Value of vegetables: Loker spreads message of healthy eating through locally-grown food

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On the cutting edge of a movement that recognizes the social aspects of agriculture, Ali Loker infuses energy and youthful enthusiasm into goat and vegetable farming. A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Loker is an intern at Stone Creek Farmstead in Divide.

“I wanted to gain knowledge and experience; I really like goats and wanted to learn how to make cheese,” she said of the award-winning farm owned by Dianna and Bob McMillan. “It’s a small farm so I knew I could get my hands dirty and learn all aspects of the operation.”

The goat farm fits Loker’s larger mission of establishing a bond among local farmers, consumers and the under-served, particularly recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

With a degree in community and environmental sociology, Loker has a game plan that includes a bit of idealism as well as far-reaching goals that involve hard work.

A former intern at an organic vegetable farm near Madison, Loker, 23, convinced the skeptical that vegetables are a good thing.

“I really love talking to people about how to use vegetables, so working at the farm was perfect,” she said. “People got so excited; they would come and try the vegetables for the first time.”

In Woodland Park, Loker is also an intern at the Friday Farmer’s Market, where she reaches out to recipients of SNAP, spreading the word about the value of vegetables. “I’m trying to narrow that gap to allow people to have equal access to healthy food,” she said.

To promote the message, Loker and her market supervisor, Jane Enger, have been teaching students at Columbine Elementary School about the entrepreneurial opportunities offered by farmers’ markets.

Throughout the summer in Teller County, Loker adds another notch to her long-term goal of founding an educational farm that incorporates all of her passions.

“At the market I see things from the organizational and management perspective, because I had been on the vendor side,” she said. “There are a lot of things you don’t realize that go on behind the scenes.”

Behind the scenes are people hoping to change the world, one healthy eater at a time, albeit, in an atmosphere of friendship.

“There’s so much more to the farmers’ market, including a sense of community, advocacy and creating an environment for the simple Colorado outdoor life,” Enger said. “We really contribute to that.”

In November, Loker is off to Omaha, Neb., where she will work with the Food Bank of the Heartlands as a volunteer with the Americorps Vista program.

In the meantime, her vivacious personality and enthusiasm for health makes saying goodbye significant.

“We all think she is terrific and we were so lucky that our first-ever intern turned out to be someone as experienced, accomplished and all-around delightful as we found Ali to be,” said Judy Crummett, co-founder of the Woodland Park market.