I recently visited Maytag Mountain Ranch, a 3,000-acre organic and grass-fed cattle range nestled at the foot of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. It's a new paradigm for agricultural conservation: Instead of selling to developers, the owners are selling 27 plots of 100 acres each, where buyers can build on only one to five carefully chosen acres. The rest remains a working farm, and owners can be as involved with the daily crop growing and cattle grazing as they'd like. Even if a plot of land sells again in the future, the contract stipulates that it will never be developed.
“I believe that agriculture should be a part of land ownership,” explains rancher Russ Maytag. He also believes that organic is the only way to grow food. The day I visited, Maytag had called in chef Kurt Boucher from The Butcher's Table in nearby Salida to prepare a harvest feast with vegetables and meat produced on the ranch. We dined on salads of roasted beets, goat cheese, and orange-lentil vinaigrette over mixed greens, with freshly baked garlic bread, followed by grass-fed brisket, steamed rhubarb chard, and potato-corn shepherd's pie; vanilla crème brulee and organic raspberries topped off the meal. Boucher told me that his restaurant serves local and, whenever possible, organic food — and he discussed the challenges this sometimes presents, especially when he tries to explain to customers why it's worth paying a little more to eat farm-fresh, pesticide-free food.
These two men — living, working, and eating close to the land — reminded me how grateful I am to live in a community where people value organic food, tend to buy local, and believe in preserving the Earth. This Thanksgiving, as you enjoy your own feast, consider spreading the word about the importance of eating real food grown well. If you need talking points, let our online guides help you: Go to deliciouslivingmag.com/eating-local or deliciouslivingmag.com/eating-organic. Happy Thanksgiving!