La Vida Locavore

by Catherine Haug

Once again, I checked out our new Bigfork Village Market this evening, a warm and sunny event. Lots of people turned out to visit the 10 or so booths selling fresh veggies, prepared foods, flowers, candies, candles, soaps, lotions, art and jewelry. The live music hadn’t started yet, but it was already a festive evening.

It felt good to be a locavore, and an active part of our community, as I shopped for fresh greens and baked goods, chatting with vendors and customers.

What is a ‘locavore?’

“Locavores are people who pay attention to where their food comes from and commit to eating local food as much as possible.” (from 10 Steps to Becoming a Locavore).

We were all locavores in Bigfork, prior to the 1960s…

Back then, very little food was trucked in from out of the area (and such food, like oranges, was considered a seasonal luxury). Local farmers and gardeners sold their produce to the local stores (Bigfork Merc., Houston’s Grocery, Creston Store, Echo Lake Store, and Yellow Bay Store). Families got together to help each other can and preserve produce for the winter; most of us had root cellars too.

We bought whole animals from local ranchers, then cured and stored them in Houston’s meat locker in the village until they could be butchered for freezing.

Everyone knew everyone else in the community and we all came together to help each other and to celebrate together at events like the annual Harvest Dance or the Fireman’s New Years Eve Ball.

A Contemporary Locavore Family

Livin’ La Vida Locavore, by Jodi Allison-Bunnell (from Edible Missoula magazine, Spring 2010 issue), describes a contemporary Missoula family actively recreating that time-tested lifestyle. Here’s a synopsis of the article:

The author describes the food lifestyle of her family. They keep a small backyard garden, berry beds and backyard chickens on their Missoula city lot. They get the majority of their vegetables, including those for winter storage, from a local CSA. Once a year they buy butchered whole animals (bison, chicken, lamb, pork and turkey) from area ranchers, then freeze individual cuts.

In late summer and early fall, the entire family becomes involved in preserving much of their bounty for winter use. They fill their freezers with meat, veggies, fruits, soups and sauces prepared in their kitchen. They can fruits, pickles, jams and condiments; and store fruits and veggies in their root cellar. All this preservation is hard, hot work, but pays off during the cold, dark, lean winter.

They eat fresh foods in season, forgoing the temptation of buying strawberries from South America in the dead of winter. And in doing so, they save money. She writes:

“Most gratifying and surprising: this doesn’t cost us more [than supermarket foods]…In almost seven years of recordkeeping, we allocated 60 percent of our annual grocery budget to local food while spending less ($139 a week) than the six-year average of the USDA “moderate-cost plan” of $149 a week for a family of our size and composition. This was true even in 2008 when food prices skyrocketed. Furthermore, our diet is more lavish than that of the moderate-cost plan, since it includes mostly organic food, meat, alcohol and other luxury items.”

A Locavore Challenge

Edible Missoula (and the entire Edible Communities family, “designed to celebrate the culinary heritage and abundance of local foods, season by season”) challenges all Montanans to prove that supporting local, independent businesses is not only good for our health and well being, but also good for our communities.

“If each household in Montana spent just $10 a week, from their existing food budget, on local food products, we would re-direct $205 million dollars each year to local farmers, ranchers and food producers.”

Its editor continues:

“When we support [local, independent businesses], we support businesses that have a stake in [our community’s] future. Studies show that locally-owned businesses create more local employment opportunities, and often provide better wages and benefits than national chains. This also means that we keep more tax dollars in our community to support schools, parks, police and other important services. And by shopping [local] we can help preserve and protect what is unique about living [here].

Will you accept the challenge?

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