovation in the state of Colorado," Graff said. 
New neighborhoods in Denver and otherNorthern Colorado cities are being structured around gardens, small farms and food hubs,taking the local food movement to a scale where it's actually having a measurable effect on the city's economy. 
"We're seeing this industry grow exponentially in Denver," said the city's mayor Michael Hancock. "Small businesses are going into incubators and they're coming out as stronger businesses ready to contribute to the marketplace." 
Denver's also home to some of the biggest players in food processing, hosting headquarters for the largest maker of mozzarella cheese in the world, Leprino Foods, and the country's biggest flour milling company, Ardent Mills. Greeley is home to JBS USA, the North American arm of the largest meat packing company in the world. Boulder has become a hub for the production and processing of organic and natural foods with companies like Celestial Seasonings and Justin's Nut Butter.
Is this another example of urban brilliance making the rural obsolete?  (Having lived in The Netherlands for three years in the 1990s, I seem to recall that it is perhaps the most densely populated counties in the world—and that suggests urbanity.  Yet the country is also associated with farms, with cows, with milk, with cheese.)  Read other illustrations of the virtues of urban farming here and (urban links to rural farms) here.

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