A few weeks ago my friend Nicole and I went to an event called “Fill Your Pantry” in Shedd, Oregon, hosted by Greenwillow Grains and Willamette Seed and Grain. The event brings local farmers together directly with buyers to strengthen our region’s foodshed. The event especially highlights the availability of grains grown in Oregon which it’s difficult for consumers to buy directly from farmers. In fact, the majority of grain grown in Oregon is soft wheat which is exported. People who want local sources for soft wheat, hard wheat, rye, barley, and oats don’t often have access to such products in retail outlets. Like most events in Oregon it was earthy, funky (held in an old restored church), full of vibrant people, and fiddle music filled the air. I couldn’t have been more at home. A building full of bulk grains, legumes in brown bags, garlic, pressed cider, and a truck full of winter squash for 19¢ a pound? Count me in! I was in food heaven. The event was well attended and the energy was great. Nicole bought a bucket of wheat berries from Lonesome Whistle Farm and I bought a small bag of milled dark rye from them.
Open Oak Farm‘s table of goods.
I bought 20 lbs of milled (organic!) hard wheat from Greenwillow Grains for $15 which is an amazing price. I bought several winter squash (I’m sorry to say I didn’t note the farm that was selling those), a small package of fresh milled corn flour, and some apple cider.
I couldn’t afford to buy any of the beans as they were much too expensive per pound for my budget but I was happy to read in an article by Spencer Masterson that there were some people there making connections between local food and low income families. Linn County Gleaners volunteered at the event in exchange for donations from some of the venders.
I’m painfully aware of how many people have yet to understand how important it is to support your local food producers to create a sustainable and solid food system. People in our country have become so used to the convenience and luxury of buying whatever food they need whenever they want from all over the world. It’s been a long time since this country has had a war on its own shore. It’s been a long time since you had to depend on your local growers to supply your most basic pantry needs. I know that many people can’t imagine anything preventing them from continuing on exactly as they are.
All over the world people understand the importance of maintaining a strong connection with their local growers and producers because they have longer memories than we do and because they have had more wars and natural disasters to teach them this lesson. I read about the shortage of produce in the areas of Japan directly affected by the earthquake of 2011 and it reminded me of the Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco. The San San francisco earthquake was obviously minor in comparison with the Tohoku quake of earlier this year but I was reminded of the most surreal and profound experience during that disaster: grocery shopping. My apartment was a wreckage of broken cabinet glass, broken everything, no water for at least a day, spotty phone line access, and two freaked out kittens. I lived on 27th and Geary right across the street from a Cala Foods grocery store. I didn’t have much food in my pantry so I ventured to the grocery store the day after the quake and discovered shelves stripped nearly bare of canned foods and bottled water. I knew I wasn’t in grave danger of starving but it struck me, for the first time in my young adult life, that even in cosmopolitan cities absolutely full of giant grocery stores things other than poverty can happen to disconnect people from sources of food and water. I remember all the news stories about the fires, the power outages, the destroyed roads with trapped people, the downtown looting, and the fears that food supplies might be cut off from the city for several days and what that would mean.
The farther your food has to travel to get to you and the fewer resources you have in your own back yard the more vulnerable your community is to starvation during natural disasters and human disasters like war.
Nicole, who started the Yamhill County Slow Food Chapter, is as passionate as I am about supporting as many local food growers and producers as we can. This event was fun and it was productive. If your own community doesn’t have anything like this, consider starting your own Fill Your Pantry event.