Thursday, April 18, 2019

Community, Connection and Really Good Food!

“Vote with your food dollars.”

“Keep your money in the local economy.”

“Know your farmer, know your food.”

Are you familiar with any of these phrases?  What about “Sign-Up Now?”  Or “Join now so you don’t miss out!”  Hey, those are my lines and we’ve been using them a lot as we are trying to encourage people to sign up for CSA shares before the season starts in three short weeks!  “Miss out on what?  It’s just vegetables, what’s the big deal about CSA anyway?"  Does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter? 

Andrea B. sampling grapes  (photo from
Earlier this year, my friend (ok, we’ve only met once, but she’s awesome) Andrea Bemis released a film called Local Thirty.  This was one of the main films featured at Fairshare CSA Coalition’s Food and Farms Film Fest this past March.  While many documentaries about our food system over the past 10-12 years have been very informative and brought important truths to light, some have been pretty heavy and intense!  This film was different.  It was about food, forming connections, and finding a sense of “home.”  It focused on exploring your local food system and the positive impact that can have on our lives and our meals.  It was a welcome relief to watch a film about our food system that made me laugh, chuckle, yet still pushed me to think about my own food choices.

Andrea B. is a real live farmer who grows vegetables at the base of Mt Hood in Oregon along with her husband, Taylor.  In addition to farming, Andrea B also writes a blog called Dishing Up the Dirt, which is also the title of her cookbook!  If you’ve followed my CookingWith the Box articles on our blog over the past few CSA seasons, you’ll likely recognize her blog as I have shared many of her recipes along the way.  It all started back in September 2018 when Andrea B, her husband Taylor, and their farm crew (Adam and Rachel) decided to challenge themselves to source all of their ingredients from within a 200 mile radius.  They had 10 cheat foods each (eg coffee, lemons, black pepper, etc), but aside from those foods they only ate the things they could source within 200 miles.  Why would anyone do something like this?  They didn’t really have an end goal or mission they were hoping to achieve.  They used this time as a framework for learning and discovering their local food system.  What treasures (both food and people) were they missing?  It was about finding more of a sense of “home.” 

Andrea B with a freshly caught tuna!
(photo from localthirty.com0
As they prepared for and lived out the month of September, they had to do their research to find some of the ingredients they didn’t produce themselves.  Research for Andrea B went beyond the internet, she actually left the farm to visit people she’d never met before so she could learn more about what they were doing.  She had the opportunity to stomp grapes at a vineyard, take a wild fishing trip off the coast to catch tuna, visit a dairy farm and drink milk right from the cow, forage for wild mushrooms and walk the pastures on a neighbor’s cattle ranch.  And what became of all of this?

The final producer meal (photo from
Here is Andrea B’s conclusion in her own words:  Eating locally for me is about discovering and celebrating what we have, not mourning what we don't. It's about strangers becoming friends, and learning more about our landscape and the place we call home. When we start looking around and talking to each other, it becomes evident that we just have so much……When I first set out on a month long challenge to only eat ingredients produced within 200 miles of my home I had no idea how transforming that experiment would be. Eating the foods I found and prepared rooted me deeper into my home. They were the flesh of plants I touched and animals I knew. This made me feel more alive, wild and human. I found out that eating locally is about discovering and celebrating a bounty that is all our own and letting it shape a little bit of who we are. It's about joy.”

So does it really matter if you know your farmer?  Does it matter if you eat food from local sources?  Does the story behind the food you eat mean anything?  Does being part of a CSA or shopping at the farmers’ market impact your life in any way that‘s different than shopping at the grocery store?  Well for some people, perhaps these things don’t really matter.  But for me…yes, it matters and yes, it’s important.  Andrea B. is right, it’s about joy and forming connections. 

Food is political, food is social justice and injustice, food is linked to our environment and our economy.  But food is also relational.  It’s a bridge to bring our lives together.  You just don’t know what treasures you might discover and what stories you will unveil when you take the time to look.  Connection.  Whether we know it or not, we all need connection.  Every time you learn a little more about your food sources, you’re allowing a little piece of someone else’s world to become part of yours. This does bring joy, appreciation, respect and understanding.  It causes you to think outside of yourself and your own experiences while at the same time, bringing some stinkin’ delicious food to your tables!  Yes, I’m convinced that food tastes better when you know the story about where it came from.

The fertile soil and beautiful fields of Harmony Valley Farm
So back to the original question, does any of this “support your local food system” talk even matter?  I believe the answer is “Yes.”  At the very least, if you like to eat good food I guarantee you’ll find some of your best ingredients when you look locally.  The other part of this “Yes” is the community piece.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, but this isn’t a one-way concept.  We need the community to support our farm, but the community also needs to be supported by those producing food!  In the end, we all have a part in this thing we call our local food system, or in Andrea B’s words, the place we call home. 

In closing, I’ll leave you with one last message.  Our deliveries start in just three short weeks, so Join Now So You Don’t Miss Out!  If you’re looking to add a new dimension as well as some joy and really great food to your meals, we hope you’ll not only join us for the 2019 CSA season but encourage you to see what other treasures you can find within your local food system this year.

---Farmer/Chef Andrea

NOTE:  Go to for more information about Andrea Bemis’s documentary and how to watch the whole thing.  It’s only 46 minutes long, so make some snacks and kick back to watch it this weekend!