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Localvore Challenge In Review

My month as a localvore can best be summarized by the trip I took last Saturday to Shared Bounty CSA. I wrote about them earlier, when discussing the benefits of knowing where your food comes from, and was excited to receive an invitation to their open farm. Jim and Ramona had already harvested all they needed for themselves and local needs (Jim has delivered innumerable heads of cabbage to a local retirement home), and the first freeze had already come. In other words, what was left in the ground needed to go and go fast. 

Shared Bounty Purple CauliflowerShared Bounty Purple CauliflowerWhen we got out of the car, we were immediately welcomed by Jim and Ramona's dog. We met another family who experienced the first year of Shared Bounty CSA with us, and then headed to the field. Jim handed out bags and knives and told us we were welcome to anything we wanted. He briefly told us what was located where, and turned us loose. My family and the other who came out, though, didn't just come to pick food. We came to spend time with the folks who fed us so well for the past 20 weeks. Ramona went off with the other family, and we sidled up to Jim. As we walked the rows, he talked with us: about the food (even asking what we'd like to eat next year), about the farm, about growing up on a farm, about the season's rains, about the first frost, about the animals they keep, about anything and everything. Jim showed us trenches through his field caused by an early spring downpour and showed us the random turnips, corn, and beets whose seeds were washed out of their proper rows by that rain. He told me about the perils of exposing white cauliflower to the sun, and showed me the most beautiful purple cauliflower, which he had been accused of spray painting. We heard stories about childhood, neighbors, and the farm itself. Jim showed us the farm's antique truck scale as well as its potato seeder. After we'd picked all the food we wanted, Jim took us back to the barn, served us fresh green tea, and gave us a bottle of his neighbor's honey to sample. He gave us an option this year of buying another neighbor's eggs; next year he's going to offer the honey as well.  As we sipped our tea, Jim asked me about my localvore challenge and we talked about how much websites like Local Harvest make life so easy for him. Shared Bounty Antique Scale and Potato SeederShared Bounty Antique Scale and Potato Seeder

Our time at the farm was like the most wonderful family gathering. And that, in short, was how my entire challenge was. Most localvores strive to eat and drink things produced within 50 to 100 miles of their home. I chose to pull from the entire state of Missouri, also allowing myself to munch apples from Eckert's Farm, a short drive across the river in Millstadt, Illinois. When I went out, I found myself talking to the chefs or owners of restaurants who focus on local commodities. The best example of this was when my mom and I went to a Slow Food St. Louis dinner at Onesto. The chef (and his parents) took the time to talk to us about how each course fit into their family history, and we saw the farmers making their delivery of fresh produce to the restaurant as we were eating. At bars, I found myself chatting with bartenders or owners about local brews, either thanking them for carrying the product (and I'm NOT talking about our local powerhouse, Anheuser Busch) or suggesting other breweries they might want to talk to. When with friends, I enjoyed sharing my localvore life with them, primarily by cooking for them but also by introducing them to new and different places to eat and shop. Each week I went to a different local store to buy what I needed, and at each store I connected with the owner or the checker on some local food/drink level or another.

The most important lesson I learned was that I'm not alone in my mission to support a local food community. As you may or may not know, St. Louis is divided into St. Louis City and St. Louis County, a conglomeration of multiple small municipalities, and there is quite a city-county divide. In recent years "Shop the City" has become a major campaign (the city proudly boasts zero Walmarts and hundreds of mom-and-pop shops). I hope to be part of a similar movement which focuses on creating a pride in eating food whose source is known and held to high standards simply because any of us could stop by to check out the source at any time.

This month became more than just a K4G challenge to me. It opened up a whole new world to me, one which I look forward to embracing for the rest of my life. To paraphrase Super Bowl commercials from the most famous of all St. Louis local businesses, Jim and Ramona, for all that you do, this post's for you.