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Forced to close business, Navy veteran hopes to reinvent model to help food deserts in Colorado

Forced to close business, Navy veteran hopes to reinvent model to help food deserts in Colorado, Ralph Ford
Posted at 9:37 AM, Jul 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 17:26:14-04

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Ralph Ford has been helping feed people at a fair price in food deserts for nearly three decades, but an increase in rent is forcing him to find a new way to keep up the work.

"I love what I do. I wouldn’t give anybody anything I wouldn’t eat," the Navy veteran said.

Ford buys produce from local farmers and sells it at a reasonable price. During the pandemic, he even slashed his prices so those who lost their jobs could afford to buy his produce.

Most recently, he set up shop in a humble little building in the heart of Lyons.

Not too long ago, Ford said his landlord raised his rent to a price he simply couldn’t afford. When the two couldn’t come to an agreement, he was given 30 days to close his doors.

"It’s sad," Ford said. "I just sometimes think, I just wish it would be a little bit more reasonable and try to work with people."

The paintings of roses and honey bees on the building are now covered by a fence.

"I just miss the people," Ford said.

He’s now forced to take his business on the road.

This week, Ralph is based in his hometown of Fort Collins at a busy intersection in front of a 7-Eleven on a 90-degree day.

Life gave Ford lemons — he’s now using it to make lemonade.

"I’m trying to build a mobile produce store," Ford said.

He wants to turn a trailer into a cooler, allowing him to help more people around Colorado.

"It’s just the flexibility of options to be able to go wherever I need to go — if I want to go to food deserts, along that line," Ford explained of his business plan.

He estimated the trailer will cost him about $16,000. Without help, Ford anticipates it will take up to two years before he could afford to get his dream of reaching more people possible.

"Oh no, I can’t do it. I have to do it this way right now," Ford said of making money selling produce out of his van.

Denver7 Gives is raising funds to help Ford continue serving his community. Just click on "Help for Ford's produce stand" in the drop down menu here.

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