Getting ready to teach a couple of classes called “Eating Locally.” It would be a fine idea to drop in on my farmers and see if I could pick up a few ideas, and maybe a free vegetable. Alan Haight and Jo McProud are the owners of Riverhill Farm, the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where I have been a member/shareholder for the past three years. They invited me to sit around their kitchen table for conversation and a cup of tea sweetened with honey from the hives behind the bunkhouse. These hives are actually owned by Randy Oliver. Alan and Joe provide him with a location for his apiary, and he gives them fresh wild honey. Symbiosis. Yum.
I told Allen and Jo the points I was going to make in my class.
- Talk to farmers
- Join a CSA
- Buy as many groceries as you can from nearby farmers markets and food co-ops
- Shop at grocery stores that buy local produce and that advertise where their food comes from
- Plant your own garden, even if it’s one tomato plant in a barrel
- When you dine out, favor restaurants that buy local produce
- Join local food organizations so you can keep track of the food production and opportunities in your area
- Stand tall and protect your local farmers when their enemies threaten them
As you probably suspect, they agreed with these points and helped me refine my ideas with their hard-earned wisdom. I asked them two questions that I thought might come up in my class:
“Eating locally sounds like a good idea, but isn’t it more expensive than shopping at Safeway?”
Jo responded with these remarks:
“We’re not trying to save the world. We’re business people making a living in a competitive market. Our weekly food boxes cost our members $27 compared to the same food in the same amount from a grocery store that cost $35. Last year we were selling vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes for $1.25 per pound compared to the same product in the stores at $4.99 per pound. Even though we know we are growing something really special, we have to face the economic realities of a free market. Have you tasted the difference between what we grow and what you buy from t the big chain stores?"
Indeed I have.
Riverhill Farm intern and Jo McProud
I asked my second question, “Farmers markets and CSAs make sense during the growing season, but what do your customers eat from November to June? What do they do after the last Riverhill Farm box is gone?”
“They go back to the grocery store. As the winter and spring eating drags on, they start looking forward to the next season of fresh local produce. That makes it really special.”
Our talk covered a lot of ground. I know a bit about eating locally in south Nevada County, but they are the real deal, the foundation of our local food production. It’s an honor for me to know them and to have the privilege of supporting their important work.
Farmers like Allen and Jo influence people’s lives and the quality of community life in many ways that most of us don’t realize. They provide free food to the local food bank and low-cost food to low-income families. They bring school children out to the farm to learn about the origin and value of food. They provide the very best stewardship of the land.
Through your farmers you come to identify with your community, your home town, as a place that grows your food, a place that is capable of supporting you.
Talk to your farmers.
(Oh yes, I did get the free vegetable, a bag of winter carrots right out of the ground. Gonna stop now and get dinner ready: fresh asparagus, sweet potatoes, local cheese, Truckee bread, California strawberries in cream, and the CARROTS! Wish you were all here to share it.)