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The Sustainable Table: Eating Local

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EUGENE, Ore. — It’s never been easier to eat locally in Lane County, whether growing food, supporting area farmers directly or eating out.

The most bountiful time of the year for local produce is coming up. It’s the time when all the plants that were sprouting in greenhouses a few weeks ago thrive, bloom and produces a bounty of food.

“People talk about the Willamette Valley like it’s the garden of Eden. This is an amazing agriculture area that has more or less limitless potential to grow its own food,” said Micah Elconin, Sprout! Program Director.

Shoppers will be able to find just-picked produce at local farm stands and farmer’s markets.

But every farm offers a different approach; there’s on-the-farm butchering at Lake View Farm.

“Run ‘em through the scalder, pluck ‘em and then they’re eviscerated and there’s a whole crew that final finishes them, looks for anything that you wouldn’t want to put in your pan to eat,” said owner Andy Walton, Lake View Farm.

At Wintergreen Farm, the three families that co-own it focus on biodynamics, basically looking at the farm as a living organism.

“The result is food that’s very nutritious with very high quality in terms of flavor, appearance, fragrance, storage capability. All of that is enhanced,” said co-owner Wali Via, Winter Green Farm.

The largest aquaponic farm in the country calls southern Oregon home. It marries aquaculture with hydroponics.

“It’s a food production mechanism that produces good quality food with less resources and what more can you ask for?” said Olivia Hittner, Farming Fish Partner.

Living Earth Farm is the only predator-friendly certified farm in the state.

“Predator-friendly certification means your farm is not killing predators, not calling in government trappers to kill predators and taking measures to protect your livestock without using lethal means on the predators,” said owner Sharon Blick, Living Earth Farm.

For those who know where to find those local goods, there’s a way to make them last all year with a little help from the OSU Extension Service’s master food preservers.

Laura Hinrichs is a canning connoisseur.

“I think making things at home gives you a sense of what you’re eating. You know what’s in that jar or in that frozen package. You avoid additives, you avoid preservatives, you have just food. To me, that’s really wonderful and important,” Hinrichs said.

Another way to eat local all year, know which products are made here. Fern’s Edge Dairy milk and cheese is in grocery stores around the area.

“Made by hand, bottled by hand, packaged by hand, it’s very labor intensive and it’s very good,” said owner Shari Reyna, Fern’s Edge Dairy.

For pickled veggies with a kic, watch for this family’s recipe.

“There’s nothing quite like it available. Our products are fresh. We process them the next day from when they’re harvested. We’re able to create a crunchy pickle without adding chemicals or additives, which other mainstream companies would use,” said co-owner Matt Kurzhal, Kickin’ Pickles.

Feeling nutty? Pick up some of Honor Earth Farm’s organic hazelnuts.

“I think that’s my personal belief that agriculture should be done that way,” said owner Linda Perrine, Honor Earth Farm.

Plenty of local restaurants hold the same belief, like Party Cart and the Party Downtown. Almost 100 percent of the food there is locally sourced.

“We knew we wanted to use all local ingredients because that’s how we like to eat and that’s what we like to do,” said co-owner Tiffany Norton, Party Cart.

All these local eateries get at least 50 percent of their menu’s ingredients from our area and are the highlights from the past year of Sustainable Table.

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